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.

The Internet And Mission

Hologram Bible Web Cast

Hologram Bible Web Cast by Frank DeFreitas on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

How does use of the Internet fit into your practice of Christian mission? After all, you are reading this online in some form (unless someone has printed it off for you).

There are many possibilities. Social action campaigns run by Christian relief and development agencies can help you lobby government ministers about world poverty, injustice and the like. It is often possible to join in with ‘secular’ campaigns, too, when the aims and goals are similar.

Does your church have a website? The web is now commonly the first place where people go searching for a new church when they move, and it is important to have a website for that reason alone. Have you turned recorded sermons and other material into a podcast?

However, this blog discusses mission, and so it is worth asking about the content of church blogs. Are they simply an electronic version of the church notice sheet, or do they contain material for people who are spiritually searching?

What about the tone of our online content? It is easy to use the Internet in a similar way to the kind of street preacher who declaims against all who pass by on the high street, but Internet relationships are different. In his book ‘The Millennium Matrix‘, Rex Miller says that we need to be ‘interactive, conversational and open-ended’. Social media (such as Facebook and blogs) can be a promising arena for Miller’s approach.

For further reading, try ‘Is Blogging Just For Self-Centred Nerds?‘, ‘Digital Faith‘, and (especially) the Web Evangelism Bulletin and Digital Evangelism Issues.