Facebook is a great tool to close this communication gap. When people visit our church, I can often remember their names. At the very least, someone in our congregation will remember their names. On Sunday afternoons, I jump on Facebook and connect with the people I met in our church that morning. We encourage everyone in our congregation to do the same.

Each Sunday afternoon, I do three things: 1) I pray for the people I met that morning. Why? Because I know that we are connected already. We have the same Creator, Father, Friend in Jesus Christ. 2) I add them as a friend. I know, some of you are already saying, “How can they be a friend? You just met them.” Or, “You are going to let someone you just met have access to your life, your profile, your family pics, your contact information? You don’t know anything about them.” That is true. I understand your point. I also know that people can write or say whatever they want on my wall, once I become their friend. For me, the risk is worth the connection.

I haven’t always been that open. I can honestly say that Jesus Christ has led me to open up and see people with his heart. We are created to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with people. That can only happen effectively when we develop relationships with people. Is a “virtual” Facebook friendship a real relationship? Probably not. However, it is a connecting point. I have found Facebook to be a safe place to communicate in a non-threatening environment. I have also developed some lifelong friendships through Facebook. If social networking is not for you, that is fine. But if you have read this far, you are probably wondering about number 3. 3) I send them a personal message in the friend request.

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It is important to send your personal message within the “send a message” function below the friendship button. This allows the person receiving the friend request to read your personal greeting/message before they add you as a friend. It reminds them who you are and gives you an opportunity to show them you care.

My Facebook message usually reads something like this:

Hey , it was great worshiping with you at Mission Church this morning. I just wanted you to know that I prayed for you this afternoon. Let me know if there is any way that I can serve you or your family.
Signed, Pastor Brent, Mission Church.

Ninety-five percent of the time, they add me as a friend. When they add me as a friend, I do not take it lightly. It should be considered an honor to be invited into their personal lives. I am not gathering information about them. I am not trying to find out what kind of person they are. I am looking for an opportunity to love them, connect with them, and pray for them. If you don’t genuinely care about people, don’t network. If you have a heart for people, you have very little to lose and a lot to gain. The connections I have created on Facebook have allowed me to effectively communicate and build bridges with hundreds of people.

Twitter: Connecting, Communicating, Collaborating.

Twitter is another website that offers a social networking and microblogging service, enabling its users to send and read other users’ messages called tweets. Tweets are text-based posts displayed on the user’s profile page. Tweets are publicly visible by default; however, senders may restrict message delivery to their friends list. Users may subscribe to other users’ tweets—this is known as “following”, and subscribers are known as “followers.” Twitter differs from Facebook in that users do not post as much information. Whereas Facebook allows individuals to join groups, post photographs, and upload videos and other content, Twitter is limited to a 140-character message and perhaps a link to an article or website. All users can send and receive tweets via the Twitter website, smartphones, or by short message service (SMS) available in certain countries. Twitter is a great resource for churches to communicate and update their congregations regarding upcoming events, sermon series, and community events. It is also a great way for churches to interact on a specific topic or idea live in a service. And if you are uncomfortable with the vast array and amount of information on Facebook and making it available to others, Twitter may be the perfect compromise, as it requires you to post only short messages and see short messages from others you are following. Twitter can also be an incredibly valuable resource for networking with other pastors and ministry leaders and sharing resources and ideas.

Both Facebook and Twitter are untapped communication tools for the pastor and the local church. These relatively new tools may provide another bridge to newcomers within your congregation and community.

BRENT HOFEN serves as a church planter and lead pastor for Mission Church in Bend, Oregon, as well as a faculty professor at Kilns College, School of Theology and Mission in Bend, Oregon