The question: Can I use social media to encourage participation in a congregational day of prayer?
I’m particularly interested in involving those who would not otherwise participate. I agreed that it is ideal that members come together in community for prayer, but the bottom line for me is that is secondary to them taking the time for the prayer in the first place. Let’s be honest here, if I did not work in the building, I probably would be one of those who would not make a special trip to the church building for 30 minutes of prayer. At the same time, I do take a minute for prayer in response to an email or facebook or twitter request (even if I almost always am the one to break the chain by not forwarding it on to 8 other friends). Does that make me an oddity? Well, perhaps it does. . .
I’m also most interested in involving actual real-life members and friends of the congregation. There’s certainly a chance that by using social media the plea for prayer will be heard beyond our immediate community. I am happy to have my friends and the friends of other members praying for us. I imagine (especially with Twitter involved) there could be some gawkers – communications folks from other churches – but that’s OK: we are learning this together, I’ve been known to gawk at their social media projects too, and they might even pray too.
I imagine that the resources on our regular web site will get some use. Some for sure will want to download the devotions. In the past, email devotions have been popular when they have been used at Lent. The difference is that this time sign-up for emails is directly on the web rather than on a clipboard at church. Is that one step the one step too much? Online prayer forums are new for us too. Apparently, it’s one of the things that people are looking for on church web sites (according to studies, anyway). I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
We’ve had a facebook group for almost two years now, but not an interactive one. There are a lot of joiners but not a lot of participators, which is a whole other story. My initial goal there is to have more than just myself on the ‘guest list’.
Twitter is a whole new ballgame for our congregation. Our ‘official’ twitter account has 269 followers, but the vast majority are either other churches or church related businesses. This is just the first of three experiments with uses of twitter that I’m trying in the next few months. I suspect though, that this town just isn’t ready for twitter yet (they don’t know what they are missing). That said, if I can reach and involve just one actual member, isn’t it all worth it? I’m guessing the one is the member I’ve previously referred to as my original twitter mentor.
Beyond the actual day of prayer, will there be any lasting impact on this congregation’s online community? Will someone who accepts the invitation to this facebook event be more likely to accept an invitation to a future event? Will someone who participates on the prayer forum keep participating? Will someone who tries twitter for the first time go on to discover how useful it can be?