Social media helps churches ‘spread the word’

Published 1:10 am Saturday, August 14, 2010

Modern technology has added a new twist to the very old tradition of church socials.

The days of lacy tablecloths and flowery centerpieces, followed by a light lunch and an uplifting message aren’t gone. But churches are finding ways to capitalize on the technological tools of today’s fast-paced, instant-messaging world to build camaraderie among members and spread their messages.

These days, churches are using social media to communicate with members, and being coached to use sites like Facebook and Twitter to call people to action.

The Web site, led by Atlanta minister Bill Reichart, advises that social media should be used with three objectives in mind: communication, connecting, and call to action.

The beauty, he writes, is that social media communication is viral.

“Tour message can expand well beyond its intended audience – therefore exposing and introducing new people to your cause and community,” Reichart advises.

Scott Ferguson, pastor of Opp’s Westview Baptist Church, said he uses Twitter and Facebook for several reasons.

“First, it allows me to keep our church family up-to-date on things,” he said. “I can post prayer requests and other needs in our church family almost instantly from my Blackberry.”

Florala First Baptist has separated its social media goals into two pages, church secretary Joyce Farmer said.

Farmer said the church decided to use Facebook because many of its members already used the social media outlet for everyday communication, and church leaders thought it would be an easy way to promote upcoming events, as well as membership, throughout the community.

The church doesn’t use its Facebook page for prayer requests, but they do have a page called Uplifting Prayers, which is available for those who would like to share their prayer requests.

“By using a page separate from our church page for prayer needs, it is more open to everyone and people don’t feel like they have to be members of FBC to post their needs,” Farmer said.

For Bethany Baptist Church pastor Josh Wilson, the communication facilitated on Facebook is a two-way street. While his church recently began using the social media to update congregation members on events at the church, he said he has used Facebook to learn of issues that as a pastor he needed to address.

Ferguson also uses his Twitter account to post thoughts and commentary on church and world events as they happen.

“Twitter allows church members and other followers to know and understand my thoughts on some things that matter to me,” he said. “Sharing my thoughts through Twitter helps others see me as a ‘regular guy.’”

Locally, church Facebook pages aren’t limited to just Baptists, Andalusia First Presbyterian Church also has a Facebook account.

Secretary Sandi King said she created the page in order to keep the congregation up-to-date on church events.

Andalusia Church of God uses its Facebook page to share photos, tidbits about upcoming sermons and church events.