Reboot the Mission: The Church and Social Media


By Gunnar Simonsen

While reviewing the latest user data for the top social media sites on the internet, there’s no question that if you are anyone with a message that’s looking for people to connect your message to, this is the place to be.

  • Facebook – 1 Billion users
  • You Tube – 800 Million users with 4 Billion views per day
  • QQ – 700 Million users
  • Qzone – 500 Million users
  • Twitter – 500 Million users (200 Million active users)
  • Google+ – 400 Million users (135 Million active users)
  • Sina Weibo – 400 Million users

And the list goes on.

With this, I question how might the church use social media?

With numbers like these, the opportunities are endless to offer a word of hope to people all over the world. And, like the time of the Tower of Babel, language is no longer a barrier. All one needs to do is… translate via Google or other type apps.

But, how are we using these tools to reach the lost in a world desperately crying out for hope, relief, love, and leadership?

Too often, when I see the church using these tools, it comes in the form of nothing more than another place to promote themselves. Now, please hear me, I do not mean to make this a broad statement and therefore lump all into this observation as many are getting it right.

But, my concern with such strategy (if you could call it that) is that it is lacking the very essence of what social media is all about.

Let’s face it, without social in it, then media is just that… media. When one just relies on posting me-centric posts that simply just promote their events, it very quickly just turns into noise. It becomes nothing more than a digital bulletin.

So, what’s missing?

  • Engagement
  • Intrigue
  • Listening
  • Relevance

Let’s take a few moments to drill down on these four missing pieces.

  • Engagement

When I decide to follow someone on Twitter, I look for a few things. One of those things is how often is this person, brand, organization, or cause actually engaging others? If all I see is broadcast posts and no engagement, I generally do not follow. Remember, with social media or even more so social networking… social means… social. Get social or get lost in the noise.

According to a recent study on Facebook by A.T. Kearny, only 5% of posts actually sought to create real conversations with their customers.

Where’s the social? It’s found in the engagement.

Perhaps in this, it might be time to reboot the mission with regards to your “social” media strategy in a way that jumpstarts the engagement with your followers?

  • Intrigue

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
– David Ogilvy

In my soon to be released book Strategistics, I discuss the fact that we are a headline nation. In writing this, I found in doing research that according to a recent survey that only 44% of Google news visitors scan headlines, but don’t click through.

People are used to the instantaneous flow of what they want, when they want it, and how they want it.

This is a good thing and a bad thing. How many times have you been intrigued by a headline, clicked through, read the article and then found yourself scratching your head wondering what the headline had to do with the article?

That’s called media manipulation and it happens every day.

But how can you use this to your advantage?

In a recent study by Laura Mickes, a visiting scholar at UC San Diego and a senior research fellow at the University of Warwick in England, they found that Facebook posts were more memorable than faces.

From the article posted by NBC news, I thought this paragraph was interesting with regards to their speculation as to why the results came back as they did..

“The researchers speculate that Facebook status updates are so memorable because they are written in “mind ready” formats — they’re spontaneous and closer to natural speech than the polished, edited text of books. That could explain why the researchers also found similar levels of memorability for comments posted under online news articles, compared with headlines and text from the articles.”

This fascinates me. Many times when I work with bloggers who aim to improve their traffic from posting links to Twitter, I have them replace the title of the blog (which we think was a creative headline that would create intrigue) with 2-3 of their hottest one liners from the blog post itself and then tweet that with the link instead. In almost every case, the blog traffic increased.

What can we learn from this?

  • Headlines matter

Perhaps in this, it’s time to consider rebooting the mission for how you title your posts in a way that will create more intrigue and less noise? And to tie into the first point, how can you create intrigue that will encourage engagement?

Ponder: How can you adapt a mind-ready format to your posts for your audience?

  • Listening

If there is anything I personally believe that needs to change the most with how we as a culture use social media, it is in the amount of time we spend listening to social media.

From a more corporate view of listening to social media, I find this stat alarming:

Did you know that according to *All Facebook that 95% of brands on Facebook do not respond to comments or posts on their page?

Have you ever wanted be heard but received no response?

I recently wrote a series of blogs on this very topic after hearing of 18-year-old high school student, Ashley Billasano.

Ashley had 500 Twitter followers. On one day, she had enough. After a life of abuse by her own family, she had enough and over a six hour period of time, she tweeted her story in 144 different tweets.

No one responded. Ashley took her life that day.

This story horrifies me. It also convicts me as to how I truly am using social media in this headline nation.

Do I ever take time to seek to read beyond the tweet? Do I look for signs in others by way of their tweet feed that might scream… “Somebody please listen!!!”??

I quoted recently that 50% of communication is listening. Frankly, I think it is a lot more.

If we are not giving ourselves time to listen on social media, then why would anyone want to spend time listening to us?

I talk about this in my class with regards to the humanization of social media and that we think social media can be a waste of time, yet sadly for her it was because too many of us were talking and not listening.

Now I am not placing blame on you, me, or anyone else. I am not even wanting to play the guilt card. However, what I am asking is this… how much listening do you do on social media? And when you do see something that stands out, do you ask the question?

Are you okay?

Do you realize the power those three words can be to someone like Ashley?

And their lies the opportunity for hope, ministry, and love to flow into the feeds of the viral world we now find ourselves in.

You know, for every bit of inspiration we seek to post on our social media pages that we hope will inspire people to comment, share, retweet, pin, or tag, nothing earns the right to be heard more than one that uses social media with a posture first of listening and then seeking to respond accordingly.

But to listen, this will require one to stop talking.

Perhaps it is time to reboot the mission of how you spend your time using social media? How much time do you spend listening? How can listening to social media then lead into engagement on social media? Does this reflect how you are using it or do you just use it to talk?

Most talkers on social media end up just talking to themselves and they don’t even know it. They wonder then why nobody is listening.

  • Relevance

When the world is burning down what does your messaging look like on your social media feeds? Are they simply the auto-posts you have set up to post from Facebook to Twitter?

Now, I don’t want to sound critical here, but there is a certain religious TV channel that has all kinds of various programming on it. And to be honest, there are some good folk on there, too. But what I never understand is that when the worlds news is breaking all around me and everybody seems to be talking about it, why on Earth is this TV station not talking about it?

People are looking for leadership in this fallen world that will help them navigate through all the turmoil. Will this be you?

To do this will require to get outside of the bubble we too often find ourselves in and truly put our ear to the ground to understand the signs of the times. (sons of issachar)

It is amazing to me the messages I see during critical moments of time. When the whole world is here… why on Earth would we want to be talking about something way over there?

Social media is a mission field, plain and simple. These are real people. And as the world continues down the path we currently find ourselves in, people want answers. People want hope. People want something to believe in.

Will you give it?

Why? because in between your Sunday messages, life happens and this is where life level application begins.

When seeking to be relevant, don’t seek to be relevant in a way that sounds like you are selling people something. Be relevant in a way that sounds more like you are solving them something.

Perhaps in this, it is time you reboot the mission of how you might take advantage of all the information social media provides us about what people are talking about right now. How can you be a voice of hope in this? How can you provide leadership in this?

But in all of this, know that how the church should use social media is not about just how the church (as in four walls) uses social media to reach the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is about the church being called to equip and send out believers to this world with the message of hope found in Jesus Christ.

With numbers as I stated at the beginning of this post as they are, what percentage of your church is using social media? How are you equipping them to effectively navigate the their social network in a way that allow them to minister to others?

The way I see it, with social media, the church(four walls) is all about two things:

  1. Equipping its people how to use these tools effectively
  2. Putting the ball on the tee for the people to drive the message the farthest

We have spent enough time telling them and reminding them of all the bad things about social media based on our frozen perceptions (good or bad) of it. Now, let’s tell them how this can be the greatest tool in our lifetime to reach people with the hope of the world in Christ Jesus.

How should the people use it?

  • Pray
  • Listen
  • Engage

It’s time the church takes a long hard look at rebooting the mission as to how we use these tools. Let’s stop running away from it and start running towards it. Let’s teach people how to own these tools rather than having these tools own us.

My friends, billions of people are right there in front of us in every corner of the world.

Who do you want to love on first through the power of social media with the power of Jesus Christ?


Are you intrigued? Would you be interested in having me come to your church and discuss ways we can reboot the mission and reach our communities?

Please email me at:


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