Social Media, Stories and Your Church

September 16, 2008 by

I love my blog. Some days, I stay up until midnight working on it. Quite honestly, I tend to obsess over it. Yet, I know it’s worth the time investment (minus the obsession), because I’ve seen God use that little piece of technology do some amazing things.

About two years ago, I really got into social justice. It started with my friend and I visiting a group of homeless people living under a bridge. For Christmas, we contacted several local churches, co-workers and friends, asking them to contribute to helping meet the needs of this homeless community. The response was astounding. We carted two carloads of clothes and personal items downtown to celebrate the birth of Jesus with the poor.

Around this same time, I started blogging. At first, I hesitated sharing these stories of helping the poor via the web. I felt guilty for making a spectacle of them. Reluctantly, I posted a couple stories, curious to see how readers might respond. As I started to get some feedback, I saw how the blog was profoundly affecting other people’s lives. One reader in Oklahoma was so inspired after reading one of my stories that he immediately got into his car, found the nearest homeless person, and gave him a ride across town.

I recently read a business article that described marketing as the “sharing of information.” The simplicity of it struck me both as a marketer and as a Christian. Now, there are a lot of trite analogies floating around in e-mail forwards about how we as Christians ought to be “marketing Jesus” with cheesy sales pitches. This is not what I’m talking about. Rather, I’m suggesting that churches and para-church organizations already have a responsibility to share information (it’s called the Great Commission), and they ought to be looking for ways to strengthen that message. I’ve found that technology—primarily a blog—can be a great way to do that.

A recent example is the story of Pat, a woman I know who is afflicted with breast cancer. She was living in a modest apartment with her two dogs when I met her. She had just been fired from her job without any severance pay. Although she tried to fight it, Pat lost the battle and was about to be kicked out of her apartment if someone didn’t intervene. I asked her how much money she needed to stay off the streets. She said about $550 would pay another month’s rent and utilities. I told her that I’d see what I could do for her.

I posted a short blog entry telling about Pat’s situation, and e-mailed the link to some influential friends. They posted it on their blogs and linked back to me, asking their networks to do the same. By the end of the day, we had raised over $500 for Pat. The next day, another $200 in pledges showed up in my inbox. Over the next week, more pledges came in, along with checks in the mail from people I didn’t even know–-from Virginia to Arizona to British Columbia. When it was all said and done, I received contributions totaling over $1,000 to go towards keeping Pat off the streets of Nashville. When I gave Pat the check, she couldn’t stop weeping.

Think about that for a minute: In two weeks without doing any elaborate phone-a-thons, ringing the bell outside a grocery store or petitioning local businesses, we raised enough money to provide for someone’s livelihood for another two months. The Internet provides an incredibly efficient opportunity to help change people’s lives.

How does this translate to your situation? Do you have a building campaign coming up, and your church leadership is scratching their heads as to how the goal will be met? Maybe you’d like to do charity fundraising, but the donation bucket in the narthex has those same three nickels rolling around in it since Easter. I suggest you consider how you might creatively use your blog, social network, or something else to make an impact.

I used my blog to tell a story, to share some information, and a little viral marketing campaign broke out. No one stood up at the front of a church building asking for donations, and yet, I think I saw a beautiful picture of what the Church-in-action can do when we put technology to work for the kingdom of God. I’m not so squeamish any more to share stories on the web about what my church is doing to engage social issues. I have seen the impact that simply sharing information can have, and I want more of it.

Incidentally, our church is currently changing locations, and we just recorded about a dozen of our members sharing stories about how our little fellowship has been a blessing to their lives. We’re posting those videos on the internet and asking God to use them to lead new people to our church.

Post By:

Jeff Goins

Jeff Goins is the communications director for Adventures in Missions and is also a blogger, author and speaker. You can find him online at his blog, follow him on Twitter and check out his new book, Wrecked.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

7 Responses to “Social Media, Stories and Your Church”

  • Andy
    September 16, 2008

    Nice read Jeff. Very encouraging and inspirational…I’m going to share this with my pastor.
    BTW – all this talk about your blog and no link!! What is it?

  • Jeff Goins
    September 16, 2008

    Thanks, Andy. Here’s my blog:

  • Carole Turner
    September 16, 2008

    You do have a great blog.
    I tell my families stories on my blog to encourage others. We are a lower middle class family, just wanting to serve God with our lives, walk in His love and do His will, so if what we do encourages others to reach out and be salt and light, then I know it’s what God wants. The bottom line is always “will this glorify God?” from fun to freak outs, I post about our lives and keep it real.

  • seth
    September 16, 2008

    great article. i love my blog and my blog community too.

  • Jeff Goins
    September 16, 2008

    thanks, guys

  • Sheila Branscombe
    September 27, 2008

    Hey Jeff, I’m glad to hear your church is reaching out. I’m looking at this from a different angle. It often seems that the church is either not interested in the poor or only interested in giving hand outs to the poor (ie: more of a make ME feel good approach). As a former social service provider, I would love to see the church do more than drop off clothes, blankets and food. . May I encourage you to look for unique and life changing opportunities to tackle poverty (ie: job creation, housing, life skills training and so on.) Like joining forces with local social services… Blessings!

  • Jeff Goins
    September 28, 2008

    Thanks for the suggestions, Sheila. These are all good. I’ve been involved in some of these efforts but could definitely be involved more. I appreciate your challenge.

Leave a Reply