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Church ‘Walls’ with Graffiti

November 25, 2008 by

GraffitiI received an e-mail the other day from someone—I’ll call him Dave—who is struggling with the idea of using social media sites like Facebook for their church community. He was conflicted because on one hand he sees Facebook as a great way to communicate and dialogue with people who are a part of the church. On the other hand, he sees some organizations on Facebook with profanity on their “walls” and other user-generated clutter that seems to distort the intent of the group.

Dave’s assumption is that the church is accountable for what ends up on their “walls.” He even thought about limiting “friends” to members. “But when you have 2,000 members, this really doesn’t help so much. Get 2,000 people involved and you’ve got your share of chowderheads and gadflies who will post anything.”

Dave feels he’s between a rock and a hard place. “If you limit the social interactivity, then you are left with one dimensional communication and the question ‘What’s the point?'”

I understand Dave’s dilemma. I like to think of Facebook as the mall where you go meet people, not the church building where they come meet you. You don’t control what stores are in the mall or what music is playing or how people are dressed. But you can guide the conversation. You just might need to talk a little louder over all the noise, or move the conversation to another environment altogether.

People are messy. And because of this, we should be discipling people to better belief and behavior, not creating or controlling environments. How this translates online might look like digital discipleship, not digital construction. Let’s build people, not places. Just like we can’t control everything offline (graffiti, filth, vandalism, etc.), we can’t control it online either.

But we shouldn’t ignore malls or Facebook just because they’re messy.

Post By:

Brad Abare


Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it. He and his wife Jamaica live in Los Angeles with their daughter, Miró.
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7 Responses to “Church ‘Walls’ with Graffiti”

  • Donny-Marketing Twin #2
    November 25, 2008

    Your comment about “You just might need to talk a little louder over all the noise” was perfect. You are right. Facebook is not church but it’s a great way to take our ministers OUT of the church by getting them involved in the online community.


  • Adam
    November 26, 2008

    Good thoughts.
    Bottom line: Facebook is where the people are and Facebook is the way they communicate.
    It is true that one cannot control the content or environment found on a social networking site. Nevertheless, is it not possible for Christians to be salt and light, even in a digital medium?


  • jake dockter
    November 26, 2008

    I find it shocking that a church is complaining about this.
    A church, digitally or even within its physical walls should allow open discussion, allow people to speak and voice their opinions. If a person walked into their church and began speaking with a few expletives, would they be allowed to stay? to voice themselves?
    The church needs to stop worrying about being some clean. We dont have purity in and of ourselves and can’t be 100% Holy. We need to see our purity coming from God, not from our actions. So “fraternizing” with “cussers” (gasp!) doesn’t reflect anything about us, God sees them and us as his children. Allowing people to speak is important. Allowing them to feel heard is needed.
    caveat- when people are being disruptive and purposefully brash…comments can be deleted and censored. This is done in reality, on normal blogs, and not hypocritical. People seeking to be abrasive can be censored etc.
    but when the person might drop the f bomb in a heartfelt message…dont delete.


  • jake dockter
    November 26, 2008

    I find it shocking that a church is complaining about this.
    A church, digitally or even within its physical walls should allow open discussion, allow people to speak and voice their opinions. If a person walked into their church and began speaking with a few expletives, would they be allowed to stay? to voice themselves?
    The church needs to stop worrying about being some clean. We dont have purity in and of ourselves and can’t be 100% Holy. We need to see our purity coming from God, not from our actions. So “fraternizing” with “cussers” (gasp!) doesn’t reflect anything about us, God sees them and us as his children. Allowing people to speak is important. Allowing them to feel heard is needed.
    caveat- when people are being disruptive and purposefully brash…comments can be deleted and censored. This is done in reality, on normal blogs, and not hypocritical. People seeking to be abrasive can be censored etc.
    but when the person might drop the f bomb in a heartfelt message…dont delete.


  • Phil
    November 27, 2008

    My church has been using Facebook for a few years without any problems relating to content. I figure if Facebook provides a forum for open and honest discussion then it’s not such a bad thing.
    I’m sure Dave has seen the groups called ‘I’m sure I can find 1,000,000 Christians’. Let’s face it, that’s going to attract more nonsense than your church.
    However, I think there are some other issues that need consideration when using Facebook.
    1 – Age demographic. Those people that are most active on Facebook are usually in their teens or twenties. Life starts to get in the way as you get older and those in their 50’s and above have largely missed out on the Facebook thing (yes, this is a broad brush stroke, there are always exceptions).
    2 – Activity. For Facebook pages to succeed there needs to be regular updates on content. This can’t be done by one person alone as Facebook is about conversation (requires a minimum of two). You need to get a few people significantly engaged in working your page to make it succeed longterm.
    3 – What is your intended outcome? Honestly. Some people have entered into the Facebook field with the idea that it is going to attract more people to church services. I’ll give you a heads up, it won’t (again, I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule). If it’s about facilitating conversations for your church, awesome – as long as you’re prepared to put the effort in and realise that it does have some limited reach; if it’s for evangelism I think I’d look for a better tool.
    I could make this a very long response, I have many reflections on using Facebook, but I think they are probably best put in an extended blog post of my own.


  • Scott in Vegas
    November 28, 2008

    facebook seems like a no-brainer too, but i can see how older, more traditional churches would be slow to come to it, partly because the demographic they are reaching may or may not use it (which begs other questions, but you understand).
    thanks for the article…i passed it on to http://www.newchurchreport.com to share with others – thanks!


  • Rich Tatum
    December 1, 2008

    Don’t worry. In about 10 years, when the people using and understanding social media are the ones running the churches, they’ll be on board.
    (Of course, by then, it’ll be some other communications technology that will be the bugaboo. But that’s a problem to solve for another day. :) )
    I no longer try to persuade those who are against it. If they get it, they’ll be curious and want to learn. If they don’t get it, the last place they need to be is at the prow of a social networking vessel, whether it’s a blog, a MySpace page, or a Facebook profile. At this point in the game, after 15 years of the World Wide Web, if you don’t “get it” and understand why this suite of technologies needs to be mastered, you’re too inflexible to use it well.
    But maybe I’m just a pessimist?
    Rich
    BlogRodent



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