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the pastor and facebook

Even people who don’t use computers know about Facebook.

Launched in 2004, Facebook had 100 million users by 2008.  In other words, it took four years to add 100 million people.  By the middle of 2010, Facebook had over 500 million registered users.  One year later, the total stood at 800 million.  In church planting terms, that’s exponential!

I want to focus on how you as a pastor can benefit from being on Facebook.

1.  It allows you to connect faster with more people.  As your church grows, it becomes increasingly harder for the people in the pew to feel like they “know” you.  One key ingredient of effective preaching is the relational bond between preacher and audience.  I have found that being on Facebook not only allows me to learn names and faces quicker, but it also establishes camaraderie and rapport.  I have had more than one person say to me, “I appreciate your posts on Facebook.  They help me know you’re a real person.”

But not only do they get to know me — I get to know them as well.  I read their frustrations, thoughts, day-to-day stuff.  In terms of understanding your audience when you stand up to speak, Facebook is priceless.

2.  It allows you to broadcast your vision and values.  Effective leaders know that you have to take advantage of every opportunity to pass along your vision and values.  For pastors, the pulpit is an obvious choice.  But think about this: when I post on Facebook that I just left a great Friday morning men’s Bible study, I am elevating the value of men being in a Bible study.  I don’t have to write “Every guy should be in a Bible study.”  Instead, a simple post modeling that behavior communicates my values.

Sharing quotes, lines from books, or passages of Scripture that have impacted me — all of these are vision and values statements.  Facebook is a great way to introduce your values into the conversation of your congregation.

3.  It allows you to benefit from group thinking.  One more than one occasion, I will post a request to Facebook along the lines of “Brainstorming sermon ideas.  Any thoughts?”  Or, “What makes it hard for you to pray?”  Often I’ll ask for book ideas or movies that might tie-in to a topic or theme.  My Facebook friends then become my research fellows.  And since Facebook is not bound by geography, I often get great ideas from former classmates spread across the country.

4.  It provides an easy way for church members to pass along information.   For many years of my ministry, my “greatest” thoughts were spoken in a sermon or classroom and then lost in space.  Maybe they got passed along at the water cooler.  Maybe not.

With Facebook, your church friends can easily like, share, comment on, or pass along information.  Facebook gives you access to the six degrees of separation we always hear about.  When a church member “likes” an event, it gets passed along to their stream of friends.  As far as advertising and marketing goes, this is word-of-mouth in the best possible way.  That’s why making non-Facebook content (on your church site, for example) Facebook accessible is extremely important.

I’m sure there are numerous other ways you can benefit from being on Facebook.  Care to share?