Last Modified: Saturday, July 13, 2013 7:09 PM
In the past few years, social media have proved to be effective tools for spreading and receiving information. Some local churches are now taking advantage of this technology by using outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and their own websites for outreach, communication and ministry.
Trinity Baptist Church media minister Steven Haney said he tries to use the church’s website and social media as much as possible because they have such a large and diverse congregation. He said he wants to use as many avenues as possible to reach people.
“We’ve had a Facebook page for quite a while, and that’s been working pretty good for us for getting up-to-date information about last-minute changes about events,” he said. “We also have a church Twitter account, which is accomplishing the same thing.”
Haney said Trinity Baptist started using social media because such platforms are a big part of everyone’s life now.
“We are always struggling to get information out to people,” he said. “We still can’t reach everyone, so we were looking for a not-real-intrusive, but a user-friendly, effective way to get the word out.”
Trinity Baptist uses social media to not only promote events but also to minister and share testimonies. “It’s a part of ministry in general now,” Haney said.
In the next couple months, the church plans to release an app.
“We surveyed within the church, and 80 percent of our congregation uses smartphones and social media,” he said.
St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church uses social media as well. Joe Whitbeck, director of communications, said the church mainly uses Facebook and has both a page and private groups.
“Parishioners go to those particular sites to see activities and to blog about things that have happened,” Whitbeck said. “We also have a very active ACTS community who use private Facebook groups before and after retreats to talk to each other. So our particular church is extremely active, both in the ministry side and in the publicity and communication side.”
Whitbeck said it’s not just youth who use the church’s Facebook page and groups.
“Our youth group has a separate communication source on Facebook to let kids know what’s going on with particular events, whether they are having a speaker or an ice cream social on Sunday. On the adult side, my group has over 500 parishioners in it, and they are very active,” he said.
St. Martin de Porres uses Facebook to evangelize and discuss topics such as President Obama’s health care plan.
“Over the Fourth of July, we had a religious freedom thing going on in Sulphur, and it kind of took on its own life and went off through Facebook,” Whitbeck said. “We used it to spread links and information for parishioners to send to their congressmen and senators. It’s quick and easy, too, unlike having to build an HTML email and send it out through your contacts. That’s the nice thing about social media.”
Glad Tidings church agrees. It is in the process of switching its website to WordPress because it works so well with social media and live streaming. Cheri DeRouen, media pastor, said the church uses Facebook and also broadcasts radio sermons and streams live via its website.
“The day we are in, some people just can’t get to church because of jobs, or don’t feel comfortable,” DeRouen said. “This way they can still hear the service. It’s not just about getting people to come in the doors, but also to minister to them ... whatever way they will receive it.”
According to DeRouen, the site’s hits are always higher on Sundays when the church live streams. When Glad Tidings first started live streaming several years ago, DeRouen said it did have to work to change some mentalities within the church.
“It’s another way of reaching out,” she said. “It’s outreach. To think that we as a church, from the inside, would be OK with people going to church online, just by live streaming and be OK with not getting them in the door, that was unheard of. You just have to release that idea now. It’s just another form of the ministry, and it’s a beautiful thing.”
Like Trinity Baptist and St. Martin de Porres, Glad Tidings also uses Facebook for communication.
“We like to ask questions and we get a lot of participation on that and really it’s a way to build community. That’s what church is really about,” DeRouen said.
Glad Tidings plans to build up its social media participation in the near future. Once its new website rolls over, church officials want to start using Instagram and be more active on Twitter.
“We are not where we want to be yet, but we want to get there,” DeRouen said.