Have you ever tweeted in church? Have you ever texted in church? Some of you may have at inappropriate times, but at Mt. Bethel UMC in Marietta, GA that is exactly what you are encouraged to do. Yes in some churches, communication has come a long way from your "grandma's church". Most churches only use front lawn, letter changing signs, or weekly bulletins printed on unexciting white paper. But there are many churches that have opened their doors and embraced social media.
Bandwagon or Reason?
I was quite sceptical when the social media aspect was brought up within my own congregation at Mt. Bethel UMC. I wanted to make sure that we, as a body of believers, were using social media for the right reason and not just to be "cool." I soon found that the idea of adding social media to the service was a great idea. During the sermon the congregation is encouraged to text or tweet comments or questions they would like the pastor to address. The congregation response has been overwhelming. When asked why the response has been so overwhelming, Pastor Jody Ray responded, "in such a big corporate worship service it is hard to have an open forum, and being able to speak up through text messages or tweeting give people an opportunity to express concerns and ask questions that they may not normally be able to voice." The only negative to adding the media aspect Ray says, is the amount of texts they get on a Sunday morning verses the amount of time they have to answer. They only have time to answer a few questions so not everyone gets heard, but all in all this has been a very effective tool for ministry.
The ROI for a Church
In the business world social media is uses to elevate the ROI, Return on Investment, this is also true for a church. Instead of looking at the ROI in quantitative terms the church looks at it in qualitative terms. Most churches ask the question, "is the social media in question going to help the quality of church ministry?" "Is the use of a particular media going to further the cause of
Kingdom work?" In most cases, the answer is a resounding YES! Social Media in the church not only enhances communication, it allows for a connection that many people in a mega-church like Mt. Bethel UMC with 10,000 members, may not have had. It also is a way to place a "call to action." A Christian's number one concern is to live for Christ and also to disciple, and social media helps accomplish both by using many different outlets:
1. Podcast of sermons
2. Daily Bible study Tweets and blog postings
3. Posting to Facebook, You Tube, and iTunes worship songs and videos
4. Allowing your members to stay connected to ministry staff through e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, and Linkedin.
I am sure there are many other ways social media can be used in the Church. I am not sure if all the possibilities have been tapped into as of yet, but I believe to stay connected and relevant, churches must make use of social media.