By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
MILLERSVILLE, Md.—John Brittain loves Facebook.
As director of the Arundel Association in Millersville, Md., he sees the computerized social networking tool as a valuable asset to his everyday business—personal and ministry.
“I use Facebook to network with friends (old and new; ministry and non-ministry) and to stay in touch with networking online in general,” he shares, saying Facebook mixes business (or ministry) with lifestyle and interests well.
Facebook is made up of many online networks, each based around a region, workplace, or school. Users develop personal profiles and invite friends to join. They send each other messages, update their personal statuses, and post photos, videos, and web site links in what can be considered an ongoing conversation.
“The first thing to remember is that you are not just posting information; you are linking to networks of people through your profile,” shares Chris Forbes, an independent marketing coach and consultant for faith-based nonprofits, ministries, and churches (www.ministrymarketingcoach.com). “Such simple tasks as setting your status, joining groups or causes, and attending events will keep people who care about you up to date on what you are doing, how you feel, and what you are interested in.”
Forbes, writing in Facebook for Pastors, sees the Web 2.0 technology used in Facebook as a new approach to communications. The founder of Ministry Marketing Coach (www.ministrymarketingcoach.com) wonders if church ministries will take advantage of the opportunity for communicating the gospel.
“The bottom line on Facebook is there are people connected to it,” he stresses. “It is not a web site or an Internet product; it is a network of people. Each person in the network is someone for whom Christ gave himself.”
Forbes believes that ministry leaders can partner with their members and mobilize them as evangelists using this social media.
“Pastors have the opportunity now to become more personal in how they relate to the people they serve,” he says.
With Facebook’s Groups application, users can see groups their friends have joined, as well as navigate to their own groups, and create new groups.
Brittain now follows the Network of Baptist Associations (NOBA), a new national group for DOMs, which has a presence on Facebook. He also follows ministry leaders, such as Ed Stetzer and Reggie McNeal, and probes other ministries.
Facebook started as a social community web site for college students. Mark Zuckerberg and co-founders Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin launched Facebook from their Harvard dorm room in February 2004. The following December Facebook reached nearly 1 million active users.
As of Jan. 2009, according to Facebook’s Press Room, there are more than 150 million active users of Facebook. The fastest growing demographic is those 25 years old and older. Presently, there are more than 52,000 applications available on the Facebook platform.
Brittain used Facebook’s Event application to send out invitations and track responses to events like Interact: 3-D training conference and the association’s annual meeting. He notes, “Using Facebook has helped my ministry by allowing for another means of connection with ministry friends, including ministers and members of ABA churches.”
Forbes urges pastors to refrain from using Facebook for too much promotion and not enough real networking.
“One of the quickest ways to lose credibility is to join the site, use all your ‘promotional speak’ and spam out a bunch of invitations to your events and groups,” he says, suggesting, instead, that pastors pay attention to what they are learning about people through Facebook.
“Bottom line: you need to communicate with people. If you connect with people through email, you know how it has enhanced your ministry. Facebook is like email on steroids. Learn it, use it, know it, and it will transform how your do your ministry work in the same dramatic way,” he concludes.
“I would advise ministers to simply register and take it for a spin,” challenges Brittain. “It’s tough to tell if something new is for you until you try it.”
For more information or to download the free e-book, Facebook for Pastors, visit online at www.ministrymarketingcoach.com.