10 Reasons To Learn Social Media if You Are a Christian

Scott Fillmer on Facebook

I decided to start a series of sorts on social media and how we the people of the church body use, don’t use, or outright diss the majority of the world at this point. I’m hereafter coining this series of sorts as the SMFT (Social Media, Facebook, and Twitter) discussion. Part of the necessity of this discussion comes after reading some of Viral: How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival by Leonard Sweet (or @lensweet), which I would highly recommend to anyone, but should almost be required reading for anyone born prior to 1985. I have written on this many times before, but I do so now mainly because there are still some in the church today who continue ignore this medium, which has now become the most powerful tool in the world to connect with other people.

Much of the premise behind Viral is to bring the older generations of believers (that is those born prior to about 1985) into the fold of understanding in the world we live in today. It is far easier to say “I’m not part of the world, the culture, the depravity of our society,” and ignore everything our world has become, even though we do still live in the world. We are supposed to be the salt and light to the world, not to be just the salt and light to the baby boomers. Many of us do ignore the power of social media in our calling as Christians to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).

How in the world can we make disciples if we don’t know and understand the different forms of social media like Facebook and Twitter? So you say I’m on Facebook, got that covered… well, I would say Facebook is the most closed, the least evangelically available social media tool there is. You can close yourself off in Facebook by locking every aspect of your Facebook account and never be heard from again, what type of witness is that? Did you know that most younger generations are moving away from Facebook at this point (partly because we are now on there). It’s extremely important to get beyond Facebook and into other areas like Instagr.am, Pinterest, Foursquare, FlickrSpotify, YouVersion, Kindle Books (yes it’s social), blogging, texting, and various avenues on Twitter.

[On a side note… if you are only on Facebook, you are not a part of the social media revolution, this is basically pseudo social networking at best. I say this because Facebook is close to reaching saturation levels. Facebook has become like the telephone or cable TV of the 80’s. Once everyone is on there who wants to be on there it’s growth is all but flatlined. I don’t mean if you aren’t on there yet, you shouldn’t get on there, and fast, but If you are only willing to get into one single social site, I would not recommend it be Facebook, I would first make it a smart phone, where you can learn how to access everything the world now takes for granted.]

So, if you are a believer, and think this social media thing is going to go away, I’m sorry, it’s only going to get more and more ingrained into the very fabric of the world we live in. In another 5-10 years it will encompass the world’s population, except for those who ignore it’s existence. For us the church to ignore social media is akin to the church ignoring electrical power and the car when they were invented, choosing instead to stick with candles and horses.

10 Reasons To Learn Social Media if You Are a Christian

  1. Jesus would have used this media (this is a later post, but I will show from Scripture why this is the case)
  2. We are called to disciple the world, and the world is connected via social media
  3. If you don’t learn the basics, instead of you teaching your kids, your kids will be teaching you at some point
  4. By the time you are ready it will be too late (it’s already quite late as it is)
  5. Your target audience are all sitting right there waiting for your witness
  6. How many people in your neighborhood have your talked to (witnessed to) lately?
  7. Door to door is dead. Buried… and greatly frowned upon in our society. Social networking is the norm.
  8. The disciples used every tool to their advantage (they wrote books and distributed them)
  9. The Bible is the greatest social media tool every created, it’s meant to be socially shared
  10. Because there are lost people who do not know Jesus and you may be their only connection

So there you have it. That’s just a start. I didn’t put a lot of references, or other specifics as to where my ideas came from, I will put those in future SMFT posts, and those 10 reasons are just off the top of my head, I’m sure there are a ton more. I beg the church body to not let itself become irrelevant in such an overwhelming way as to not be able to reach our world today. We make disciples by investing in people’s lives, and more than any other time in the history of the world, we have access to more people, to discuss the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with more people, than any generation who ever lived before us.

How a Church Communicates in a Generation Gap

Tweetdeck on Twitter

I read a few interesting articles today in Entrepreneur Magazine and Marketing Pilgrim, about how people communicate, and have difficulty communicating, between the generational gaps.  Each generation has a different way of embracing new forms communicating that becomes comfortable to them but where gen-x and gen-y ‘ers seem to have adopted to new forms of communication, the boomers have let is slide and still prefer their face-to-face and over the phone exchanges.

Face-to-Face, Phone, or Twitter-ific

The reports go on to talk about how that makes it difficult to properly communicate between the boomers and gen’ers who don’t really care for face to face and hate making an actual phone call.  All that got me thinking about how we communicate within the church.  Poor communication in a church can kill its momentum, growth, or relationships, but “poor” communication is not universal and what is poor communication from a 20-something to a boomer is acceptable among their peers.

Being Unaware Creates Mis-Understanding

It doesn’t take long to see how mis-understandings in communication methods between generations can cause problems.  As an example, I have found that the farther away you get from the Baby Boomer generation the less an actual response to something is deemed necessary… a response to a phone call, email, sms, facebook comment, tweet on Twitter, whatever it is, the younger you are, the fewer responses are deemed to be needed where the closer to a boomer you are, the more you expect a response to everything.

Where a boomer-ish person is offended by a non-response, the gen-y’er doesn’t even give it a second thought.  Being a Gen-X’er myself, I get quite irritated with non-response but always try to remember who it is I am communicating with, then interpret what their lack of response means.  What it means is that they don’t communicate in the exact same method I do, and I shouldn’t hold that against them when I don’t get a response.

Of course that is a generality and certainly not scientific, but it highlights that an understanding of how each generation prefers to communicate is needed, especially within the church body. If we want the church body to grow, if we want to reach new people for Jesus, we have to understand how the younger generation likes to communicate, what is important to communicate to them, and what they could care less about.  As we all get older, it isn’t about what makes us happy and what we like, right?

Who is the Church Trying To Reach Anyway?

Who are we trying to reach?  If we are trying to reach the Boomer’s, they are probably still looking for those traditional forms of communication from the church like a weekly snail-mailed newsletter, a printed paper bulletin, a pictorial directory of church members, and even those phone calls to the house.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to say Gen-Y doesn’t care a thing about getting something in the mail or receiving a bulletin when they walk in, that just isn’t what they are looking for in a church, it doesn’t add any value to their experience.

They want to share ideas.  They could possibly be the most sharing generation the world has seen, but it isn’t sharing face-to-face like the boomers, it is sharing stories, ideas, life dreams, it is life lived as open source. Even email is unimportant, and becoming less and less important as time goes by.   It is just considered to be spam (even if it isn’t), and sending an email newsletter is irrelevant to the generation that lives on rss feeds.

Produce, but Don’t Push Information

Like each past generation, they want to communicate with each other in the manner they are accustomed to, which is electronically.  They get their information proactively, and don’t want it pushed onto them, this means we have to produce the information and let them come get it.  Communicating things in that manner may seem backwards to traditional means (because it is), and may be more difficult, but push methods will be rejected by the Gen-Y’ers.

So how do we produce information we want them to see and just hope they find it?  Carefully I guess, but I know if it is meaningful enough to them, they will find it.  Word of mouth still rules with Gen-Y as it does with Boomers, so maybe that is the bridge over the generation gap.

Check out the chart below.  I think if we make an effort to understand how each generation prefers to communicate we can better know how to serve each person.  Serving someone in a manner or custom they could care less about it totally ineffective and a waste of everyone’s time.  Wouldn’t it be better to know how best to serve (communicate with) each individual person instead assuming all will respond in the same way?

Learning the Differences, is Important

Communicating in the Generation Gap