The Church on Facebook

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Lenora Rand’s article in the June 30, 2009 Christian Century is titled The Church on Facebook: Why we Need Virtual Community.  This article helps one consider the role of the online world in creating Christian community.  More specifically, what how can facebook be utilized as a resource toward that end.

Facebook is a popular social networking site.  According to statistics from the site’s press room. facebook has:

  • Over 200 million users
  • Over 100 million users who log in at least once a day
  • Over 30 million users access the site via mobile devices
  • The fastest growing user demographic are persons aged 35 and older
  • Over 4 billion minutes are spent on facebook worldwide every day

The world has changed from a time when many Christians attended church services and classes several times a week and would linger for a coffee hour to the current norm of an hour a week that is often followed by a hectic fifteen minute coffee hour/fellowship time.  Facebook offers users the opportunity to post their status (short messages reflecting their thoughts or actions), which can be viewed by their friends and serve to provide a deeper understanding than would otherwise be available.  Rand suggests, “. . . social media sites are more than tools for publicizing churches and their events, which can be done with websites and e-mail.  They may actually present a new way of being the church.” 

The author is not proposing the virtual community replace the real community, but rather that it becomes a supplemental possibility.  “We need the real church in order to gather with our community for worship and praise, to sing together, to offer corporate prayers, to pass the peace with a handshake or a hug, to have hands of blessing laid on us, to have the sign of the cross made with oil on our foreheads, to share bread and wine should to shoulder with our fellow sinners and saints . . .  These days, however, given the busyness of our lives and the distances we’re separated from each other and from our church buildings, we also need the virtual church.”

So What?

I knew about facebook for a long time before actually joining.  In the six months since I joined, I have connected with a few hundred friends via this virtual community.  Current status messages alert me of a variety of happenings and thoughts (a youth mission trip to Mexico, a new job, illness, questions about the so-called economic recovery, and even the name of restaraunt in which a friend is dining at the moment).  In addition to these frequent updates (some friends update their status several times a day, some once a day, and some only infrequently), many friends post pictures in photo albums that I can view and many more have an information page that provides basic personal data (from contact information to relationships to facebook groups to which they belong).

As people of faith, we need community.  We need the real face-to-face Christian community we experience as we participate in worship and the larger life of a local congregation.  We also need to stay connected and to be open to utilizing the virtual world, including facebook, to do so.

If you are already a part of the facebook world, you can find me at www.facebook.com/gregwsmith

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Comments

  1. Jen Cardenas says:

    I love the idea of using Facebook to communicate and reach out to others. I am relatively new to Facebook myself, but it really encourages interaction with a real variety of people.Churched, non-churched, believers, non-believers. I like the fact that on Facebook, you can participate as much or as little as you like. Some are “out there and talkative”, and some are more observers… just like in the “real” world. There are extroverts and introverts, those with strong faith and those that are still seeking. It’s a great and practical way to get people and ideas together!

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  1. […] community plays a supplemental role.  For more on this view read my post about Lenora Rand’s “The Church on Facebook, Why We Need Virtual […]

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