Using Social Media In Mission

Social Media for Social Change

Social Media For Social Change by Michael Durwin on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media have led to an explosion in ordinary people taking part in campaigns. Whether it is people signing a petition at 38 Degrees or Avaaz, or simply putting a cryptic status update on Facebook in support of a cause (so-called ‘slacktivism‘), people feel empowered and can make a difference. When schoolgirl Martha Payne blogged about her school dinners at Never Seconds, there was a populist uprising when local education officials tried to stop her photographing the meals and writing about them. The resultant campaign raised over £100,000 for the charity Mary’s Meals in Malawi.

Christians have recognised this power. At one level, the Methodist Church did precisely this with the Tell Show Be campaign, and you can read the story of it here.

But that will seem altogether too high-powered for the average Internet-connected Christian. Yet we can harness the power of social media, too. Here is just one story.

In July 2012, our seven-year-old son Mark came home from school one Friday, having discovered that Fran, the much-loved school crossing patrol in our village, was facing a threat to her job from the county council – or at very least, the circumscribing of her powers. He immediately emailed his Head Teacher, who was surprised to hear this, especially as he was Fran’s line manager. And so a campaign began. We set up a website, Fran’s Fans, and an accompanying Facebook page. News about the campaign was cross-posted to both. Community websites highlighted our website. Councillors and journalists were bombarded with emails, and the local press covered the story, by which time the council had backtracked, claiming it was all a misunderstanding. Success!

And we were noticed elsewhere. Popular TV science programme Bang Goes The Theory was looking to film a school crossing patrol as part of a story on the age at which children can anticipate the speed of on-coming vehicles. Surfing the web, they discovered the Fran’s Fans campaign and filmed her with local schoolchildren, who were then used in the experiments in the story.

There is considerable power to be harnessed here, and we can use it well in the cause of justice, compassion and outreach.

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Spiritual But Not Religious

Reiki

Reiki II by Franklin Park Library on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

The BBC recently reported that

Despite the falling popularity of organised religion, most people in the UK still believe in the power of spiritual forces, research suggests … “The study appears to confirm that, despite a steady decline in congregations and in formal religious belief, a sense of the spiritual remains strong in Britain,” said the BBC’s religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott.

Essentially, the picture is not as simple as ‘religion down, atheism up’: it is more complicated.

But what is happening? The original document, on which the BBC’s report was based, asked whether people who believed in spiritual beings or angels or God did anything about their beliefs. They discovered that they did, but not in any ‘conventional’ or ‘traditional’ way:

According to our research, 23% of people said they had had their tarot cards read, 17% had had their star sign read, 12% had had a reflexology session. Smaller numbers had experienced more esoteric spiritual experiences, such as having a reiki session (8%), having their aura read (6%), healing with crystals (5%), and having an ayurveda session (1%).

Women are considerably more likely than men to undergo these things (51% vs. 26%) but what is perhaps most interesting about these figures is that, while 39% of the overall population admit to having undergone at least one of these experiences, so do 38% of the non-religious (compared to 40% of the religious). In other words, when it comes to these more obviously non-religious spiritual activities, there is no difference according to whether someone is religious or not. (Page 22)

Clearly, such people do not see ‘going to church’ as the natural expression of their spiritual longings. Perhaps the Christian Church, rather than just defaulting to its usual ‘come to church’ response, should first of all ask, what needs are being expressed in these practices? How can we respond to those?

What answers would you give to those questions?

Using A Hobby Or A Professional Skill

How do you use the gifts and talents you enjoy deploying for your recreation – or maybe even to earn your living? If you are a photographer, you could join a camera club, build relationships and be generally Christlike in that community as much as anywhere else, so that people want to know more.

Or you could do what this South African woman, Alexia Webster, did – you could use your talent to bless the disadvantaged.

How do you use your gifts to bless others?

(HT: Web Evangelism Bulletin.)

Leading By Example

If you have leadership responsibilities and want to lead a church into mission, what do you do? Jen Hatmaker in this video says, “Live it, or you have no hope of leading it.” Are those of us who lead in any way in the church leading by example in showing that we are already involved in mission? Hatmaker points out that the apostle Paul told people to copy his example, but if people followed ours, would they just be in meetings and sermon preparation?

Film Clubs

Movie Night

Movie Night by Jennifer Finley on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

One area of contemporary life that often explores questions of meaning is the feature film. Some Christians like to set up film clubs where people can discuss the content and meaning of movies, and engage in questions of spirituality and ultimate meaning.

If that interests you, the Methodist Church has advice on how to set up a film club. You can also find advice from the charity Damaris about their film clubs. Damaris specialises in Christian outreach through engagement with contemporary culture, and you can sign up to receive their weekly email with details of film resources and other useful material.