Social Media and Ministry
We asked readers: Share an instance in which you have used social media in your ministry in a unique way, or a way that had a surprising outcome as a result of your interactions. Are you evolving with the technology, or resisting the change? What type of information would you like to receive from PTS via Facebook and Twitter? We received many answers, but could not include them all. All responses are in inSpire online.
At Good Shepherd Presbyterian in Charlotte, North Carolina, God has been stretching us in recent years to try to reach beyond the walls of our church. Several years ago we moved our Wednesday night study to several coffeehouses and bookstores in the area and created a “South Charlotte Book Club” listing on meetup.com. Within days we had about ten (unchurched) people sign-up to read and discuss The Chronicles of Narnia with our church regulars. We never would have met any of those folks if we hadn’t reached out through social media. We have continued to use meetup.com as one form of social media, as well as a number of others. I have written a series on “online ministry tech” at bit.ly/ministrytech.
Robert Austell Jr. (M.Div., 1996)
Charlotte, North Carolina
Sometimes I’ll post a question I’m pondering when doing my sermon prep. I’ll include some of the responses in the sermon. It helps worshipers prepare and creates more participation in the service.
Tom Lank (M.Div., 2008)
Colorado Springs, Colorado
I do not use social media as much as many do, but I am on Facebook and use it in two primary ways: To post brief pithy statements from my reading that are encouraging and/or challenging. I don’t comment on the quote, I just say, “this got my attention” or “from my reading” and I provide the link or author’s name. I also use Facebook as part of my pastoring as I comment on postings by those in our church body. Usually, I comment so everyone can read it, but sometimes I go to the person’s personal page, if that is more appropriate.
Bob Mink (Th.M., 1979)
Moreno Valley, California
As a pastor, I post my sermons on Facebook each week. Originally, I thought it might be a good way to connect with parishioners who miss that Sunday’s worship. However, I found the group who most appreciated this form of dialogue was family and friends from my place of origin. Soon, I found others in the presbytery were following my lead!
Located in a small rural community, our church has actually found that local radio is a fantastic way to get the word out. Who would ever guess AM radio had the same kind of saturation as Twitter? But one is reminded that a church is an all-ages community and not just for tech-savvy youngsters.
David Wright (M.Div., 2009)
Hackettstown, New Jersey
Although I am teaching college students I am not into Twitter, Facebook, etc. Every Blessing.
Steve Weisz (M.Div., 1965)
I would love to see an official PTS Facebook page and Twitter account, with news updates and ways to connect to others.
Nathan Hart (M.Div., 2004)
Editor’s Note: Princeton Seminary does have official Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages. You can find the links to them (and others) by visiting our social media landing page. Go to www.ptsem.edu and click on the social media icons in upper right-hand corner.
Having used Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter with very limited results, I have found that blogging reaches more people more effectively. Based on the NCC Uniform Lesson Series for Sunday schools, I write a Bible Lesson Commentary at http://biblelessonforum.com and a short Bible lesson at http://internationalbiblelessons.org/. These have been published each week in The Oklahoman newspaper since 1989 and online at http://newsok.com/life/religion. By using Google Analytics, I know that the Bible Lesson Commentary reaches people (mostly teachers, I assume) in eighty-three countries. People from various locations have responded to me after reading the blogs, which has led to email exchanges and posting answers to their questions on the blogs. The early and surprising success of these blogs helped me decide to retire early from pastoral ministry (in August of this year) to pursue their development and expansion.
L.G. Parkhurst Jr. (M.Div., 1973)
Each member of our pastoral staff is encouraged to tweet on behalf of the church from their phones or computers. Yet, only two choose to do so, myself and the head of staff. Our church tweets are automatically featured in three places: Twitter, our church Facebook page, and our main web site. We have two types of posts: the first is general announcements, words of encouragement, or pictures from various events in the life of the church; the second, personal reflections or insights that we preface with the pastor’s initials. Third, we have reoriented our ministry in a missional fashion, which we are calling FaithServes. I now post “FaithServes Features,” which are special highlights of our church leading in a missional manner.
Case Thorp (M.Div., 2000)
I prefer group email communications to any of the “social media.” I would like to have access to the Class of 1961 Fifty-Year Anniversary booklet to catch up with my classmates. I would even be willing to use Facebook.
Robert Solem (non-graduating M.Div., 1961)
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Editor’s Note: Sorry, not this year—but you can contact Jack McAnlis (firstname.lastname@example.org), director of planned giving, in the Seminary Relations Department—and next year it will be on the Seminary’s Facebook page.
Four ways in which Facebook has become a tool for ministry:
1. I’ve found that Facebook is the best way to reach my senior high youth. They don’t use email anymore, but they text and use Facebook.
2. Sometimes I’ll read about a concern or a crisis in the community or in the church on Facebook before I hear about it any place else. Facebook gives me a “heads up.”
3. Individuals in the congregation sometimes message me about a concern or vice versa via Facebook.
4. When new folks show up in church, one easy way to send a quick “thank you for visiting—hope you’ll come again” is to find them on Facebook.
Sarah Foulger (M.Div., 1979)
West Boothbay Harbor, Maine
When I started as a minister back in 1996, I never thought that I would be starring in a humorous church commercial—especially one that wasn’t produced for TV, but for YouTube. Who knew that putting a commercial on the Internet and promoting it with Internet companies such as Google ads and Bing would lead to thousands of local folks watching it—and all this on a budget of less than $200.
Of course, Facebook “likes,” emails, and word-of-mouth sharing had a big part in its success too. The Sunday we first showed the commercial ad in church, the church was packed; many friends of the “cast” came to be part of this “debut.” Even months after the promotion, we still get comments from some first-time visitors, such as, “the ad was awesome,” or “it’s so funny,” or “it made me want to check out your church.” Who knew that the Internet and social media could offer such opportunities for a local church? If you care to check out the commercial ad, it can be found on YouTube under the search phrase “funny church ad.”
Frank Schaefer (M.Div., 1996)