Networked: Why We Should Use Social Media in Ministry

I’ve been saying this for years now. Maybe now that pew research is backing me up, the detractors will pay attention.

I still get push back from church officials about the need to share information on social networks. Many are afraid of getting sued or of revealing too much. Clerics, most especially, live in a world where they try to reveal little–and yet it ends up pushing them towards irrelevancy at times.

I can remember one significant speaking engagement with a group of Philly Archdiocesan priests. Many of them were great! They were using social media in a myriad of ways and it contributed to their ministry in new and exciting ways.

But others were not wiling to do so. Their refusal sounded angry, defensive and completely unrealistic. Granted at times social media can be ridiculous. One pastor gave a good example of a church that had been robbed. He told his employees that he had to give their names to the police because they all had keys but that he didn’t suspect any of them. One employee wrote about that on Facebook offering his alibi as a joke.

Then his friends chimed in…and they did so uncharitably.

The pastor in question wondered what he should do next? And he replied that he thought Facebook should not be used in ministry because it gave people the opportunity to say bad things about the church.

My response: “With all due respect, Msgr., they’re saying bad things about the church ANYWAY.”

It’s amazing how some people want to bury their heads in the sand and vilify all social media.

To be fair, my own mother, who is 83 and knows little about the internet, (except what I show her when I’m in town–and which she’s always impressed by) thinks that the internet is evil.

“I don’t care what you say, you shouldn’t be on that internet! It’s nothing but trouble.”

I usually reply with “Mom, the internet is only a way of sharing information.”

Her reply is simple, “I don’t care what it is. It’s trouble! I don’t want to be on it.”

How far removed from this attitude are some of our older priests in their 70s? Probably not far.

We have an opportunity to share who we are and what we do best. But are we willing to do that?

Or do we just want to remain in the ghetto with people who don’t use the internet much?

Indeed it is up to us.

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5 Comments

  1. Fran Rossi Szpylczyn May 31, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    Bravo Mike! As you know, we are of one mind about this. Heck, how would we even know if we were of one mind about this and so many other things, if not for social media? And it is also the story of our personal friendship, one that started out online and is very real today.

    My diocese is great in so many ways, I am often frustrated with our diocesan technology situation and policy. No one is set up to do any of this and a good deal of it is couched in the concept of safety, I completely get that, I support that, but what we are doing is not about safety, that is for sure. And what we are missing… that is a problem. There are very real things to consider for the reasons stated, but there are also very real ways to approach them. Can you imagine St. Paul NOT using social media if it were available to him?

    Thanks for this – and for so much! Including friendship with you and Marion! And I even got to meet your dad, too. Networked in friendship and in Christ – amen!

  2. Excellent post! I completely agree that we need to be engaged and stay relevant and not stay in a small niche of non-Internet users. There is a wonderful book about this entitled, The iChurch Method: How to Advance Your Ministry Online, by Jason Caston, which provides an easy and effective way for ministries to establish a global presence online. You can find the author’s website here: http://www.theichurchmethod.com/

  3. Meredith Gould, PhD June 3, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Amen, amen. Preach it! When it comes to church, I’m not sure that age is the most salient factor, but position in church hierarchy.

    Social media is very democratizing and I think this scares the snot out of those who have invested in the culture of clericalism. I mention this from my perspective as a sociologist, as well as a digital strategist and communications consultant who works with churches.

    Although I’m Catholic, all my invitations to speak, teach, and create new strategies come from ELCA, UMC, and Episcopal churches these days. I’m seeing how the openness of their governance fosters openness to change. That noted, I’ll also point out that at least two key contributors to the weekly church social media (#chsocm) chat on Twitter (Tuesdays, 9PM) are in positions of Catholic influence, if not authority.

    BTW, Jason Caston’s book is nicely done and provides a great road map. I like mine (!) The Word Made Fresh: Communicating Church and Faith Today to explain why church communications must be viewed and participated in as a ministry.

  4. Why Aren’t More People in Ministry Using Social Media? June 5, 2012 at 5:32 am

    [...] video and book from a Facebook post by my friend Mike Hayes (author of Googling God) who wrote his own blog article about it. Thanks, Mike–social networking at work. Share [...]

  5. Mike -
    Indeed it is up to us and I am a former “resistantee” of social media. Taking the plunge and jumped into a digital bootcamp class to learn about the types of tools, what the Church says and ways to expand our community to reach those that the traditional means are not reaching. Nice food for thought!

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