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“How people use facebook”

“How people use facebook”

Facebook, which went public on the Stock Market this week, is well known as the largest of all the social media sites. And because of that the Church needs to figure out how to use engage it, and the people using it, effectively. So the first question to ask is probably “how do people use Facebook”?

It turns out that Facebook is a pretty good predictor of community involvement:

“According to a new report from Pew, the Facebook users who have the most friends, were tagged in the most photos, and received the most wall posts, were more likely than average users to attend political rallies and meetings offline. Additionally, those who used Facebook’s “groups” feature were also more likely to try to convince other Facebook friends to vote for certain candidates. (In general Facebook users were more likely than average Americans to vote in an election.)

It makes sense that an overall pattern of engagement extends beyond Facebook to the greater world. And this was true before Facebook too — people who are more social, more engaged, also have higher rates of civic participation.

But because Facebook is now where so many of those people — these highly engaged citizens — spend their time and communicate, the Facebook game is rising in importance for political campaigns. Voter contact — asking someone personally to vote — is thought to be the most effective way to get people to the polls, and it’s all the more so when the people making the contact are friends not strangers. Facebook, with its dense and active networks, offers campaigns a more efficient way of making those contacts. On Facebook, there is the potential to reach more people, whom they assume to be friends, without sending people into the streets to walk door to door.”

What’s true for political campaigns, which attempt to reach the broadest audience possible and get them to take action on behalf of a cause or an idea, is just as true for the Church. Reading all this it would seem that the Church needs to be using Facebook to connect with its most committed members – and that’s probably across all age cohorts now-a-days.

The average Episcopalian invites something like one person to church every ten years (or worse). Maybe we need to take a cue from the political campaigns in our use of Facebook? So does your church have a Facebook page? Is it being used?


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John D. Andrews

When I administered my church’s FB page there were numerous articles posted about faith, primarily articles from TEC. Now, it is a bulletin board. It makes me very sad that such an opportunity to inform and engage people has been lost.


Minor correction – Facebook did not go public this week. It filed the paperwork so it can do so in the future.


Churches should absolutely be on Facebook, but not just to use it as an online version of the bulletin board where you post announcements at the back of the church. The defining characteristic of social media such as Facebook is their potential for enabling connection through two-way communication.

Sure, the church can use a Facebook page to announce events, but it’s also a great way to encourage conversation about faith, current issues in the church, etc. It’s a place to put up photos of a parish service trip, or post a link to a YouTube video that relates to the Sunday Adult Forum topic, and those are just two example of what’s possible.

Facebook’s pastoral potential also reaches far beyond simply maintaining a parish Facebook page (and I think Facebook pages are better for churches than groups). Facebook provides opportunities to learn what’s happening in people’s lives, to “share their joys and sorrows,” as a friend of mine who is a Facebooking nun put it, and to offer them encouragement and prayers. It’s a way to provide pastoral presence in a world where parish members often don’t see much of each other between Sundays, or longer.

So social media tools like Facebook aren’t just a new way of doing the old business of one-way communication from the Church. They can be used to foster community in the parish, and as I have written on my own blog, I think being intentional about nurturing parish community is a key element of attracting new members.

Cathy Kerr


Good points. Facebook (FB) also can be a great educational tool, as it offer and opportunity to learn of issues and organizations important to others.

Both parishes and clergy also miss a great opportunity when the last post on their FB page dates to Christmas, or there’s otherwise no suggestion of ongoing engagement. From the view of a 20-something, if you’re not active on FB, you’re not fully part of their world.

Eric Bonetti

Lelanda Lee

My husband refers to Facebook (FB) as the “new town square,” and I agree. When a leader at an ELCA Church Council workshop a year ago asked, “what is your mission field,” I immediately remarked, “Facebook.” It’s where I meet and greet a lot of strangers who become friends, including many 20-somethings who are online in the middle of the night.

I began a FB group earlier in January while attending a Consultation on “Alternative Leadership & Theological Training” (name of the FB group) hosted by the ethnic missioners of The Episcopal Church. The leaders asked for a volunteer on the first day to set up a FB group to share what we were doing at the consultation. They expressly wanted to get the word out about the ideas and insights being generated, so that more than just the 50 present could benefit from our discussions. Late that first day, when no one else had stepped forward, I decided to start the group. This was my first effort at a FB group, and it was easy to set up and administer. In three days, the group had over 160 members, and now, three weeks later, it has 194 members. People are still reading the group’s page, posting messages, and discussing ideas relevant to alternative ways of equipping leaders.

Some people talk disparagingly about FB and other social media as time wasters. It can be, but no more so than hanging out aimlessly with people at the mall, coffee shop or bar. Likewise, FB can be enormously mindful for its participants if they’re engaged in dialogue, sharing life stories, and exchanging meaningful posts (photos, cartoons, quotes, book & film reviews, etc.).

Social media are tools, vehicles for human interaction. The fact that social media exists online makes it new and different, not bad or lesser than in-person human interaction. Not everyone will “get” it, but then, not everyone likes to talk on the telephone or meet for coffee either.

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