Second Church: Your Online Church Campus

At the beginning of worship I’m fond of saying, “We have been the church scattered, and now we are the church gathered.” But now I’m rethinking that statement, since the church gathers often during the week…just not in person.

Regardless of how we feel about social media, it’s here to stay. More Americans are on social media all the time. Thanks to organizations like the Pew Research Center, we can track the trends. This first diagram reports internet use from data gathered in January this year. Most of us are on the internet often.

This second diagram describes the social media platforms used most frequently, with Facebook remaining the giant, followed by Instagram and Pinterest, etc.

So this is where people are meeting most often during the week. This is where disciples gather with others most often. Even when people interact in person, they typically continue their conversation on a social media platform afterwards. Social media has changed our social interaction patterns so that we are in touch with each other almost constantly.

Given this, what’s the church’s response? Better yet, what’s the church’s role? How do we relate to this way of relating which is the new normal in our world?

There are a few congregations, though few, who demonstrate defensive or even hostile postures toward social media. Perhaps they are uncomfortable with the whole social media trend, or perhaps their nostalgia holds them back. Either way, when they do engage social media, their attitude communicates hostility. I wish these churches would at least ignore social media, saving their anger for something more constructive.

The majority of congregations are different, recognizing this is a major way people engage each other. Clergy and church leaders are delighted to have some way of engaging with their people during the week when personal contact is difficult or impossible.

Since this is our current reality, let’s consider changing our perspectives so that we can engage the world as it is, visualizing social media as our second church campus. What a great opportunity to be disciples engaging our world, since we are disciples wherever we are. Savvy and forward-thinking congregations might launch their Second Church Initiative. Here are potential action steps for consideration.

  •        Create a Second Church Team for visioning, dialoguing, and coordinating this initiative
  •        Review your congregation’s current Facebook Page and other social media footprints
  •        Decide what your Second Church Initiative’s purpose and format.
  •       Consider offering training, discussion, and exploration opportunities to your congregation regarding being Christian people online. Know that disciples will bring questions about online protests, political issues, and how to address anger
  •       Discuss whether you are looking for agreement or instead facilitating faith-based discussion
  •       Recognize proactively engaging social media will raise significant questions for your congregation, while also remembering that the church has what it needs to engage real life as we find it
One congregation (First Baptist Church, Cornelia GA, Rev. Eric Spivey) used Facebook live to deliver worship experiences one Sunday when snow prevented them gathering in person. The creative possibilities for engagement are numerous.

As we more proactively engage the social media world, may we remember we are ambassadors for Christ everywhere we are, including online.

Mark Tidsworth, President, PLA