For years friends pestered me to sign up for Facebook, the social networking website that keeps you up to date with people you know well or not so well. Since I wasn't that interested in the movie preferences of my ninth grade lab partner or in the gossip from my mother's third cousin, I figured, Why spend precious time online that I desperately need for face-to-face relationships?
Then, on a whim, I signed up for Facebook. I have been surprised by how useful it has been as a ministry tool, especially for preaching.
Over the past four months as I've mentioned being on Facebook, more than 35 percent of our congregation have become "friends." I've also added as "friends" a couple of dozen folks who have dropped out of church altogether, plus a number of unchurched people (from my kids' soccer teams and school, mostly). I now have a new level of interaction with these people, which I'm finding very helpful. Here's how:
Understanding the hearts of my people. For a recent sermon series about fasting, I must have read a hundred comments about what our people were learning, struggling with, and giving up. Each week I could spend ten minutes on Facebook and read a couple dozen comments about people's experiences, which helped me calibrate where the church was on our journey. Comments like this helped me prepare the coming week's sermon:
"I feel a sense of urgency to learn something. Problem is that I'm so concentrated on not breaking the fast (I've slipped a few times) that I might be missing the point …"
Understanding the hearts of the unchurched. Facebook keeps me connected with people outside the church with whom I'd otherwise have little contact. I keep their struggles in mind as I prepare ...