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.

About Our Community

This post was originally published as part of WordCamp Nashville (2014), which Worship Times sponsored.

missionsOur community includes a variety of groups from small churches to large nonprofit organizations.

Some have been established for hundreds of years, and some are just starting out. Some just need the basics. They wanted a simple website that highlights the most important information about the church.

Some members of our community, like the First Presbyterian Church of Nashville, want a traditional look with a compelling platform to be able to share their ministry with their worshiping and local communities. We also pitched in to provide high quality photography.

And some groups just need something specialized like LEAD–a non-profit focused on church leadership development. They needed a site to that combined the 4 colors representing the 4 main areas they work in in order to showcase the resources they have for all these areas without having an overcrowded or over-complicated website. We made a colorful but distinct homepage and Pinterest-style boxes on their resource pages so that users can quickly scan for all the info they need.

Working with Worship Times is joining a community. We’re pretty active on Twitter joining in conversations and linking to useful resources. All members of our community are encouraged to jump in on conversations, ask questions, and share ideas. The combined creativity of our community and our staff inspires us to constantly do things we’ve never done before.

Together our community helps small churches and big nonprofits and every kind of ministry in between. We know the pressures of 21st century ministry at the small church level, the big nonprofit level, and lots in between. We have the skills to handle any size job. But at the end of the day this is a ministry for us to support the ministries of others.

Take a look at our designs (we have some new ones!) and the features we offer for your website, and if you’d like to join our community contact us.

Listening as the Key to Social Media

A lot of times when we in churches and ministries think about social media the question is, “What do we need to do on social media?” And that is a good question to ask. Knowing your purpose and knowing what platform is the best fit is important.

But there’s another key in building relationships over social media that is sometimes overlooked:


The internet is a noisy place. We tune out some important things that people are saying because we’re focused on something else or because we’re scanning quickly.

Listen for the emotional content or, as Ronald Heifetz calls it, the “song beneath the words.” People will post things on social media they would never say to a pastor’s face. Social media can help us see the everyday emotions people are going through. This isn’t true for everyone. People censor themselves online or may seem more angry than they actually are because they forgot to take the caps lock off. But the song beneath the words is worth listening for.

Listen for the disconnect. People are passionate and use social media to talk about things they’re interested in. If someone has agreed to be your friend on Facebook or has tweeted about taking art classes, they’re not going to be surprised if you bring it up in conversation. Someone may be active in a local non-profit that your church could partner with. Take that disconnection, that “I didn’t know s0-and-so did that” and turn it into connection.

Listen for the longing. People often post about things that trouble them. If people are asking for prayers about a situation you’re not aware of, ask them how you can be in prayer for them and the situation. If people are posting about an issue in the world, maybe that’s an issue you can speak to in an upcoming sermon. People also post about joyful things they want to share with as many people as possible. They long to share their joys and concerns just as we do in worship services.

Listen to people outside your church. Many people follow other community organizations and churches to keep up on what’s going on locally. Many also follow churches or individuals across the country who are doing different things to keep new ideas churning. Many follow people passionate about similar issues but who come at the issue from a different point of view to keep perspective.

Social media is just like any tool for ministry–it’s there to build relationships and help us live out our faith. We need to use it wisely. We need to listen more than we talk or post or tweet.

Social Media Plan 5: Support

faviconThis post is the sixth in a series about developing a social media plan in a church or ministry. Read the Introduction, Part 1 Aim, Part 2 Connection, Part 3 Interactivity, Part 4 Leadership.

The next question while you’re planning to use a new type of social media is:

How will the person in charge of the new social media be supported?

Try to think through and anticipate the kind of support the person in charge of this new social media will need. Will the person in charge of this new social media need to coordinator with anyone? Is there tech support available? Who is going to write the job/volunteer description for this new position or add it to an existing job description? Does that description need to be checked by a personnel committee?

This is also a good time to brainstorm not only who will be in charge of the new social media but who will help create content. It’s a good idea to enlist the help of at least a couple people especially if your new social media will need to be updated on a regular schedule. Before beginning your new social media, you could write out several blog posts, create several podcasts, etc. to not only get you started but also a few to keep in reserve just in case. That will also give you more time to create content thoughtfully instead of scrambling at the last minute to get something up. Having multiple people creating content eases the time commitment on the person in charge, giving them time to focus on developing new things, bringing in more people, or evaluating the social media.

This is also the time to figure out where this new social media will be placed on your current website. A new Twitter account can be set up on your homepage, but things like blogs most of the time work better on their own page.

The First Church of Cityville already has a focused idea of what they want the new social media to do, who it will connect with, how interactive it will be, and who will be the person in charge. Looking at how that person will be supported the church leaders suggested the names of several individuals in the congregation who already blog or write. Pastor Dean, the one who has taken leadership of the new social media, agreed to reach out to these people to see if they would be willing to contribute blog posts. Pastor Dean also knows the backlog of inspirational emails could easily be adapted for blog posts for quick updates or developed more fully for longer posts.

Since First Church has a Worship Times website, they know integrating social media into the website will be easy since Worship Times offers a whole range of social media tools that are constantly being adapted and updated. Pastor Dean will work with the church’s webmaster and begin organizing the blog posts are they are written. As the church leaders want to include a podcast and forum after a few months, they know they will have to invest in recording equipment and editing software. Pastor Dean hopes to bring in a couple talented lay people to assist in the recording and editing of the podcasts with the assistance of the webmaster. Worship Times also makes incorporating podcasts into the website simple and automatically updates the webpage once you submit the podcast to iTunes.

First Church of Cityville’s Social Media Plan
Step 1 (Aim): encouraging individual spiritual practices
Step 2 (Connection): members and regular attenders of the church
Step 3 (Interactivity): Blog or Podcast and a Forum for discussion
Step 4 (Leadership): Associate Pastor
Step 5 (Support): webmaster and lay church leaders