You would think the following concepts are from a sermon or speech at a church conference: Intentional outreach. Encouraging members to be leaders. Calling members into community. Empowering groups.
These were all shared by Mark Zuckerburg at the first ever Facebook Communities Summit in Chicago on June 22, 2017. There he announced Facebook was changing its mission.
Facebook realized the power of groups, and they are now focusing on connecting and mobilizing people into groups. Zuckerburg used the church as an example numerous times in his address.
This change in mission by Facebook is a result of their evaluation of statistics. Of the 7.5 billion people in the world, only 2 billion people are on Facebook. Digging deeper, they discovered that of the 2 billion on Facebook, only 100 million were in what they describe as “meaningful community.”
While these are staggering numbers, this only equates to 1.3% of the world population being in a Facebook group. So in addition to trying to get more people on Facebook in general, they realized a huge opportunity to get more people not only connected but in meaningful community.
Our lives are all connected. In the next generation, our greatest opportunities and challenges we can only take on together — ending poverty, curing disease, stopping climate change, spreading freedom and tolerance, stopping terrorism. No single group or even country can do that alone. We have to build a world where people come together to take on these big meaningful efforts.
This is a very lofty goal for a social media company. This should serve as a wake up call to the Church. Only through spreading the love of Jesus to the nations can this type of change occur.
As your church evaluates it impact on the local and global community, ask yourself if your church can leverage Facebook Groups as a tool for helping with your mission.
It is important to note here, that even though Facebook evaluated and changed its mission, the mission for all churches has already been set by Jesus.
The mission of the church is to go about the work of fulfilling the Great Commission.
Vision is not the same as mission. The eternal mission of a congregation is the timeless understanding of the past, present, and future focus for congregations in general as they seek to carry out the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment.
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Vision is the current understanding of the spiritual and strategic journey of God for a congregation over the next seven years or longer. Vision empowers the future. It is about the pulling of God rather than the pushing of humankind. It fuels the forward progress of congregations. It takes congregations beyond the current horizon to places they cannot yet see, and may not ever reach.
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George W. Bullard, Jr., Captured by Vision: 101 Insights to Empower Your Congregation
It is important that churches evaluate their vision to determine how effective they are at achieving their mission: the Great Commission.
It may become necessary to change the vision of the church. Whether the vision changes to become more aligned with the mission or it is confirmed the current vision and mission are already aligned, it is paramount to focus resources on accomplishing the mission through the vision.
Facebook is placing a lot of development into the tools that it provides to Facebook Group administrators***.
As a church, how well do we do when it comes to providing small group leaders with the tools they need to succeed?
Whether we admit it or not, it is not easy for most people to visit a church and go into a Bible study. Often, with well-intentioned motives, we try to place people into Bible studies, Sunday school classes, or small groups based upon the age or life stage of the person. The life stage approach takes various forms in different congregations. Life stage could be by age, or it could be based on whether they are parents or even their marital status.
For some people, the above mentioned categories are genuine “common ground” on which they can build community.
However, others are not able to find true common ground in these boxes. Maybe your particular congregation, or more importantly the people you are trying to reach, find “common ground” around something they are very passionate about. Some ideas are: bikers, cyclists, photographers, entrepreneurs, handymen/women, parents of special needs, children of aging parents, cancer support, Habitat Houses, etc.
Coming together around a common purpose or need helps grow deeper community.
All this being said; it is imperative the Bible be an integral part of the small group/community.
It turns out, in the physical world and online, most of us don't seek out community. Our friends either invite us or they bring us along.
Mark Zuckerburg (minute 14:40 of video)**
There once was a day when the church enjoyed the harvest of the “if we build it, they will come” strategy. That day is long gone.
Facebook is focusing on making it easier for its members to invite others into community.
As the church, we need to ensure that we train and encourage our members to invite others, and we need to make sure they have the tools to do it well. Identify keywords that come up in conversations with people around “pivotal life circumstance.” Andy Stanley and the Northpoint team have identified keywords around these “pivotal life circumstances.” They train their members how to recognize them in conversation and grasp the opportunity to invite their family, friends, and co-workers to church and even into small groups.
The key is to be intentional about inviting people. There is no invitation as impactful as a personal invitation.
Providing a way for group members to stay connected and communicate with one another while they are apart helps foster and deepen relationships. It used to be that letter writing and phone calls served this purpose well. Today's technology provides tools such as Facebook Groups to offer this virtual opportunity. When people do come together in person, they are building on a continued conversation and relationship instead of starting over at square one from the last in person meeting.
Online communities strengthen physical communities by helping people come together online as well as offline, even across great distances.
Being in community is not a passive existence. Communities care for one another during the bad times and celebrate together during the good. Whether it is making a difference in the lives of each person in the community or working together as a community to affect change in the world, the community is called to act.
From a church perspective, communities are called to love and care for its members and be the hands and feet of Jesus where God has placed them…both physically and virtually.
How is your church using Facebook groups? What other technology are you using to foster community? Share your answers in the comments below.
* Bringing the World Closer Together, Facebook post by Mark Zuckerburg
** Video of Mark Zuckerburg's address to the Facebook Community Summit in Chicago
*** Facebook post about new group administrator tools
Steve's passion is to help ministers and churches do ministry in our new digital, social, mobile world at the speed of life through building a strong ministry infrastructure (minfrasTructure). With a background in church administration, Christian education, missions, and technology, he offers advice, tips, and tools through writing, blogging, podcasting, speaking, online courses, consulting, and personal coaching.