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.
Throughout history, The Church has been challenged with continuing to share its unchanging, relational message of the love of God in a world that is constantly changing. Many churches are embracing social media as part of society’s undeniable move towards digital communications, in an effort to build relationships and maintain their voice into the future. In his article, Communication In the Church of the Future, Christopher Harris states, “As the church we not only need to be mastering the tools of social media to connect with and communicate with society, we also have to be studying how these transitions in communication will transform how we are community and how we exist as church.” Glebe Road United Church, located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with a history dating back to 1851, has found great benefit in utilizing social media not only as part of building relationships through today’s ministry, but also in looking to their future.
Church leaders of all ministry types and sizes will likely agree that the task of numerically measuring progress, although sometimes tedious, can be one important means of gaining insight to a ministry’s health. We measure congregational attendance and engagement to help gauge existing ministry connection and determine future programming, staffing and resource needs. We measure congregational giving both in the monetary sense and by way of volunteer hours, to help with our strategic planning and ongoing ministry mission. Many churches have broadened their mission field to include the online world. This includes utilizing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and more to connect and network with people who may otherwise never engage with any aspect of the church. According to Church Works, “Social media can be a brilliant way to reach users who may be entirely outside of your community…effective, generous engagement on social media can attract new followers who appreciate your message and identify with your mission.” How then can we best measure our social media and digital reach?