Church communications are changing as technology creates new ways to build relationships. Staying connected has prompted churches to increasingly use digital technology and social media. Millions of Americans use social networks; however as noted in a recent study by Life Way, 40% of churches are still unaccounted for on the social media scene. The Life Way study reports 54% of large-city churches, 46% of small-city congregations and 39% of rural churches are on Facebook.
Rev. Jackie Love Prim pastors one of the 60% of churches that use social media. As the pastor of Warren Chapel AME, Dallas, Texas, Rev. Prim developed a format to bridge the technology gap through intergenerational ministry where teens receive technology training and teach other members. “It is so important for the church to be aware that there is a shift in how we communicate in this country we want to avoid the nightmare scenario where people wake up and the switch has been flipped to everything being online. This is already occurring, we are seeing movement toward exclusive online services for vehicle registrations, business certifications and bill payment,” said Rev. Prim.
The Lifeway Study noted that large churches use Facebook much more than small ones. Eighty-one percent of congregations with 500 or more attendees use Facebook, compared to twenty-seven percent of churches with 1 to 49 attendees. Forty-three percent of churches with 50 to 99 attendees; forty-six percent of churches with 100 to 199 attendees and fifty-six percent of churches with 200 to 499 attendees use Facebook.
According to Rev. Prim, Warren Chapel A.M.E., is a small church with less than 100 members in one of the most depressed areas of the city, and one of the most economically disadvantaged areas in the state. In addition to Facebooking events for door to door voter registration drives, Warren Chapel has used social media to post reminders about school standardized test dates and election dates. “After going door to door we realized many of our neighbors had a misconception that if they had a criminal record they could not vote. We used internet technology to send out newsletters and materials from the district voter registration office to explain [eligibility to vote]. We are with the Dallas Faith Community Coalition and they also utilize social media to remind people and encourage people to vote,” Prim said.
Rev. Prim’s church implemented social media at low to no cost and plans to move toward online classes and ministry blogs. Rev. Prim stated “We use social media to host conference calls, classes, post lessons, podcasts and provide PDF lesson outlines. We also use a constant contact program that sends out professional event notifications to members.”
Facebook leads social networking with over 600 million active users. Twitter, an additional social network tool, has over 200 million users. The reach of social media is undeniable. “Facebook has allowed additional ministry with individuals that probably never would have sought face to face ministry. Of course there is no replacement for face to face communication; however social media is an additional tool for churches to build global relationships and to encourage civic responsibility. It is an opportunity to reach everyday people with a positive message,” said Prim.