Social Media and Ministry


We asked readers: Share an instance in which you have used social media in your ministry in a unique way, or a way that had a surprising outcome as a result of your interactions. Are you evolving with the technology, or resisting the change? What type of information would you like to receive from PTS via Facebook and Twitter? We received many answers, but could not include them all. All responses are in inSpire online.


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I never thought the day would come that I would not “be with it,” as it were. Anyhow, I detest the notion of “social media” and would never be a part of such public expression and demonstration of banter, etc. Alas, I have grown old, retired, and anti-chatter.
Adrian A. McFarlane (M.Div., 1974)
Port Antonio, Jamaica, West Indies


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I regularly use Facebook to collect information for my sermons. I might post, “What does it mean to fish for people?” or “Why does it matter that Jesus came back from the dead?” The answers help to shape my sermons. Knowing what my listeners are thinking gives me helpful insights, and recounting some of the answers enlivens the sermons and helps the listeners know that their input matters. The comments are often hilarious, charming, poignant, or inspiring.
Charles B. Hardwick (M.Div., 1999; Ph.D., 2007)
Bloomington, Illinois

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We began using texting during our Sunday services. We chose texting because our congregation is rather large and it is often difficult to dialogue with the gathered about the Sunday text or topic. By using texting to an assigned cell number during the service, congregants can respond to questions, share thoughts, or answer a question. The responses then become helpful to the organic formation of the message and allow the preacher/speaker to include respondents’ thoughts.
Jerrett L. Hansen (D. Min., 1986)
Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania

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I enrolled at PTS in 1966. After two years and an internship, I left seminary. I was involved in mission work in Africa for more than two decades, primarily in Zimbabwe. After the government blew up the largest opposition newspaper, The Daily News, I launched a personal media campaign on TV, radio, and in newspapers and magazines, primarily with polemical poetry. My goal was to expose the corruption and machinations of the regime. It became advisable to return to the U.S. in 2002. Since then we have been at our family homestead in Anacortes, Washington. I still do a weekly program, Different Points of View, on Tuesdays. It can be found online at www.swradioafrica.com.
I have posted 1,000+ poems on Facebook and recently uploaded a few on YouTube. A few others can be found at http://forums.familyfriendpoems.com/duaneudd. I have been very moved on occasions when people have communicated with me and shared how much their lives have been affected by something I wrote.
Duane Udd (non-graduating M.Div., 1970)
Anacortes, Washington

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In January I retired after nine years as part-time visitation pastor at Wallingford Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania (following my May 2001 retirement from my last full-time pastorate). I have never used social media in my work, but can appreciate its benefits. I appreciate PTS’s current excellent use of printed material—always detailed, accurate, succinct. Thanks for the good job you do in churning it out.
Kenneth A.B. Wells (M.Div., 1960)
Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

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The vibrancy of my denomination (the PCUSA) and our member churches is important to me. Yet as a parent of four young children, I have very little free time and have not been able to keep abreast of what is being discussed and planned by Presbyterians meeting in cities like Minneapolis and, soon, Orlando. A friend recently invited me to join a conversation on Facebook with five others. I’m grateful. I’m unable to meet people for coffee or even talk on the phone, and Facebook might be the only way I could have a conversation about what is happening in the denomination.
Justin Sundberg (M.Div., 1996)
Seattle, Washington

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In my role as media and innovation pastor at LiquidChurch.com, I work with our church’s online campus, which holds several fully interactive worship experiences across various international time zones each week. We actively engage our global community with social media—Facebook, Twitter, and multiuser video chats—to drive interaction.

We also syndicate sermon audio and video podcasts to thousands of listeners each month on iTunes and other distribution platforms. In addition, video sermons are recut into two-minute micro message versions for increased sharing across social networks.
Our latest project is a first-ever Christmas virtual choir. Individuals from around the globe posted singing parts on YouTube and we produced a fully dynamic rendition for our Christmas Eve services and church online experience.
Churches need to recognize that social media has become a part of the “DNA” of relationships today.
Kenny Jahng (M.Div., 2011)
Livingston, New Jersey

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In my work as a college chaplain, I use Facebook constantly. It provides an excellent medium for inviting students, blessing students and alumni/ae on their big moments, and staying in touch. Since the core of my work is building actual face-to-face relationships, so far Facebook has only been a positive enhancement to my ministry. I am keeping an eye out to see if or when Facebook and other social media begin to replace relational “intimacy,” and at that point I will begin to resist.
Daniel McQuown (M.Div., 1996)
Albion, Michigan

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“Technology and Social Media: Blessing or Curse?”
There are many days when I find myself in my office at church talking on the phone, sending an email, replying to a text message, and writing something down all at the same time. Technology has changed and continues to change our culture and the way that we do ministry. Churches that refuse to embrace technology and new forms of social media are often left behind. The question I often find myself asking is this: Is it more of a blessing or a curse?

Blessing: We can now communicate quickly via email and save time.
Curse: Many people get mad if we don’t respond to their email right away.
Blessing: We can communicate via email and eliminate unnecessary meetings.
Curse: We have less and less face time together.
Blessing: We all have cell phones and can make calls anytime, anywhere.
Curse: We can now be reached anytime, anywhere.
Blessing: Text messaging can eliminate unnecessary conversations.
Curse: Many of our children don’t know how to have a face-to-face conversation.
Blessing: We can connect with everybody in our past through Facebook.
Curse: Many affairs now originate from “old flames” reconnecting online.
Blessing: We can email lots of people at one time.
Curse: Many people always find it necessary to “reply to all” every time.
Blessing: We can put the audio and video of the sermon on the church web site.
Curse: Why come to church when I can watch the sermon in my pajamas at home?
Blessing: Loads of information is available at the click of a mouse.
Curse: We can spend all day “surfing the web.”
Blessing: We can find out what somebody is doing at any given moment through Twitter.
Curse: Some people assume you really want to know what they are cooking for dinner every night.
Blessing: We are more connected.
Curse: We are less connected.

There are many days when I find myself thinking back to the years when ministers served during a period of limited technology. They served before the existence of social media and pastored in an age of no email, no cell phones, no Facebook—an age of standing committee meetings, handwritten letters, and landlines. It is hard for us to imagine our lives without the technology that we enjoy. However, I do believe there is a clear correlation between the technology and the anxiety in our culture. We are over stimulated. We are too available. We don’t know how to be still and quiet.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating that we give up all the gadgets that we enjoy. That’s simply not going to happen. I am raising the questions: Do our gadgets serve us or do we serve our gadgets? Are we running our technology or is our technology running us? Part of being a Christian is learning to retreat and be still. We must be careful to not let technology run our lives. We should use it for its benefits but then know when to shut it off.
Clay Stauffer (M.Div., 2005)
Nashville, Tennessee

 

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