Social Media for Lent: Fast or Engage?

Bruce Reyes-Chow is a forty-one year old Presbyterian (PCUSA) pastor who serves as founding pastor of Mission Bay Community Church, which  primarily attracts young adults in their twenties and thirties.  He served as  the Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the 2.3 million member PCUSA.  Serving as the youngest person ever elected to that office, Reyes-Chow became a  pioneer in the use of social media in the mainline Protestant world.  To connect with him, read his blog, follow him on Twitter, or like him on Facebook.

A few days before  the start of Lent, Reyes-Chow wrote Should You Give Up Social Networking or Church for Lent? for the San Francisco Chronicle.  In that article he outlined two assumptions that underlie his counsel about the possibility of giving up social media or church life for Lent:

First,  the “community” to which I refer that is found on social networking platforms can be positive and meaningful.  I reject the notion that social networking is inherently narcissist, addictive and impersonal as so many charge.

The second assumption I make is that most churches hope to provide the same kind of experience for those that are engaged in its ministry.  Now I know that this has NOT been the case for many who find such more meaningful community within some social media platforms, so in some ways I am being generous here.  But, in the end, all of us engaged in church life all expect the church to be a place of meaningful transformation, hope and love.

Reyes-Chow then concludes that those who are addicted to either social media and/or church life and those who find these types of engagement disconnect rather than connect them to the divine would benefit from giving them up for a season.  On the other hand, those with a healthy perspective about social networking and/or church life should not only continue their current engagement during Lent but also “email this post to the person who told you to give up social networking for Lent.”

So What?

Last week Michel Martin interviewed Reyes-Chow about that article for the weekly Faith Matters segment on Tell Me More, which is an NPR talk show that brings fresh voices and perspectives to public radio.  In response to her remarks that it would seem to some that giving up social media for Lent was a logical option, he responded:

. . .You know, I didn’t grow up with social media. I didn’t grow up with that kind of technology. I was right at the beginning in the cusps of that. Whereas I think there’s a generation of people now where that’s the air they breathe, it’s the water they drink, it’s the world in which they live.  And when taken seriously, it’s a way that people have connected in community, both Facebook, Twitter and a variety of social media platforms, that it’s actually how folks are engaging in church . . . social media is allowing people to be church in a way that is unprecedented in our culture today. In fact, we should figure out, how do folks use social media even more effectively to be church during this time . . .

In recent years there has been an increased emphasis in mainline Protestant denominations on what people do rather than what they give up during Lent.

  • What Lenten commitment(s) did you make this year?  How has your faith journey been enriched by previous Lenten experiences of giving something up and/or of doing or focusing on something?
  • What are some ways that people could “use social media even more effectively to be church” during Lent?  How might these ideas be implemented in your local congregation?


  1. Thanks for all the link love and putting this out there. I hope it is helpful.

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