Last Sunday many congregations across different denominations of the church participated in “Social Media Sunday 2015.” It was not a coincidence that it was also Reformation Sunday. A few years ago, some innovative leaders and thinkers in the church who recognized the opportunity, importance, and possibility of digital media for ministry formed this annual observance.
The visionary behind this concept, Carolyn Clement, put together a short video in advance of Social Media Sunday this year, entitled “From Gutenberg to Google”:
The concept makes sense. A new technology, the printing press made it possible to share the Bible and Word of God more easily, putting the Word in the hands of the people, just in time for the new ideas and challenges posed by the Reformation. Given today’s increased rates of change, new media, and new technology, it is possible that what is happening in the world may be a change comparable in some way. At the very least, these changes pose both new opportunities and challenges for faith and the church.
That background is good, but it’s not the main motivator for this post. Rather, I would like to share some observations of things that I learned while participating in Social Media Sunday, as well as in the days and week following. Here are five observations and lessons learned, or at least that I am still thinking about:
I believe in the idea of the “Priesthood of All Believers.” Social Media in worship, church, and faith provides a means for everyone to participate beyond only “attending” worship. I saw this in the way people “checked-in” at church on Sunday on their social media channels, and in the way they engaged the day through selfies, other pictures, and even live-tweeting a sermon. At first some people might think this is distracting, but I think it really allows for people to share and be part of ministry in a new way.
On Facebook and Twitter especially I witnessed people share the story of faith. I saw some congregations, like the one I worship at, celebrate the Reformation and draw connections between social media and the printing press. I also saw the way the stories of faith were being shared as young adults were confirmed in a number of congregations this past weekend as well. Social Media provides a means to share our faith stories in ways that previously did not exist.
The sharing of stories, pictures, and questions posed with the world is being evangelical. That just happens to be part of the name of the larger church I am a part of (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). I really saw that in action in person, as people used social media in real-time, and then Sunday afternoon by looking at the way people had shared their stories, and were continuing to share what they saw, heard, and experienced in worship that morning.
The Gospel of Matthew ends with the sending and commissioning of disciples by Jesus who proclaims, “Go baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” On Sunday, more than a usual day, I saw this act of being sent in real time. People shared in the moment, and then shared their stories with the world after worship. There was sharing. In worship services that morning, there were some baptisms and especially affirmation of baptisms. But through the way people used their social media tools in new ways, I saw learning, teaching, sharing, and reminders of the gospel message of God being “for you,” and “with you,” like this Tweet:
New Tools and New Questions
In the days following Social Media Sunday, I was part of conversations regarding what happened, what was learned, and the potential going forward. Like with anything, there is an element of discernment. I encourage you to check out the #ChSocM chat weekly on Tuesday evenings, but also to follow the hashtag for more insights about digital ministry.
If you participated in Social Media Sunday, what did you learn and observe this year? If you did not, but would like to engage social media and ministry in some way, what questions or ideas do you have?
As for me, I am hopeful that the learning from Social Media Sunday leads to engaging Social Media like that every week, not just once per year. How about you?