Do we really meet people where they are, even if it is on Facebook?
Seems that over the past months I have heard a couple of interesting comments from some pastor-type colleagues in regards to the www.facebook.com hysteria:
“Are People REALLY using Facebook?”
“I had no idea how cool Facebook is.”
So, is Facebook just the latest Internet fad? Could be. Does it really matter in the whole scheme of the cause of Christ? Probably not. Should all pastor-types at least look at it? Probably.
First, while each person will have their own definition, I would define “online social networking” as those relationships built and nurtured through interaction on a common online platform such as MySpace.com, or Facebook.com.
Like any kind of tool for online social interaction, one must always balance one’s needs, wants, context, etc. to determine how much energy is put into any particular method or strategy. While I am attracted to shiny new things, I understand that contextually the place where I serve (www.missionbaycc.org) has a very high percentage of persons who are highly plugged in. Hardly a day goes by when I am not interacting with some member via electronic media. It is very cool serving in a place like this for someone who is fed as well by these types of interactions.
So what? Should everyone be so plugged in, wired otherwise focused in social networking? No, but …
The but for me is that if we take our context seriously, cultural and congregational, we must meet folks where they are, even if that is on Facebook, IM, texting, etc. Sure, not everyone is on Facebook or other such networks, but I think too many pastors/churches are so reactionary to any kind of technological interaction that they end up cutting off their noses to spite their faces. To have some kind of holier-than-thou position against all the “silly” electronic culture, guarantees their own irrelevance in many areas of the world and culture.
Pastors and churches should be real and open about their use or non-use of technology. If they are serious about reaching the current and future generation of people, at least they shouldn’t be anti electronic interaction. I am not talking about churches needing to be all “teched out” — use multimedia, carry iPhones, etc. There are fiscal limitations to other technological church usages. What I am talking about is the more widespread use of social media that have fewer economic limitations. We can no longer hide behind mindsets like, “Those poor people are not plugged in, so in solidarity, I am not going be plugged in either.” If you are just anti-technology do NOT hide behind a false solidarity with the poor. It is extremely condescending and in so many ways just untrue.
My main point is we must all examine our motivations and usefulness for engaging or not engaging in social networking. A balance between current contexts, hopes for the future, skills, and personality will be the determining factors in deciding how much energy and time one puts into this particular area of ministry. That discernment must be more intentional.
So give it a try, ask around your community to see who is already engaged in this technology, and be open to the possibilities opened by the world of online social networking.
Bruce Reyes-Chow is the pastor of Mission Bay Community Church in San Francisco Calif., (www.missionbaycc.org), a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) new church plant. When he is not working for Jesus or hanging with his wife and three daughters, he can be found in some Ã¼ber-indie café blogging at www.reyes-chow.com