The Top 6 Ways Churches Use Social Media

The Top 6 Ways Churches Use Social Media
(Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Etc…)
By Carl Pasley



Everyone seems to be connected to friends these days! This workshop is a primer on how your church can benefit from the meteoric rise of social networking. Through live demonstrations and case studies on Twitter and Facebook, you’ll understand how pastors are fulfilling the purposes of their church. Your takeaway from this workshop will be a few steps you can take right now to move your ministry into this new era of social connection.


My background

• Got into radio soon after college
• Got saved at 24 out of an unhealthy interest in the occult
• Started NetWorld Alliance with my father in law 9 years ago
• In 2002, I met Thom Rainer & we became business partners in Church Central; Thom left Southern (and us) to become CEO at LifeWay
• Launched the Society for Church Consulting in 2007; 270 members now
• Still in the business world; sort of “marketplace minister” — conduct prayer breakfasts at secular conferences
• Author of Career Crossover: Leaving the Marketplace for Ministry
• ABF leader (80 people) – “executive pastor” – care groups, counseling & accountability, prayer ministry
• Love to work with pastors & consultants; my passion is to help be more effective with practical training, tools & content



“The Fellowship of the Believers”

At the end of Acts 2, Jews from “from every nation under heaven” have gathered on the day of Pentecost. In this stew pot of cultures and languages, the Holy Spirit causes them to understand each other as if they’re all speaking each other’s languages. The throng is amazed, and Peter takes this opportunity to preach the gospel, and lots of people are saved.

42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44A11 the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Notice that these new believers immediately sought community, which offered them teaching, fellowship, prayer, friends with common needs and interests, and many opportunities to serve each other. We draw the six functions or purposes of the church from this passage: worship, fellowship, ministry, discipleship, prayer and evangelism. (In this workshop, you’ll hear how churches are using social networking for each of these purposes.)

We also see that after they formed this community of believers, more kept on being saved, every day. Other people wanted what the believers had in common!

This story illustrates early social networking. Humans were created with a need and desire to be with other humans, especially those with whom they had much in common. This natural tendency is just as true today, and millions are flocking to connect to each other online.



My goals today:

1) To help you come up with your own basic plan for utilizing the “social technologies” that have infiltrated the lives of those you minister to. 2) I’d like you to see how to directly tie social networking to your church’s mission and its purposes (or functions). I don’t want you to walk away just informed about a cool new technology – though that is valuable – I want us all to understand and appreciate this new ministry tool God has provided.


How to get the most out of this workshop:

You can get my updated speaker notes and worksheet online at any time: when you download the PDF of my notes, you’ll see all the links I’ll be showing you today.


What is social media/networking? 5 defining concepts


1. Social networking is an extension of what the church is already doing. Have you ever thought of fellowship, evangelism or community service as social networking?

In the Church as a Social Network blog post, Anthony Coppedge says:
» Every local church is a collection of people who have at least three things in common: They share their faith, a group of family and/or friends, and they live within some proximity to their church location. They get to know each other better, share updates about their lives with pictures and stories and, generally, enjoy the relationships that come from this interaction.
Those are exactly the same relational, community-building activities happening in online social networking.

By definition, every church is a social network.

The question used to be: “Is your church ready for social networking?”

But the question should be: “Will your church extend your community online?”

Since the local church is an existing social network, it only makes sense to take that exact same model of building relationships and find tools that allow churches to leverage the technology and expand that existing social network. >>


2. It has given new meaning to “outreach” and “fellowship.” Outreach strategies that worked yesterday will not work as well today. The tried-and-true methods of reaching out to the community need to be updated – we need to do more than walk the neighborhoods, make phone calls, mail out fliers, perform acts of service, send e-mails, or hold events. These things are still good, but culture is requiring us to meet people where they spend a lot more of their time these days – online.

We are entering an age where “fellowship” is enhanced online. Where meeting your neighbors means knocking on more virtual doors than you could ever touch physically.

According to Pew Research, social networking isn’t just for kids. A report on adult social network use says 35% of adults have a profile on at least one social networking site, more than a fourfold increase from the 8% who answered “yes” to the same question in 2005. More and more adults are finding their way to social networking sites. It’s a fact we must accept.


3. It’s becoming more popular than e-mail. A recent report from Nielsen Online says member communities are visited by 67% of the world’s online population, and have become more popular than e-mail. Other findings show one in 11 minutes spent online is on a blog or social network and more than 19% of Americans visit social network sites using their mobile phone, up nearly 156% since last year. [Brand Republic (U.K.) (3/9/09)]


4. Social networking is more than a Web site. Most churches throw up the equivalent of a brochure (and I do mean throw up!) and think that is sufficient for their online outreach. These sites typically do nothing more than give service times, location and some semblance of what the church believes. Hopefully your site is updated with staff names, photos, events, upcoming sermons, and a warm invitation to visitors.


5. Social media is more than a blog. How many in here maintain a blog? Why do you blog?
Take various answers.

• To let people know what I’m all about (my brand)
• To interact with larger groups with less effort
• To update my friends, family & congregants on my life
• To publish articles
• To generate visibility for my church

Social media does all of this and more. Blogs have become the new “landing pages” for pastors who reach out with other networking tools. A blog can be an effective personal home page for you. If you’re no blogging, you’re missing a major leg in the stool of social networking.




The top 10 reasons churches use social networking: (you can get this list online)

1. It’s free
2. Reaches younger generations
3. Crosses the Sun. /Mon. divide, engaging your church members during the week
4. Encourages casual attendees to get more engaged
5. Connects lay leaders to each other
6. Connects members to each other and to church leadership
7. Promotes your church to the community
8. Bypasses e-mail spam filters and server issues
9. Makes your church look cool, hip, and generally with it
10. It’s free!



From their site:
» Millions of people use Facebook everyday to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet.

150 million people around the world are now actively using Facebook and almost half of them are using Facebook every day. This includes people in every continent—even Antarctica. If Facebook were a country, it would be the eighth most populated in the world, just ahead of Japan, Russia and Nigeria.

When we first started Facebook almost five years ago, most of the people using it were college students in the United States Today, people of all ages—grandparents, parents and children—use Facebook in more than 35 different languages and 170 countries and territories. «


Facebook is the most popular social media site.

250,000 new people are added per day; the users double every 6 months. It will have more than 300 million active members by the end of 2009. Facebook has been widely adopted as the replacement for MySpace by many church leaders wanting to go beyond the teenage, music-centric focus and uncontrollable advertising.

Visit Kyle ldleman’s page:
[6:30 VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH KYLE – Kyle Idleman on social networking – hi def.mpg]


Facebook Case Study from

How a pastor raised money, found volunteers, and planted a church using free Internet social media tools ‘Facebook Pastor’ takes crusade to the Internet – excerpts

ATLANTA – 29 year-old Shaun King — who calls himself “The Facebook Pastor” —took his crusade of buying toys and uniforms for 500 needy children this holiday season to the Internet.

King solicited donors through social networking sites such as MySpace, Twitter and Facebook, on various blogs and through a Web site. He posted videos of the children on YouTube and shared their story with strangers, who responded with more than $21,000, all raised online.

“The challenge is converting online relationships to real community, turning Facebook friends into active parts of a community of faith,” King said.

More than 300 people in 22 states participated in the toy drive, King said. Though he began with his own personal network, more than 80 percent of the people who gave were people King didn’t know.

He has also used the Internet to grow his fledgling ministry at The Courageous Church, which plans to officially open next month in midtown Atlanta. Of the 100 people making up his nascent congregation, 60 found him online in the past three months.

Rochelle McAllister found King’s Facebook ad a month ago and added him as a friend. On Tuesday, she was one of several volunteers helping pass out toys at Stanton Elementary.

“It’s exactly how you need to connect,” she said of King’s strategy. “It promotes a dialogue that is missing in so many churches. On Facebook, you’re more real.”

For King, incorporating social networking into his ministry was a natural segue and a practical plan.

“I’m a young guy, so it’s part of who I am,” he said. “These networks are already a part of my daily life. And it’s free.”




“Twitter asks one question, ‘What are you doing?’ Answers must be under 140 characters in length and can be sent via mobile texting, instant message, or the web.”

Twitter is a free micro-blogging site that lets people update their public mini-blog – almost like a mini journal. Churches can use Twitter in two primary ways:

1. Megaphone – announcements and updates to specific groups of people

2. Conversation – such as a pastor sharing what’s on his or her heart and, generally, giving congregants a personal view of his life


Other benefits of using Twitter:

From The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter – by Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers

• It will help you stay connected to people you care about. In today’s busy world, it’s difficult to keep up with others. Twitter makes it easy—and fun.

• It will help you see a new side of your friends. In an odd sort of way, Twitter “humanizes” people and provides a context for better understanding them.

• It will introduce you to new friends. I have now met several new people via Twitter. These have contributed to my life in small but significant ways. Gail and I have even had dinner with a couple that we met via Twitter.

• It is faster than text-messaging. In a sense Twitter is a universal text messaging system. You can broadcast to all of your “followers” (i.e., people who subscribe to your Twitter feed) or send a direct message to just one. As a result, I have almost completely stopped text messaging.

• It will help you keep up with what people are talking about. Via Twitter, I have learned about hot books, cool software, breaking news, and even great restaurants. Because the information is coming from real people who care enough to Twitter about it, I have found it more valuable and authentic.
• It requires a very small time investment. I probably invest less than 10 minutes a day. Since “tweets” (i.e., posts) are limited to 140 charters or less, you can scan them in a second or two. Writing them usually takes less than 30 seconds.

You can use Twitter to show you’re a real person — let it reveal your authenticity as people satisfy their curiosity about you. Use it as a virtual fishbowl with a limited view.

Thom Rainer’s Twitter page – @ThomRainer – http:/
Ed Stetzer’s Twitter page – @EdStetzer –
Demonstrate a Twitter post:



How to start Twittering:

1. Go to & create an account.

2. Follow other twitterers (use ‘find people’ at the top of the page). When you find someone who you want to add to your network, click on their name to see their page and then click ‘follow’. Some will start following you in return. You can stop following people in your network at any time by going to their page, clicking ‘following’ and then clicking ‘remove’.

3. Post updates according to the “brand” you want to project. What is your purpose for twittering? What is your desired audience?

4. You can send a public reply to someone’s tweet by clicking on the arrow that appears when you mouse over their tweet. If you want to send a message to someone but don’t want all your followers to see it, you can send a direct message. Click Direct Message on the right-hand side of

5. If one of your followers says something so brilliant that you want to share it with your followers, you can “retweet” it. T e etiquette for doing this is to put “RT” at the start of your message then add the “@” symbol and the person’s username and then their message. For example, type “RT@tomrharper” to retweet one of my messages. It’s acceptable to edit their message to make it fit the 140 character limit.

6. OPTIONAL: There may be lots of people talking about a particular topic but unless they are in your network or send you a reply you won’t even know they’re there. This is where hashtags come in. By adding”#” and then a keyword, lots of unconnected people can join a conversation. These tweets are sometimes collated at specific sites but can easily be found using the Twitter search engine. For example, Norwich City supporters often add #NCFC to their tweets, which are then collated by Norwich City writer Rick Waghorn at his site.


Text messaging case study:

NEWS ARTICLE: While Rev. Mike Schreiner preached, off to his right, the steady glow of dozens of cell phones lit up the section where the teens of Morning Star Methodist Church in O’Fallon, Mo. (1,500 weekend attendance), sat listening to the sermon, thumbs furiously working little keyboards.

High above the 700-seat sanctuary, Arnie Haskins, 27, the director of worship, sat in the church’s control booth receiving their text messages on the church’s cell phone. She screened some, and typed others into a computer that was connected to Schreiner’s laptop on stage. During his 30-minute sermon, Haskins received 35 questions.

Schreiner answered just three of them, but the church’s embrace of texting — this was the third week of its experiment — has already improved the dialogue, according to Schreiner, and energized many of Morning Star’s younger members.

Mid-sermon texting is a way for pastors to engage their flocks with technology many of them — especially those under 30 — are using every day.

Schreiner prefers that the questions remain on his laptop when they come down from the control booth. Scarborough likes them popped on the big screen for all to see.

Morning Star also allows its members to question the pastor the old-fashioned way, with forms placed in the weekly bulletin they can write on and submit in the collection plate.

But it’s not just Morning Star’s young members who are pleased with their church’s experiment. “I think it’s neat,” said Bill Sullivan, 60. “I hope they keep it up.”

Mike O’Brien, 44, said his 13-year-old daughter and his wife have texted questions to the church’s pastors. “It beats walking out of there with a question burning in your head and not having it answered,” he said.

Schreiner said that after just three weeks of taking text-message questions, he can feel a difference in his preaching.
“It gives me a little more of a teaching role,” he said. “It gets back to Jesus Christ and the Sermon on the Mount where I picture Jesus having a conversation with the people. With texting, it becomes much more o a dialogue.”


Another case study:

The Israel Defense Forces, recognizing that success in neutralizing the Hamas movement in Gaza is as much a public relations challenge as a military one, has enlisted an arsenal of Internet tools to take their message directly to a global audience.

There is a military channel on the video-sharing site YouTube where you can watch suspected Hamas sites being obliterated by ordnance; blogs that spread the message of the foreign affairs ministry; and in the newest wrinkle, a news conference conducted through the microblogging service Twitter.

“Since the definition of war has changed, the definition of public diplomacy has to change as well,” said David Saranga, the head of media relations for the Israeli consulate in New York.



I use this site to build a group of church consulting professionals. We have discussions & recommend articles to each other. Many people use Linkedin for job searches.

Tour the SCC group: ug hm How do you find the group? Click on “Groups directory” at the top right.



Here’s how to find out who the pastors are in your area that have registered in Linkedin: (demonstrate in the advanced search; type “pastor” in the keyword field, then choose “religious institutions” in the industry dropdown)



Paul Chaney said, “Linkedin is a business suit, Facebook is business casual, and Twitter is the 24/7 ongoing cocktail party.”


Warnings Before You Launch into the Social Stratosphere

This “new world” is not free from the sins of laziness & lust:

1. Stay away from Youtube (I went to a video a well-known pastor linked to from his site, and porn videos showed up next to his); is okay (now called Tangle) — lesson: don’t post church videos on YouTube!

2. Be discerning who you befriend online — err on the sparing side; watch who follows you (pastor who had a follower that was actually linked to a porn site directly from his page)

3. Don’t get obsessed with exploring & browsing sites like Facebook & Twitter & Linkedin – you can waste tons of time, with no results, and you may regret some of the sights

4. Don’t Twitter yourself to death; blogs can take up time too; decide what your main purpose is for Facebooking or Twittering, and stick to it!

5. Do not rely on technology to heal your church’s conflicts. In negative situations, the technology we’re talking about today tends to exacerbate bad feelings and rifts, rather than fix them, especially among leadership teams and mid-size or small churches. So if you’re in this camp, PLEASE remember one of the maxims of church health: People problems are not fixed by training, visioneering, planning, e-mailing or alignment; they are fixed through prayer, love and honest, face-to-face discussions.


REPEAT THIS POINT: Conflict intensifies when people sit down at a keyboard and pound out their frustrations in an e-mail. Technology increases the distance between people when there is already a division.


Liability case study

Scenario: You have a youth page on FB (run by the Church); a lot of the youth in your area sign up as friends. You have your events posted. A child posts that they are looking for a ride to the next event and they live in such and such an area.

People reading this group now have:
1. Approximate age and grade of the child
2. Childs first and last name
3. Where they are going to be at what time
4. Approximate area they live

That is without them posting any further information on their profile. If their profile is public then all bets are off. How much liability does the church have?



“Our answer here has been to lock down the interaction portions, as we really can’t control what the kids say or how they restrict access to their profiles. Of course, unscrupulous people can always pose as a child and gain access that way, but we can say we have taken reasonable precautions.”



First, I recommend you find your church’s greatest strengths among the 6 purposes found in Acts 2:
1. Worship
2. Fellowship
3. Ministry
4. Discipleship
5. Prayer
6. Evangelism

Now, how can you enhance your strength with social networking? Here’s how other churches apply social networking to each of these purposes. Use these ideas as springboards for your own.


1. Worship

• Communicate worship times to congregants
• Invite guests to come back
• Disseminate online worship service videos to those who couldn’t make it
• Online campus for New Spring Church: (live online worship)

Allow congregants to twitter during services


2. Fellowship – Here’s how Compass Bible Church in Aliso Viejo, CA) ramped up their fellowship:
From Mike Fabarez, senior pastor:

Not long ago our ministry leaders and pastors gathered in the Compass conference room for an extended meeting about how we could revamp our church website to be more than an electronic bulletin. We wanted a site that would be highly interactive. We wanted a site that would accommodate and prompt CBC’rs to get to know one another more deeply, pray for one another more often, and fellowship with one another more effectively. We wanted it to be a place where people not only gathered information about what was going or at the church, but we were hopeful it could be a place where every time a CBC ‘r signed on he or she was giving or receiving true Christian encouragement and support.

The more we dialoged and sharpened our ideas about what we wanted it to be, the more our composite description of the ultimate “CBC website” began to look like something that already existed. With laptops surrounding the table, someone logged on to Facebook and informed us that someone in our church had already created a Compass Bible Church “group page” and it already had eighty members. I was floored. Close to one hundred CBC’rs were a part of a social networking site where they were interacting daily — posting prayer requests, exhorting one another, encouraging one another to participate in church programs and daily staying in touch.

We all agreed that was the kind of thing we wanted to happen on our proposed site. It would include those eighty people, plus we prayed, hundreds more. The problem was we knew it would take several months and several thousand dollars to create such a site. We could make some immediate and low cost changes that would make our Compass site more interactive (e.g., daily pastor blogs, the ability for CBC’rs to post responses, regular videos from tie senior pastor, etc.), but to create the tools that already existed on Facebook would be a daunting task. It could be done, but it would take a lot of time and resources.

I wondered out loud, “What do you think would happen if we all joined Facebook and started pastoring, encouraging and edifying the people on the Compass Bible Church group page?” One of our pastors quickly responded, “It would catch on like wildfire. We’d have three hundred people in two weeks!” I found that hard to believe. But I was willing to give it a try. I knew it might be a move met with some reluctance. The stigma of “social networking sites” was not unknown to me. But I quickly surmised that if it caught on we would be creating a bright light on Facebook where CBC’rs could find daily fellowship. It fit nicely with the other “redemptive” ministry decisions I had seen God bless over the years — i.e., take something decidedly secular and utilize it for the glory of God and the advancement of the kingdom of Christ.

So before the day was over I announced in our “all-staff meeting” that I wanted each of us to join Facebook and redeem a corner of it for the glory of God and the good of Christ’s Church! Wouldn’t you know it, in two weeks hundreds of people joined those initial eighty Facebook pioneers and there were over three hundred people fellowshipping every day on the Compass Bible Church group page.

At that point I realized, three hundred CBC’rs is just a drop in the bucket. Thousands of Christians call Compass Bible Church their home and more of them should join us in engaging daily in the biblical “one another’s” through this unique electronic vehicle. While we work to build, enhance and extend the interactive features of our own website, Facebook provides us with a workable means for what we believe God wants us to be engaged in as community of Christians.


3. Ministry social networking ideas

* • Connect members within larger groups; connect small groups to other groups
* • Network in the community to look for service opportunities
* • Post service opportunities & ask for members to sign up to help
* • Allow people to anonymously inquire about counseling services your church offers


4. Discipleship social networking ideas

Foster online discussion groups
Connect people with mentors
Deliver sermon videos, podcasts, PPTs and notes
Ask ABF teachers to get creative in their lessens by polling & sparking conversations


5. Prayer social networking ideas
– Online prayer requests — through a simple form on your Web site
– Encourage church members to form online prayer groups on Facebook
– – Every weekend during our Online Experiences we have
a whole team of people who help to facilitate a Live Prayer ministry through chat


6. Evangelism
– Encourage non-Christians to ask tough questions in a discussion forum
– Invite your personal network of friends to church; ask members to do the same
– Encourage members to be vocal about their faith in low-pressure ways with large numbers


Fill out the last part of the worksheet now: How my church can apply social networking to our strengths. ANY ONE WANT TO SHARE?