There is a new mission field waiting for the church. No long flights necessary, and the destination doesn’t require learning how to sleep in a mosquito-repelling hammock. As the title suggests, this isn’t a reference to the traditional mission field, but the digital one, accessible from your home computer. The new mission field is the internet.
Thus far in 2017, the World Wide Web saw roughly 3.8 billion users. Of that amount, 2 billion are reportedly on Facebook. This social media platform which was established in 2004 now represents the largest country in the world, and because of it, churches have never had easier access to the multitude.
When members share their faith with their personal network on social media, their witness does not fall on deaf ears. According to Digital Strategist Jason Caston, “90 percent of customers trust a peer recommendation on social media.”
Apply this to how you talk about Jesus on the internet. Ninety percent of the people who will see the post will trust what you say. The gravity of this is enormous. When members use their sphere of online influence to share their faith, they influence a listening audience. That audience won’t act upon just one post, however. In the marketing world, there is an old adage about “The Rule of Seven.” A person typically needs to see a message seven times before they take action.
Consider that adage next time your church plans an event. Be thoughtful about how many times your message is getting shared, and via how many different channels. Churches who consistently update their social media provide content that members can share, giving the community yet another opportunity to hear that message, and ultimately, act on it.
Unfortunately, church Facebook pages have long been used to post information to their internal audience: church members. Jamie Schneider Domm, digital strategist for the North American Division, is challenging that, and encouraging churches to use their social media to reach beyond their own members and build relationships with the rest of the online community. One solution she suggests is Facebook ads.
“I don’t think people realize how powerful Facebook Ads can be for churches,” says Domm. “The ability to reach very specific individuals in your town is unprecedented. We must begin to wield this tool to connect with people that need to learn about Jesus.”
By doing something as simple as live streaming weekly sermons on Facebook, churches can share the gospel with the online world. “We can use social media to share the gospel, inform the community of events, get our members involved, and build relationships,” Domm says.
Platforms such as Facebook are an incredible tool for sharing the Good News, but that message needs to be spread with the help of church members. Ellen White once wrote, “Let every worker in the Master’s vineyard, study, plan, devise methods, to reach the people where they are. We must do something out of the common course of things” (Evangelism 122-128).”
Facebook seems to fit that bill. However, in order to reach the multitude, the church needs your help. Start by following your church Facebook page. Stay updated on church events so that you can share invites with your personal network. Use social media to start building relationships with the community around you. These simple steps can make a profound impact on the digital footprint we as a church leave. The world needs more digital missionaries, and if ever there was a time to volunteer, the time is now.
by Faith Hoyt, communications interns, Nevada-Utah Conference, Social Media Manager, Pacific Union Conference