Saint Paul Used Social Media

By Emily Hope Morgan

Things have changed with social media.Circuit Board with People

Back in 2005 when I first got on Facebook only college students could get a Facebook account. Even back in 2009 when I started seminary many churches who at that point could get on Facebook didn’t want to, and many people thought Twitter was for nothing but short updates about meaningless things.

Now, my mom and grandma  are using social media. Churches, synods, dioceses, presbyteries, and the like, have Facebook accounts that at the very least give their contact information. More and more individuals, organizations, and churches are becoming Twitter converts as they see it being used in huge movements like elections and revolutions as well as for personal communication.

For anyone in ministry who has hesitations about social media, let me calm some of your fears. There is biblical precedent for churches and ministries using social media. Saint Paul used social media.

Paul used the absolute best social media of his day: letters. The people who wanted to be like Paul wrote letters. We may not think of letters as incredible technology, but back in Paul’s time letters were a big deal. Never before had people been able to communicate like this!

Someone like Paul who traveled so much was able to keep up with communities he had let not just through sending messengers or constantly having to travel back and forth. Through writing letters Paul was able to keep relationships going that he may not have been able to if he didn’t write letters. He was able to help those early communities with their problems and struggles. He was able to encourage what the churches were doing well and explain what they were not.

Then the communities had those letters to continue looking back to. Today we still look to Paul’s letters to help us understand how we live out the Gospel. The technology had drastically changed, yet churches and ministries are still using social media to build relationships, encourage, and explain. Social media connects us with communities we are not with in body. It is a useful tool in our lives individually and communally as we try to live out out our commitments.

Saint Paul used the best social media of his day to be in communication and conversation with people he cared about and people he did not even know! He had never been to the church in Rome yet felt so strongly about wanting to be in conversation with them he wrote the Epistle to the Romans, an incredible letter.

Saint Paul is a powerful example of how to use social media, and as social media continues to change we continue to look back to his example of using technology to best serve his ministry to discern how best to use technology in our ministries.

Church Management Software and a Worship Times Plug-in!

One of the most frequent questions we have heard from members and prospective members in the last year is about church databases or church management software (CMS). Specifically, people are looking for web-based solutions that will also integrate with their websites.

Tracking membership, giving and attendance at the very least are not just about counting butts in seats, but about making sure we are attending to all of our members as we do ministry. Even the smallest churches keep track of these numbers in some form, if not a whole software database.

Church management systems can also assist you in organizing classes and groups of volunteers, event calendars and registration, outreach through directed email, texts and mailings, and more. Not all systems have the same features, but most have included these features as churches recognize that they needed an integrated system that covered all of these functions.

Churches looking at new CMS solutions today want web-based systems where members can more easily access and update their information online. Church administrators and pastors can also pull up this information if they are away from the office and need it.

Capterra has a great run-down of the top church management software products. If you are looking for a new church management system, this is a great resource.

There are a lot of fantastic products out there, but for members who are looking for a CMS option that also integrates well with their websites, we have been recommending Breeze. Worship Times strives to provide ministries with user-friendly, affordable website solutions, and Breeze fits this model as well.

Worship Times members value ease in usability, and both the Capterra review and this comparative review from Breeze show how Breeze gets top marks in that area. Breeze compares well to even more powerful systems because it integrates well with programs like Quickbooks that many churches use and like for financial tracking. Several of our members have already chosen to move to Breeze.

With this in mind, we have developed a Breeze plug-in for WordPress that will more smoothly integrate your website and database, and make it easier to access for church members.

Check out how our Breeze plug-in will work to integrate Breeze into your WordPress website.

Telling Your Story: Taking It to the World

We’ve talked about why you need to tell your story, the foundation of your story and creating a story that is clear and unique, and now we want to talk about going beyond your story. Your story shouldn’t stop at your front door, or even your website. It should be connected both to the grand story we are telling together as a Church, and also to all of the stories of everyday life – of struggles and joys, loss and birth, of ordinary meals and chores and fabulous gatherings of friends and feasting. We don’t do ministry for money or fame or even honor or legacy, but to answer the call to life together. And if your story doesn’t connect to other people where they are, why are we telling it?

The story we have to tell has power. We talked about telling an authentic story so people could be drawn toward a community that contains truth and meaning at the center. People are constantly searching for a life that means something. It is why we see people invest in work and things and power, and most often do not find what they are looking for. It is why so many people seek out answers from religious institutions when there is a crisis – we claim to have truth to share. And we shouldn’t wait for a crisis to share that truth. The more we offer our story in ways that touch people’s lives, the more they will seek us out when they are ready to go deeper.

Some of the powerful ways people are telling this story of faith are through short videos, such as the Slate Project creates, tiny audio pieces, like 30 Seconds or Less, blogs, photos, prayers, twitter chats, devotional writing – a million ways to take the things we’re already talking about in our churches, and share them with the world.

Baghdad Paris Beirut picture prayer

Originally posted by The Young Clergy Women Project

One example is a simple picture prayer in response to the attacks in Baghdad, Beirut and Paris within a few days, shared by The Young Clergy Women Project, a Worship Times member. Their mission is to create a community to support young women in ministry, and they have conferences and a private Facebook group that do so, but they also have a blog and a public Facebook page, where they share their words and thoughts with the world. This simple picture prayer went viral because they had built up an audience with their other writing and sharing, and when people went looking for something to speak to so much tragedy, they responded with something meaningful.

The more you are able to reach an audience with the story you are already telling, the more they will want to hear. What are some ways you can share your story with new audiences? How will you meet them where they are with the truth and meaning they seek?

2nd Commandment for Church Websites

EditorsPick_2014_200The team at Worship Times is dedicated to empowering congregations developing their church websites and digital presence. On November 1 Worship Times was named one of Worship Leader Magazine’s Editor’s Pick for web development (read more here). So for the next couple of weeks we will be presenting what we consider to be the 10 Commandments for Church Websites. If you have further questions or want to learn more about Worship Times, please feel free to email us.

2nd Commandment for Church Websites:

Thou shalt be on thy website who God is calling thou to be in the world

Many potential visitors will be looking at your website, and they’ll be expecting what you say on the website to match what they see in worship or other church activities. If your church has crafted a mission statement (1-2 sentences) be sure to have it on your home page. But don’t just say what your mission is. Show it. Photos, events, even language that you use needs to support your greater mission. Granted, churches are vibrant and dynamic. It’s hard for all churches regardless of size to sum up your mission in a statement or in your digital presence. Tell the story of who you are and who God is calling you to be, not who you think visitors want you to be.

1) Thou shalt put needed info right up front

Online Spiritual Resources

There are so many online resources we use in our everyday life–e-mail, Google, Wikipedia, Facebook. There is so much online that can help boost our spiritual lives not just through social media but also all over. There are so many blogs and downloads it can be hard to find something that you can use for personal spiritual practices that updates on a regular basis. Worship Times has put together a list of resources that we hope will help you find God in your everyday life.

Candles and cross

-The Daily Lectionary is a 2-year cycle of scripture readings meant for personal reflection that offers a morning Psalm, an Old Testament reading, an Epistle reading, a Gospel reading, and an evening Psalm. You can also subscribe to get it e-mailed to you (on the left above “more information”)!  The PC(USA) is also planning to release an iPhone/iPad app later this fall. Keep an eye out for that!

-The Hear the Word Podcast, also by the PC(USA), is an audio recording of the Revised Common Lectionary (read on Sundays by many churches) with an Old Testament, Psalm, Epistle, and Gospel reading. You can also go to your iTunes and search “Hear the Word” and subscribe to the podcast to easily put it on your computer and mp3 players.

-Also an audio recording, Pray-as-you-go is designed for people to listen to while traveling on their mp3 players (although it could be used anywhere). It’s made by the British Jesuits and features beautiful music, one scripture reading, and questions for contemplation. It is also available as a podcast. Search for “Pray as you go.”

-The popular devotional Our Daily Bread has a podcast and a daily e-mail with devotions. You can also listen or read the devotions online daily without having to subscribe.

Day1 is a multimedia resource designed for Mainline Christians that includes a weekly sermon podcast, video conversations, an app called “Call on Faith.”

-Many churches offer prayers and reflections through e-mail or on their website (sometimes even on Facebook). For example, Christ Presbyterian Church in Martinsville, NJ offers a Thought for Contemplation every day. Check your church’s website.

The Intersection of Theology and Technology

Worship Times is a community of churches dedicated to pursuing a faithful witness in the midst of a society that is rapidly embracing technology as a primary medium of communication. While there was a day when there might only be one telephone in an entire neighborhood, now it not uncommon for each member of the family to have their own mobile phone, not to mention the plethora of other computers and internet connected devices that dominate the technology markets. Like the intersection between gospel and science or gospel and culture, the intersection between gospel and technology is fraught with both highly practical moral concerns (e.g. can children bear the responsibility of technology adequately?) as well as questions of authority.

As part of our encounter with the gospel of Jesus Christ, the church is moved to discern what place technology should play in our communal life.  Should it be considered a medium through which the gospel must be preached, or is it dangerous to our life together and should be resisted? These questions, and many that follow them, require sustained prayer, attention to scripture, and theological reflection. It is my hope that Worship Times will be a place for inquiry and theological exploration of these important themes. Its purpose is not to provide answers, but to provide tools so that your body of believers can be empowered to live faithfully in your own place and community.

These tools will take varied forms. Some will be incredibly practical, exploring advancing technologies and considering how they could be employed in your church. You don’t need to subscribe to a hundred of other technology blogs to see how you could use the technology for your church’s ministry, we will notify you when there are great shifts coming in the technological world and how they might impact your ministry. In other cases, we will engage in theological and scriptural reflection, seeking to discern what role technology should play as we witness to the lordship Jesus Christ. Not every technology is equally useful for every congregation or ministry and we want to be a conversation partner with you as you seek to be a faithful witness in the post-technological age. Regardless of the form the tools take, Worship Times is a community of believers seeking to rightly appropriate technology to serve the church in its larger mission and ministry.

Let me encourage you to subscribe to the Worship Times blog, we look forward to bringing you a rich selection of information that will assist you in your life and ministry.