9 Reminders for Utilizing the Internet as a Mission Field

As in any practice, there are extremes. Some pastors and staff steadfastly refuse to get involved in technology, social media, or blogs. On the other extreme, some ministers misuse and abuse the helpful tools and media available to them.

After nearly a decade of involvement in social media and, later, the blogosphere, I have seen the best and the worst. Allow me to share what I have learned from the best in ministry who are active in this realm.

  1. Be involved in technology, social media, and blogs. It is missiologically irresponsible not to be. That is where the growing mission field resides, and you need to be among them.
  2. Be informal most of the time. Social media and blogs are conversations; they thus have a certain informality to them. There is a place for formal writings, but it is not here. By the way, informality and poor grammar are not synonymous.
  3. Don’t be too informal. We can get too relaxed and write things we regret. Being informal doesn’t mean being stupid.
  4. Watch your tone. Different researchers have noted that we see our own writings in social media as friendlier than readers perceive them. Harvard Business Review advocates to business and political leaders to write 30% friendlier than you would normally. But don’t ask me how you measure friendly writings.
  5. Read your writings out loud. It hardly takes any time. You will catch things you would not otherwise, and it can save you a lot of embarrassment.
  6. Embrace humor, but do so cautiously. I have been told on too many occasions I am sarcastic. I mean to be humorous, but my writings can sometimes come across differently to readers. I am working on this area of improvement.
  7. Avoid or, at least minimize, acronyms and emoticons. Many people don’t know what those letters mean. And if you overuse some, like omg, lol, or smh, you can seem like a silly teenager. This next statement is my personal peeve; many people disagree with me. I wish emoticons would be banned from usage forever!
  8. Minimize bragging or humble bragging. Sometimes we just need to celebrate some big wins and big news. That’s okay. We can overdo it though. It can be especially irritating if it’s humble bragging.
  9. Remember: The Internet is permanent. There is no such thing as making your words disappear forever. I can assure you someone has taken a screenshot of almost every crazy or dumb thing written on the Internet. And there are a lot of smart folks who can find things you thought had been deleted. Too many ministers have forfeited or minimized their ministry future by not being wise on the Internet. And more search committees are doing social media and blog checks on candidates. Be wise with what you write or what you share through links and photos.

There is indeed a great mission field on the Internet in social media and the blogosphere. We need to be leading the way to reach and to minister people who are there. But we need to do so graciously, wisely, and with great discernment.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Juan Flores Zuniga — 09/18/16 9:17 am

Excellent article Tom. Good points and easy to apply. Be blessed

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

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