Social Media: The Future of The Relational Church

TammySabourin    November 13, 2016

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.

In September 2015, their church decided to create social media opportunities as part of their new communication plan.  This was not only it its attempt to bring more people to Sunday services and events, but also as a way to experience ministry Monday through Saturday – one that could be taken home and used via cell phone.  In an effort to create a brand new identity, they hired communications and social media professional Carlos Rodriguez who now manages everything online from the church’s presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to their e-newsletter and website.

“We, as part of Glebe, have understood that we have to bring church to people and adapt ourselves to new habits and trends.”

Their social media basis for came by way of an intentional plan.  Carlos adds, “Our plan consisted in having a reliable and well-achieved social media presence in order to let people know about our happenings, mission, and outreach.  This has allowed us to meet new people and open our doors for those who had not heard about us before, or those who wouldn’t there come in.  Moreover, we see this as a window for part of our congregation that cannot longer come to church due to different reasons.”

Their online efforts have included social media contests and promotions that have resulted in new attendees.  One such contest was for their annual Harvest Moon Caberet, where they consistently reached over 1800 people for 3 weeks.  Carlos adds that these are astronomical numbers for a small church like Glebe.  He comments, “The impact of being on social media goes from seeing new faces in our church, improving our image, maximizing our audience for promotion purposes, connecting with other churches in Canada and the USA, reaching out to congregation members, and talking to a younger and older generation.  Our voice has traveled to different latitudes, languages, likes, religions and cultures.  That voice is telling them we are inclusive, inventive, and in faith.”

Their church is also seeing the benefit in using social media to create a digital archive of their life, which they believe to be valuable for the future.

Peggy Kendall of Converge Churches addresses how churches can use social media for promotion AND as tools of relational ministry in her article, Becoming Part of the Digital Conversation“Because these technologies are rooted in relationships, dialogue, and community, the real power of the media has yet to be tapped by most churches.  As churches struggle to find a fit between ministry, marketing and social media, it is quite possible that they will develop a greater aptitude and willingness to use social media tools to listen and engage with their congregations in a way that is both meaningful and effective.”

This online relational aspect is one that is definitely being felt by Glebe Road United Church, who as Carlos states, have a “before and after” when it comes to their being on social media.  He adds,

“People talk about us, post their pictures and videos, and share our events.  This is definitely a good sign that tells us our mission to connect and engage with our community is being achieved.”

Lessons for Others

Churches who embrace social media now, not only for promotional credit but also as a means of building relationships, will stand a greater possibility of having their voices exist in the future.  The benefits may not always be seen in the immediate, but rather be seeds that are planted that take root and hold strong in the days and years to come.  In his article, The Five Traits of Churches That Will Impact the Future, Rob Cizek reminds us,

“Value online relationships as real relationships.  The vast majority of people won’t consider coming to your church building to be a part of a weekend service.  However, most people are online.  If you are serious about reaching people for Jesus, you need to embrace online ministry.”

Churches need to view learning about social media for ministry as an investment into the longevity of their message, mission and existence; as a vital method of engaging with today’s society and the generations to come.

Organization: Glebe Road United Church
Industry: Church
Name of Organization Contact: Carolos Rodriguez, Communications - Glebe Road United Church

Authored by: Tammy Sabourin, student of University of Waterloo Social Media for Business Performance

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Cizek, Rob. (April 30, 2014). The Five Traits Of Churches That Will Impact The Future. Retrieved from

Harris, Christopher. (September 7, 2011). Communication In The Church of The Future. Retrieved from

Kendall, Peggy. (August 26, 2013). Becoming Part Of The Digital Conversation. Retrieved from