Underneath the logo on the Church of England website is the tagline “a Christian presence in every community”. And while this is seen through many churches up and down the country on a daily basis - we often neglect one community.
The online community.
Before going any further, there are a few myths we need to bust:
First, social media isn’t a fad. 83% of UK adults now go online and 66% of those online adults have a social networking profile such as Facebook or Twitter. It’s not just for young people either - one of the fastest growing groups on social media is the over 50’s and those aged 65-74 are almost twice as likely to use a smartphone now compared to 2012.
Secondly, while it does take a certain amount of time and effort, social media with a good strategy and framework behind it doesn’t have to take up all your time. It’s more about quality than quantity.
With such high numbers of people on social media, people are turning to it to find jobs (some jobs are now only advertised online, including Church of England jobs shared through Twitter and LinkedIn), to share major life events, and to follow the news - websites like Twitter are now reporting before before the mainstream media.
After major incidents in the UK and around the world, the Church of England has begun to respond via social media with prayer, recognising people’s need to ‘light a candle’ and publicly show their support. Most recently, prayers for the attacks in Tunisia reached more than 100,000 people.
In the same way that people are turning to social media for news, your church’s social media activity has become the new church noticeboard or magazine. For some, social media is the first place they will look to find out what kind of church you are. It’s the perfect place to let your church’s personality shine through and make people want to be a part of it.
The power of social media is astounding, with stories regularly making the news about organ donors or long lost relatives found through Facebook and most notably the ALS (motor neurone disease) ice bucket challenge last year which raised over a $100 million in the space of a few months.
A little closer to home, social media can have a real impact: one church uses social media to find out about needs in their community for which they can offer support; another helps to boost messages from local foodbanks or charities.
As numbers on social media rise, it’s important that the church is there too, to offer alternative ways to seek a relationship with God, to be there for those who might use social media to ask for help, and to spread the good news of Jesus Christ - as well as to be part of the everyday conversations happening online.
There is a whole new community of people who may only be reached through social media. This is our opportunity to be the church online, perhaps through live-streaming of church services (the new app from Twitter called ‘Periscope’ is a great tool churches can use for this) or through other innovative means.
Recent campaigns from the Church of England include @OurCofE, a Twitter account which follows the life of a different CofE member each week, revealing the breadth of the Church of England and #ChristmasMeans/#EasterMeans, a hashtag which people used in tweets to talk about what Christmas/Easter meant to them which reached more than 30 million people around the world.
It’s not a question of if your church should be on social media, but how is your church going to make a difference through social media - and when?
Take a look at the Church of England on social media:
Talitha Proud – Digital Media Officer, Archbishops’ Council
Published in Outlook - The magazine of the Diocese of Canterbury: