Church Outreach & MySpace

October 2, 2006 by

In the real world, preaching to the choir is as effective in outreach as preaching to the choir. Community within church walls is great, but it makes for an easy excuse to avoid outreach outside the church building.

The digital world is no different. 80% of church visitors come because they were personally invited by friends. Now we have a fancy term for it: social networks. And now we have an incredible way to engage our social networks: MySpace.com.

You can choose to believe or reject the latest numbers about MySpace demographics. In taking surveys before creating MyChurch.org, I also found that MySpace users were older than what we originally thought. Social networking isn’t just for teens and twentysomethings. The point is there has never been an easier way to connect with the congregations’ social networks in history.

A year ago, we canvassed church flyers at the local shopping mall. Today we manually post bulletins and church events on Craigslist and blogs. In one year, we’ll be automatically syndicating widgets of the church event calendar and sermons onto MySpace profiles. It may seem ironic, but our purpose of creating online community at MyChurch is to drive content outside of that community. Shouldn’t that be the purpose of every church, both online and off?

Technology will continue to change. The need to outreach and evangelize to the un-churched on their own turf will not. MySpace is the new mall hangout.

Archbishop William Temple once wrote, “The church is the only organization that exists for the benefit of its non-members.” We love our church communities. But it is not just for us to love.

Post By:

Joe Suh


Joe Suh is the co-founder of MyChurch.org, along with his wife Carol. MyChurch.org is the free church social networking site launching on Sept. 1, 2006.
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26 Responses to “Church Outreach & MySpace”

  • Jonathan
    October 2, 2006

    Great post – ironically, I just posted on this same idea last night too, only with Facebook (which has better campaign features than MySpace).
    After our 1st ever Facebook Event campaign last week, we saw a 50% jump in 1st time visitors last night!


  • Nate K
    October 2, 2006

    The key component here is really understanding the analytics. MySpace has a great amount of traffic and membership. What about the fact that thousands of bots create accounts on MySpace simply for spamming? Do you count these as legitimate users? The age of MySpace users is higher than expected? Let me show you a handful of kids from our local high school – their ages ‘say’ they are 30+ years old (most of the time to hide their real age). This is common for people using MySpace – so is that age statistic really true or reflect the actual demographic?
    Taking stats at face value is dangerous and silly. Its like using hits to gauge your web traffic – a number that means absolutely nothing.
    Aside from the stats – MySpace is actually hated by many as well (especially in design/development community/adults/etc). I would have a hard time convincing anyone in our congregation to jump on MySpace – most likely they would be scared by the first page they went to with audio and videos loaded blowing out their speakers, and animated graphics all over the place seeking their attention. Definitely not for someone with epilepsy.
    Most I talk to (in our church), including the youth, are getting annoyed with MySpace. Our parents fear it – and have no reason to use it. There are other, better, digital avenues to reach your church congregation without trying to send them to MySpace.


  • Ben J Walker
    October 2, 2006

    It is a fantastic tool for hooking up with ‘outsiders’, I totally agree.
    Would love to use it more for our youth stuff but the 14 limit cuts half the young people out!
    And is using it for the half we can encouraging the other half to be naughty and lie about their age?


  • Joe Suh
    October 2, 2006

    Jonathan, thanks. And yes, Facebook is another great venue for outreach. Now that they’ve opened up to non .edu addresses, it makes it even easier.
    Nate, I tried to dig into the Comscore stats for Myspace but didn’t get far. I can share my own survey’s results and methods if you email me (joe AT mychurch.org). Myspace may be hated by the web savvy, but it is still mainstream. I can’t think of a better channel to outreach on the internet than Myspace.


  • Nate K
    October 2, 2006

    For many, its too much of a risk – and they would be correct. Kids can randomly interject music, videos, graphics, and css/javascript – some of which can cause security holes. Aside from the mass amount of spam and viruses that MySpace has already housed (Not a big deal, as myspace was created by spammers). The site itself is a catastrophe – a timebomb waiting to explode.
    Our youth pastor is currently warning against the use of myspace (For parents), and only has an account to view what others are saying. His account is not active, and he has not updated since he initially got the page (yet, is counted as an active user for the statistics). Many parents of the children in our church want nothing to do with MySpace – and also want their children staying far way.
    It is not a controlled environment for them, and the parents object for the following reasons:
    1. Security
    2. Having their kids photos plastered all over a website
    3. Having their kids personal information on there (most kids do not realize the implications of putting their personal info on there)
    4. The content within MySpace (half naked girl ads everytime you want to login, then background photos and the like showing half-naked girls, etc)
    5. Security (ill mention it again because the MySpace infrastructure is horrible – from cfm to asp).
    6. The local news reporting area students getting in trouble for posting things about school administration, other students, etc. They do not want their children involved in any way.
    These are just a few – and every one of them valid. Ive said it before, but I, personally, would NEVER recommend myspace to someone in the church.
    Facebook is a different story – but MySpace is absolutely horrible.
    There are other avenues (online and offline) to reach people.


  • RC of strangeculture
    October 2, 2006

    QUESTION:
    I would love to hear what churches/ministries/minsters do to engage in the myspace culture and protect their students and pages from containing unedifying content.


  • Nate K
    October 3, 2006

    RE: RC
    I posted a long comment asking the same question – but it never made it to the page (said it had to be moderated)….
    I know everytime my brother in law logs into myspace there is a half-naked girl on the screen – everytime he logs in its a different girl. Not to mention the other content on the pages…


  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    October 3, 2006

    Nate, MySpace may not be liked by everyone, but people are using it. It’s just a matter of going where the people are. It’s certainly not for everybody–but half my youth group is already there.
    And we’ve already debated the numbers before. I think you can be fairly certain ComScore didn’t base their stats on what people self reported to MySpace. You’d be amazed at how many 99 year olds there are on MySpace if you went that route.


  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    October 3, 2006

    Oh, and Nate, you used the word ‘naked’ too many times, so your post was moderated. ;-)


  • Nate K
    October 3, 2006

    RE: Kevin,
    Thanks – I figured that was the case.
    I certainly don’t want to make off-base comparisons – but just because there are many at myspace, doesn’t mean we should all jump in.
    Now, if this were facebook I would say go for it! They are two totally different sites. One has class and great organization, the other is broken in so many ways – and lacks organization.
    Personally (and others in our church), we avoid myspace for many of the reasons mentioned above. It isn’t for everybody – even if everyone is there. Parents arent willing to get involved, parents don’t want to share so much information (especially when myspace is in the news every other week for online predators), and parents are concerned that their children are on there (and who/what they are interacting with).
    Does this make us wrong for choosing to avoid it, just because people are there? I don’t think so. I would have been all for it a while ago, but as it has evolved, it has evolved into one big trash heap.
    I used to use it, and don’t anymore (will actully remove my account) for the following reasons:
    1 – I don’t care to see unclothed ;) pictures all over the place – nor does my wife.
    2 – Nothing good was coming from it
    3 – Spam at every direction, from the advertisements, layout advertisements, comment spam, bulletin spam, and inbox spam.
    4 – After the initial ‘this is cool, I have found so many people’ phase – it served no purpose.
    5 – Bulletins are well known for spam, like email, so getting a message through can be tough in some instances.
    6 – We use all Macs – and all of the myspace layouts simply crashed the browsers (seriously, letting anyone put in random javascript and css? how is that secure? How many times does it need to be hacked until they actually fix it?)
    (Myspace became like microsoft windows to us, useless, full of viruses and security problems, and constantly crashing)
    We will stick to facebook where usability and accessibility are taken into consideration – and they have a very useful and clean interface (and better structure for adding friends and commenting).
    So – long post – but it simply isn’t for everybody – and our church has clearly taken the stance that it’s not for them.


  • Jeff H
    October 5, 2006

    The problem with free services like MySpace, Msn messenger and so on, is that most teens and preteens on those sites, simply lie about their age in order to register. So whereas statistics may show an older age demographic, my friends 12 year old daughter and all her friends would probally disagree. When there is no age verification process to register it becomes very difficult to believe generated demographic statistics.
    They have very distrubing stats about child related crimes and sites such as MySpace, so it seems amazing to me that any church would want to promote it, or encourage their members to be subjected to it.


  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    October 5, 2006

    Uh Jeff, we’ve debated the stats issue before. I think it’s pretty clear ComScore didn’t base their info on what people self-reported (probably lying) to the system.
    As for the safety issues, that’s true with the Internet period. Yes, you need to be safe and you need to be careful. But the same is true for walking down the street.


  • Jeff H
    October 5, 2006

    Uh Kevin, what would they base their stats on then, survey’s or chat room responses. The problem with stats is unless they are qualified, they are generally bendable to ones point. Such as the MSNBC stat that 60% of online pedophile crime stems from an intital mySpace contact. I suggest you move if that equals the risk walking down your street. Then again alot of people believe their naiviety protects them. Hard to fear what you cannot see or touch. Thats what bad people count on.


  • Joe Suh
    October 5, 2006

    Straight from the horse’s mouth, here’s the official Comscore press release regarding their demographics:
    http://www.comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=1019
    Comscore uses a panel of 2 million internet users through “spyware” to monitor browsing behavior.
    This was just released today and starting to make its rounds through the blogosphere. It will be interesting to see the debate about Comscore and their methods as doubters will inevitably try to debunk the data.


  • Matt
    October 5, 2006

    re: Stats
    What’s the difference between system-generated stats based on self-reported info and survey responses? Aren’t survey responses self-reported? If users lie to register, why would they tell the truth when contacted for a survey? I doubt very much that ComScore’s stats are verified in any significant way. I’ve said it before: 87.4% of all statistics are inaccurate or fabricated.
    “You can choose to believe or reject the latest numbers about MySpace demographics.” Obviously, I choose to reject them. I’d love to see compelling evidence supporting the validity of these stats.
    re: Original Post
    It seems to me that MyChurch.org is about as effective for outreach as a church advertising on Christian Radio. The registration form lacks any request for self-reported info, so there’s no way to tell if any non-Christians are there.
    They state “This is not ‘MySpace for Christians’ this is MyChurch for everyone” but it seems like its just another layer of the bubble of the Christian sub-culture. The site may be useful to connect the body, but please don’t try to position it as an outreach tool.


  • Joe Suh
    October 5, 2006

    Matt,
    “our purpose of creating online community at MyChurch is to drive content outside of that community”
    Feel free to email me to get more details on how we plan to do this. But in a nutshell, we’re going to make it very easy for people to drive their church’s content to other places. Places like Myspace. With widgets, badges, syndication, church content like social events, sermon audio, photo albums will all be easily and automatically posted elsewhere.
    Perhaps the gist of my post wasn’t clear…


  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    October 6, 2006

    First off, Joe Suh’s comment above linking to ComScore’s press release somehow got junked by our comment system. The two comments posted after Joe’s post did not have the benefit of seeing his comment. Sorry about that.
    OK, stats.
    Jeff, I’ve never heard that 60% number from MSNBC. I’d love to see a link.
    Matt, the difference between taking stats from the birthday people enter in MySpace vs. actually surveying the people is huge. People have a vested interest in lying to MySpace (i.e., I’m 12 and the system won’t let me in, I’m 18 and don’t want people to know I’m 18, etc.). People don’t generally have a vested interest in lying to pollsters. It’s basic survey science. I’m no expert at it, but it’s why we can trust the Gallop poll or other polls out there. Yes, you can and should question the methods, and the results are not guaranteed to be perfect.
    The point we’re trying to make here (and this is the last time I’m trying) is that MySpace is not just teens and twentysomethings. Joe Suh did similar research and found more older people than we’d expect on MySpace. There’s some independent verification for you. You want compelling evidence–go talk to ComScore. We’re talking about the implications of that data. Don’t shoot the messenger.


  • Matt
    October 12, 2006

    It’s contextualization. If the youth are there, we should definitely consider being there. I believe you can do it and follow Christ – sure it is used in many unhealthy ways, but is it not our responsibility to be an example as Christ followers as showing another way that is healthy? Unless we want to tell them to stop playing their rock music too.
    Use the culture as a tool, and explore why so many do use it regularly. Discover what good can be drawn from it. Having taken some time to explore myspace ourselves, we have realized it communicates on a level that other things just don’t.


  • Joe Suh
    October 13, 2006

    Amen, Matt. Thats all we’re saying :) Myspace (and social networking in general) is changing the way we communicate.
    I’m not sure if you’re the same Matt I replied to 3 posts earlier, but if you or anyone wants more context to the Comscore data, here’s the best reference: http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2006/10/10/comscore_misint.html
    Danah’s blog is the place to debate the statistics. A Comscore spokesperson actually comments on the blog and there’s a healthy discussion about how the data is collected. Comscore even invites folks to email them. You can shoot the messenger all you want there :)


  • Matt
    October 16, 2006

    Hey Joe, not the same Matt as the one above above haha. But I am totally for what you’re doing and things like that – the church has to be doing stuff like that – sounds great! All the best!


  • Melody
    November 8, 2006

    I would like to know how a church can encourage visits via myspace. We are a new church and interested in outreach opportunities.


  • Matt R
    November 29, 2006

    okay lets look at it this way if you want to reach people you have to go to places where (how do i put this) Christians ”shouldnt be” remember times are changing and you have to adapt and learn new ways to spread the Word of God myspace is a great place to start so much bad stuff goes on there alot of the people need Jesus… and remember Jesus spent most of his time with the worst people you could think in that day because they needed Jesus… sometimes people forget this so im just trying to remind you


  • Anthony Ingram
    January 2, 2007

    I have a MySpace profile and I have created and am member of several groups. I often post information to bulletins, blogs and groups about events at my church. I view it as simply another free resource to try to get the GOOD NEWS in front of those that need it most.


  • Sarah
    February 28, 2007

    I believe the internet is a great way for the church to go beyond it’s four walls and reach those it would never have reached before. Let’s use the tools that have been given to us. Instead of faulting it, let’s come up with ways to make it work for us.


  • Michael
    September 8, 2007

    I know this is an older post, but wanted to leave my own perspective on MySpace or any other website with similar content/culture. I think for most Christians with an initial desire to reach the unchurched, MySpace seems like a good place to venture. But I know sites like this could have the potential for seduction (previous posts have already described its content).
    For many of us, it could be like a recovering alcoholic who decides to reach out to his old friends at the local bar, he finds himself surrounded by temptation and begins to compromise his original intention.
    MySpace (and sites like this) have a way of working on your personal desires for attention, and curiosity. Know your faith very well before dancing in this dark arena. It is a subtle beast. And you could find yourself surrounded and yet alone.


  • qass
    May 25, 2009

    Good answer, I am looking for the solution of the same question. Find the movies or mp3 you are looking for at megaupload-download.com the most comprehensive source for free-to-try files downloads on the Web



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