Facebook used as ministry tool

Faithful Facebooker: Jeff Calhoun, pastor of Lomax Assembly of God, shows the church’s Facebook page.

Social networking sites have certainly changed the way people communicate on a daily basis, and churches are no exception.

Many churches have found that using sites such as Facebook is a fast way to promote upcoming events, make important announcements and submit prayer requests. As a result, many churches have formed their own Facebook pages and have discovered a whole new dimension of outreach.

“It’s very heavily a part of our church, no doubt,” said Jeff Calhoun, pastor of Lomax Assembly of God. “We do a tremendous amount of communication on Facebook.”

Calhoun estimates that 60 to 70 percent of Lomax AOG members have personal profiles on Facebook. This has created access to a huge number of people, allowing the church to reach people it wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.

For example, if an announcement is posted on a church member’s news feed, all of his or her friends will be able to see the announcement, even if they have not joined the church’s Facebook page.

“By being able to see promos, our friends become curious about events,” Calhoun said. “This gives us more visibility.”

Currently, Lomax AOG has about 500 Facebook friends—ranging from teenagers to senior citizens—and nearly 700 people who “like” their page. For those who are unfamiliar with Facebook, users can indicate whether or not they “like” something by clicking inside a small box attached to an item.

Among the church’s Facebook friends are overseas missionaries, who constantly post reports of what’s going on in their churches and more.

“It’s really built our relationships with our missionaries,” Calhoun said. “We normally only see them once every four years, but now we see them on a daily basis.”

Other churches and ministers use social networking tools on a smaller level. Brian Jones, student minister at New Life Community Church in Clanton, said the church does not have its own Facebook page but he uses the site to communicate with his students on a regular basis.

“It’s like having everyone in one place. In 10 to 15 minutes, you can check up on everybody,” he said.

There can be negative effects to social networking, however. Jones said if it is not kept in perspective, it can waste too much time.

Kent Dodson, pastor of Liberty Hill Baptist Church, said Facebook is a useful tool but is no substitute for communicating with people in person.

“A big part of our communication is nonverbal,” Dodson said. “Without a tone or a facial expression, sometimes the message gets lost.”

Liberty Hill currently has more than 150 friends on Facebook. Its youth ministry and several Sunday School classes also have their own profiles.

“Basically, all we really use it for is announcements and reminders of upcoming events,” Dodson said.

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