Before we dig into this breakout session, I’d like to thank you for taking an interest in social media ministry. It can be so easy to overlook and underestimate the impact your digital footprint makes on the world. So, taking time out of your day to reflect on what you send out into the world is a huge step.
My name is Nico Cuevas. I’m currently serving as the Youth and Young Adult Pastor for First United Methodist Church in Poplar Bluff. I’m also working for foxradionetwork.com as a Web and Social Media Manager.
You see, I got my start in the social media world by volunteering at my church. I didn’t go to school for this stuff. I sort of dread that I’m going back to school, to prove that I know what I’m doing in this field.
Our previous Youth Pastor asked for my help with design, video work, and promotion. I grew up knowing this stuff, because I actually loved it. I used to be heavily involved in our local music scene, and when I realized that nobody wanted to listen to my music anymore, I found my new niche. I started filming videos and doing promos for my friends’ bands. It’s weird to say that if it wasn’t for MySpace, I probably wouldn't be where I am today.
I started as a volunteer at our church, but it got to the point where I was doing so much work that they decided to hire me as a youth and media assistant. A few years later, I became the Director of Communications for the church, and served in that capacity until late last year.
I am not some special Social Media guru. I have no magic trick to boost your followers. I can’t tell you exactly how to lead someone to Christ through social media. What I can provide, hopefully, is how we, as Christians, should use social media as an extension of our personal ministry.
Social Media Ministry is “Personal” Ministry
I do a lot of work posting to my church’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I do a lot of similar work for the radio station that I work for. So, as someone who get’s paid to do that, I’m about to say something that I absolutely shouldn't. At the end of the day, those posts, on their own, mean absolutely nothing. Are they beneficial? They can be, but only if YOU, the individual, prove that it matters.
Imagine that we spent some time together, one-on-one. We talked about life, faith, family, what TV shows you’re watching, your favorite superhero, your favorite football team, or anything that you typically find yourself talking to people about when you meet them. Now, imagine that our time together is running out. We had a nice time. There was something special there. We made a connection. We might have just become best friends. We don’t want this to end here.
“Here’s my phone number, and you can follow me on Twitter: @NicoSaysThings.”
“Awesome. Here’s my church’s Facebook page.”
That’s just weird. It’s also weird to just expect people to like your church’s or youth group’s Facebook page. Why would I do that?
“Well, I want you to know Jesus,” you might say.
“Hold on, I just met you, and I’m still not sure if I like you that much. Why are we bringing someone else into this equation?”
People follow you and add you as a friend because they care about or have an interest in YOU.
I do a lot of reviews for movies and video games, and people that I don’t know will come up to me and suggest movies, shows, or video games to play. Which is fine, but I don’t typically act on those recommendations.
I’m not at all familiar with this person. I don’t know their tastes. I don’t know how much we line up. For all I know, this person can have the worst taste ever.
The only time that we act on those recommendations, is when we have a true relationship with someone. You know what they love, and why they love it, and it makes sense that they do. Who knows? It might also make sense that you love that too.
Sharing a picture of blue-eyed Jesus, a random Psalm, the date for your next Church potluck, or God forbid, a “one like = amen” post, won’t nearly mean as much without your personal connection with what you are sharing.
Using social media for ministry should be personal. We should look at it as an extension of ourselves, and it should be relational.
When you hear the words “relationships” and “internet” together, what comes to mind? Maybe you’re thinking about online dating. Let’s make one thing clear: I’m not hear to tell you to sign up for Christian Mingle.
Most of you have family members who live far away from you, so you use Facebook to keep up with them. Most of my family still live in the Philippines, so Instagram and Facebook have been really great tools to reconnect with them.
Not only are your friends and family on social media, but the friends of your family are on social media, and their friends, and their friends, and so-on. The amount of people that you can potentially reach is astonishing. Just look at the numbers.
Social Media Sites’ Unique Monthly Visitors
Now, you aren’t going to reach that many people, but understand the potential for ministry with that many people on the platforms that you use every single day.
Before we go into the next session, I would like to issue a word of caution. There are people with bad intentions who use these platforms to prey on the unassuming public. Be very cautious when making connections online. There are safe ways to be a positive influence on our community and culture. Please do not put yourself or your loved one’s in unnecessary danger. Be careful when sharing personal information, like address, phone numbers, and passwords.
Do you share a Netflix account with someone else? Do you use that password for other accounts? Change it immediately.
Now, let’s take our social media ministry, in which we have had a focus on being personal and relational, and let’s find out how we make that fruitful.
Let’s take a look at the book of James 1:19-21.
Here we have James telling fellow believers how they should approach ministry and the code of conduct that they should be following. James was warning those who were eager to teach about the dangers of not pumping the breaks. Now, not everybody on Twitter is looking to go to seminary, become a preacher, or get a degree on education, but everybody on Twitter has SOMETHING to teach you. Whether you like it or not.
James knew that the word of God is powerful, and earthshaking. It’s a fire that can’t be put out. James also knew that you can’t be indifferent to the word of God. It’s polarizing, it’s challenging. Regardless of your belief or lack there of, you will have something to say about what is said in Scripture.
Often times, the things we have to say aren’t always positive. Something doesn’t go the way we think it should at school or work, and we Tweet about it. Someone does something that rubs us the wrong way; here comes the nasty subtweets. This whole election season: enough said.
The part of this passage that people often forget, is James’ call to be “slow to anger.” Don’t take this as a call to be happy 24/7. Is your displeasure justified? Probably, but losing self-control, and tearing others down so that you may be satisfied is not the way of Jesus.
God didn’t make man righteous by tearing man down. We’re made righteous in the sacrificial love that is Jesus Christ. If God can give up what He is truly deserving of, to show grace and love to others, we can surely do the same with those we disagree with politically or spiritually.
While Paul is talking about the spiritual gift of tongues, I think this perfectly illustrates what we sound like when we interact with each other, and do so without love.
Do you have a drum set in your church or youth room? Maybe you have one at home? Have you ever had someone play that drum kit that doesn't quite know how to play the drums? What’s it sound like? It’s awful, and it’s awful right away. It doesn’t take long for that to be tiresome. Either that person stops, or everyone is getting up and leaving the room.
It’s the same when we don’t speak or Tweet out of love. When we do that, we poorly represent what God is about, and turn people away. Not just the people you're directly interacting with, but the people who are watching you.
“Man, that guy keeps on saying that God is love, but he’s also made three people cry today because he said The Walking Dead was overrated.”
But what happens when we start speaking and Tweeting in love? What happens when we put “away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word,” as stated in James 1:21?
All of a sudden, the clanging cymbal is controlled, and our speak and online footprint is singing and dancing along in rhythm with God’s plan for grace and sacrificial love.
Over the past few years, I’ve met some amazing people from all over the country, who don’t know or love Jesus. I’ve got to tell them why I am a follower of Christ. This didn't happen because I quoted scripture in all of my posts. It happened because I wanted them to know who I was, flaws and all, and I wanted to get to know them and love on them. Instead of sounding the gong for all to hear, I’ve invited those I've connected with to dance with me to the song of God’s grace, mercy, and love. What a glorious song it is!
Nico Cuevas is currently serving as Youth and Young Adult Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.