The growing popularity of social networking sites is creating a whole new level of connection for spiritual communities. Websites like Twitter, Facebook and Meetup are designed to be user-friendly. Even with minimal technological understanding you can create a page and be up and running in a matter of minutes.
Facebook is a social networking site that offers a little bit of everything: connection, inspiration and advertising. The Unity of Toledo congregants chat and post comments to one another. We have a fan page where we post inspirational quotes and encourage fans to comment. We also post daily events and create invitations for our activities. Our goal is to post daily. With two administrators, it is a goal easily met.
Facebook offers three page types:
Profile Page—primarily for individuals, but utilized by organizations. On these pages users chat, post status updates, upload photos, videos, etc. Profile pages are limited to 5000 friends.
Group Page—great for quick, active discussions, but you cannot create events and invitations. We started with a group page, but no longer use it, opting for a fan page instead.
Fan Page—perfect for long-term connections with the congregation. With the same features as a profile page, no limit on the number of fans, and the ability to create events and invitations, this was an obvious choice for us. You also get statistics on visitors to your page.
As the spiritual leader in a church community, the instant connection with Facebook has benefits and cautions. On the plus side, I know, almost instantly, when someone in the community has a challenge or a triumph and I can comment on that event. For example, one Sunday a young family stayed home because the baby was sick. When this information was posted on Facebook, I could let them know they were in our prayers and that we missed their presence.
This instant connection works both ways and I must be mindful of what I post and be firm in my boundaries regarding my time. I have found the majority of the community are very respectful of those boundaries and chat messages from them consist mostly of “good morning” or “can I reach you at the office later?”
In this age of smart phones, Twitter is another easy way to connect. It is a text-based site where users send and receive messages, called “tweets,” via the Twitter website or a mobile device like a cell phone. The Unity of Toledo Facebook page is linked to our Twitter page, so one posting automatically updates both sites, two channels of outreach with the work
Meetup is our newest foray into social networking. Meetup connects local groups within categories, making it easy for people with similar interests to find you. The Unity of Toledo Meetup page automatically posts recurring events like Sunday services, classes, and so on. After the initial setup, we simply update by adding new events.
Social networking has allowed us to reach beyond our walls and connect to our ever-expanding global community.