Many churches are finding benefit from promoting their services and events online through social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. However, if we look to the education world, we may find ways that social media is being used in the classroom that can be effectively adapted into a Pastors role of teaching, including the weekly sermon and Bible study methods.
Jason Tomaszewski, Associate Editor of EducationWorld.com, reminds us in his article “Social Media Has a Place in Classrooms” of the findings of Dr. Richard J. Light (Harvard School of Education) with regards to social learning theory and the learning success of college students,
“People learn most effectively when they interact with other learners. According to Light, the strongest determinant of students’ success in college is their ability to form or participate in small study groups. He suggests that this is more important than their instructors’ teaching styles. Student research participants who studied in groups, even only once a week, were more engaged in their studies, were better prepared for class, and learned significantly more than students who worked on their own.”
This study underlines the significant learning impact that small group type Bible studies can have, which could include those happening online. It also addresses the lecture-style sermon delivery that is the basis for most traditional church services, which may be better absorbed if given the opportunity to be discussed among those who have listened to it. Social media can provide such opportunities through various means available to pastors and their congregations today.
One pastor has been exploring the idea of implementing social media as a teaching tool by using online video as part of his teaching methods. Lieutenant Larry Fulmer, Pastor/Officer of The Salvation Army Uniontown Corps in Uniontown, PA has been using Facebook Live and Periscope to extend the audience of his Sunday sermons as well as group Bible Study teachings and sharing of devotionals.
In addition to the engagement that Facebook Live enables to take place through interactive comments, suggestions and even “likes,” Lieutenant Fulmer also indicates how broadening his Bible Study teaching methods to include those online has resulted in greater numbers of attendees,
“As of recent, I have been really taking advantage of Facebook Live, as well as Periscope on occasion. I have noticed that whenever I do anything live online, I always get a lot more viewers then I would if I had a bible study at the church itself.”
Lieutenant Fulmer also utilizes podcasts via Clyp to record Sunday sermons which allows those who are unable to physically attend their gatherings to hear what has been taught and continue to feel connected. It also enables their congregation and community to re-listen multiple times, if desired. Even prep before Sunday arrives is communicated online for convenience and preview, adds Fulmer,
“I also use the YouVersion Bible App Events to provide our congregation with scripture, sermon outline, as well as upcoming events.”
Looking at social media as an educational tool can also be applied to self-teaching for pastors. The interaction that is available online among churches and those in ministry leadership is more readily available than at any other time in history.
In her article “Your Ministry Can Benefit From Social Media,” Amy Jackson (Managing Editor of SmallGroups.com) says, “As a church leader, you can use social media to virtually collaborate with leaders around the world. I like to follow small-group pastors and leaders to learn about new resources and methods. In the same way, you can share your favorite finds with other leaders. Plus, I’ve learned important ministry tips from diverse leaders I follow online yet have never met in person. Their wisdom has taught me things I wouldn’t have learned looking at ministry through my own lens.”
Nicholas T. Batzig, In his article, “The Pastor and Social Media”, eloquently shares his personal experience of the benefits of social media in sermon preparation, stating: “Ministers who use social media thoughtfully are helping build up other ministers online. Legion have been the times that I have read some thoughtfully crafted theological meditation in my Twitter feed which has, in turn, shown up in a sermon. Theologically sound works and citations are spread from one minister to another by means of social media.”
Lessons for Others
If you are a Pastor looking to incorporate social media into your teaching, here are 5 ways to get started:
- Start a blog, including posts about your current sermon series or what your small group is studying. Add this blog to your church website to couple teaching with promotion.
- Connect to other churches through social media to learn different ways Scripture is being explored, i.e. What does studying the Gospel of John look like in another part of the world? Can you apply those techniques where you are to maximize learning?
- Create Twitter accounts for special interest events or happenings, especially when they involve a teaching aspect through the church, i.e. parenting workshops, finances seminars.
- Connect with other pastors and swap teaching ideas or collaborate on a new teaching series together, sharing resources and learning outcomes.
- Stretch the reach of your Sunday sermon and/or current Bible Study series by recording podcasts or utilizing Facebook Live, making them available online to the greater community.
The Salvation Army Uniontown Corps
Name of Organization Contact: Lieutenant Larry Fulmer, Pastor/Officer
Authored by: Tammy Sabourin, student of University of Waterloo Social Media for Business Performance
If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.
Batzig, Nicholas T. (May 2015). The Pastor and Social Media. Retrieved from http://feedingonchrist.com/pastor-social-media/.
Jackson, Amy. (November 2015). Your Ministry Can Benefit From Social Media. Retrieved from http://www.smallgroups.com/articles/2015/your-ministry-can-benefit-from-social-media.html?paging=off.
Tomaszewski, Jason. (January 2012). Study Suggests Social Media Has Place In Classrooms. Retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/study-suggests-social-media-has-place-in-classrooms.shtml.