By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
BRENTWOOD — Social media, particularly Facebook, has become a popular tool for pastors in recent years.
“I think the most effective use of social media for pastors is Facebook,” observed Todd Stinnett, pastor of Black Oak Heights Baptist Church, Knoxville.
He observed that while Instagram and Twitter are probably more effective in reaching younger people, Facebook “is a great way to reach the parents of those young people in our churches,” he said.
Additionally, “many of our senior saints have become more tech-savvy and have learned to use Facebook effectively,” Stinnett said.
Pastor of Tulip Grove Baptist Church, Old Hickory, agrees that Facebook can be a vital tool for ministers. Facebook is a way to “connect or stay connected with people in the church,” he observed.
Facebook helps Bontrager keep up with significant life events of members such as birthdays and anniversaries.
“If I know someone in the church has a birthday I will attempt to affirm that if I see them,” he said.
“It helps me to be aware of what is going on in our church members’ lives.”
In addition, Facebook keeps Bontrager up to date with prayer needs and concerns of his congregation, he noted.
Cody Dean, pastor of Epiphany Baptist Church in Springfield, observed that the average age of his congregation is about 30.
Instead of phone calls, he is much more likely to receive a Facebook message from a member who is sick or has a prayer request.
Facebook has helped Dean to get to know his members better. “People are more apt to share on Facebook than they would in a group of people,” he said.
Social media, especially Facebook, “opens doors so I can minister to people” in their current circumstances, Dean added.
The Springfield pastor also uses Twitter as one of his social media tools. Twitter is great for events and announcements, he said. Dean also uses Twitter as an outreach tool to connect with and minister to people who may not come to church.
“They may be more open to speaking to someone from the church through social media,” Dean said.
Stinnett is a proponent of Facebook as “free advertising” for the church. “You can post a sermon video, a choir special, or a powerful testimony,” he said. “The sky is the limit.”
“He observed that Facebook is “effective advertising” because “just about everyone has a smartphone these days.” He often posts announcements, Scripture verses, and “other encouraging things that direct people’s attention to the Savior. There’s enough darkness in the world. As Christians we can use social media to be salt and light,” he said.
Bontrager had a word of caution about social media and especially Facebook.
“You have to be disciplined. It (social media) can be a time waster. If you use it well, it can be a good servant, but if you don’t, it can be a master and drain your time,” Bontrager said.