The website dedicated to internet evangelism offers some insight into the differences between the print media and digital media as tools of evangelization.

Social networking basics

Many people and organizations have mistakenly tried to apply an old ‘print culture’ model to the Internet in general and social media in particular. Print was largely one-way, mass-media, proclamational, preaching, publicity, or informational. Perceiving the Web as ‘print on a screen’ is limiting, even misleading.

We are now in a ‘digital communication culture’. It is not just that the tools we use to communicate are different. The very way that we communicate, even think, is changing. Len Sweet’s book Viral: How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival explains this quantum leap.

These are key elements of social media:

  • relational and personal, not anonymous and generalized
  • dialogue and discussion, not proclamation and preaching
  • widespread use of the visual – photos and videos
  • frequently accessed 24/7 on mobile phones, not computers

Since biblical evangelism is usually relational and discussion-based, social media are an ideal match. See this valuable chart explaining the differences between an older traditional understanding of one-way evangelism, and a more effective relational approach which the writer has called ‘withreach’.

Don’t try to use social media as a ‘pulpit for preaching’, or as a one-way publicity tool. The foundational key is to perceive it as a ‘cafe for conversation’.

The best way to understand the different social media tools is to use them and observe the etiquette and procedures that others employ.

Church use of social media

Personal and church use of social media obviously differ somewhat. That which is published in the church’s name represents the fellowship. Personal use relates more to an individual set of friends and followers. Check these challenges and issues:

  • Many churches, including individual mininistries such as the youth group, use social media to communicate internally. This is great, but should not be confused with reaching out into the community. On the Web in general, and social media in particular, you have no automatic audience, and there is virtually no ‘trickle-down effect’. In other words, your insider communications about faith will not normally interest outsiders. Why should they, with the possible exception of people who are already seeking? Do you follow, on Facebook or Twitter, posts from groups (eg. a sport or hobby) you have no interest in? Why would you do that?
  • The Web is not a broadcast medium. Each user is highly selective, and only views material they choose. This can, of course, include randomly-found unexpected eye-catching material on topics that interest them.
  • To reach out into the community, a church should demonstrate interest and commitment to the local community, by frequently posting about local issues, events and concerns (though never, but never, party political views, or criticism of other’s social agendas). Popular culture is also a valuable area of common interest, with built-in spiritual parallels that we can use as conversation starters.The respect and following you gain will then allow you to also share about church activities or spiritual insights, sensitively positioned without use of jargon.
  • It is good for a church to create and train an informal social media team, who understand the strategy and can share posts on Facebook and Twitter in the name of the church.
  • If a church has a Facebook fan page or Twitter stream, members can be encouraged to Like, Share, or Retweet posts in their personal Facebook or Twitter streams. This is one role of a digital advocate – to enable the rest of the fellowship understand and use digital outreach opportunities.
  • YouTube video shorts also have huge potential. Our digital communication era communicates best through visual story. Video shorts can be posted with one click into Facebook or Twitter. Church teams and members can post resources from curated lists of recommended conversation-starting video clips, such as
  • It is also relatively easy to produce evangelistic or conversation-starting video shorts. This could be a great project for your youth group. Learn more about all aspects of using video shorts.
  • Pinterest can also be used both by individuals and churches. Learn how.
  • There is also a specialist way to use Twitter to locate and engage with hurting individuals in your town or area.
  • It’s also important that your static church website is outsider-friendly. Test it with our self-assessment tool.

Learning more

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at Internet Evangelism Day
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