UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Finish This Sentence

In this age of social media, local churches . . . should take full advantage of it, reasonably and intelligently.

By Brian Platt

Some people view social media as an unmitigated boost to humanity, ushering in an interconnected world where mass communication is at the touch of our fingers. Others are unfailingly grumpy and fatalistic about the new technology, lecturing the rest of us about how we’re destroying personal relationships and our privacy at the same time.

Both of these positions are silly. Social media is a neat tool, but like all new consumer technologies, what you get from it depends on how you use it. Social media doesn’t create new realities; it just affects realities that already exist.

In other words, for United Church congregations, social media isn’t going to solve any problems on its own, nor is it going to single-handedly destroy things we hold sacred. It is certainly not a full replacement for face-to-face outreach. But it would also be a shame to shun social media completely and deprive congregations of a potent resource.

So what can congregations do with social media? I’m no web expert (far from it), but I can think of at least two useful applications. The first is to keep conversations going within the congregation between Sunday services and other weekly or monthly activities. The second is to help attract new people to the congregation.

To put social media to good use, churches need to ensure they have a well-functioning, easy-on-the-eyes website. Many churches don’t have this, and online outreach is pretty much impossible if you don’t have somewhere to send people for more information and discussion. You don’t even necessarily need to pay for a good website; there will almost always be someone connected to your congregation who knows a bit about web programming.

In some ways, social media is perfect for the United Church. Unlike evangelical churches, which are always eager to, you know, evangelize, United Church members tend to be uncomfortable with approaching strangers and spreading the word about why more people should join their congregation. I’m sympathetic to the reason why: it feels like trying to convert people.

Social media interaction, on the other hand, provides an efficient way for people to stumble upon the United Church. And once they stumble upon it, it’s easy for them to learn more.

The initial Emerging Spirit project a few years ago, with its witty and subversive advertising, would have been perfect for the age of social media. I bet those images would have spread around Twitter and Facebook like wildfire, and people would have investigated the source. This is the sort of thing that social media is built for. Alas, the campaign came just a few years too early.

Today, there are countless ways that local churches can make use of social media networks. Plant ideas, start conversations and let them spread. Some of them won’t go far at all; in fact, many of them probably won’t. But if you do it enough, some will spark interest — and that’s how you can reach an audience otherwise difficult to find.

It’s not just local churches that can benefit from social media. This year’s General Council meeting had a fairly successful use of online outreach tools, especially the live video stream that allowed those not in attendance to follow along in real time.

There’s room for improvement, though; there were many fewer people using Twitter than what I usually see during large conferences. Still, those who were tweeting were impressively active throughout the week.

Social media should be part of the communications strategy for the church at every level. The only way to make it so is to let the imagination run wild and start trying a few new things.



Author's photo
Brian Platt is a master of journalism student at Carleton University.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Announcement

New Observer editor and CEO, Jocelyn Bell. Photo by Lindsay Palmer

New editor named

by Observer Staff

Promotional Image

Editorials

Jocelyn Bell%

Observations

by Jocelyn Bell

We’ll miss you, David Wilson

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: My Year of Living Spiritually

by Observer Staff

Anne Bokma left the Dutch Reformed Church as a young adult and eventually became a member of the United Church and then the Unitarian Universalists. Having long explored the "spiritual but not religious" demographic as a writer, she decided to immerse herself in practices — like hiring a soul coach, secular choir-singing and forest bathing — for 12 months to find both enlightenment and entertainment.

Promotional Image

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

October 2017

A tale of two cancers

by Catherine Gordon

One year after the writer discovered she had breast cancer, her sister in California received the same diagnosis. They both recovered, but their experiences were worlds apart.

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

November 2017

Grey matter

by Trisha Elliott

Is consciousness just a function of the brain — or something more?

Promotional Image