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Church in a Facebook World

I Like Jesus

As most of you will know, there is a Liturgy Facebook Page associated with this website. But you do not “join” such a page, you “like” the page; you can also “follow” the page.

Church has, in the past, tended to talk of a believe-belong-behave approach to being a Christian. But, in a world where “join” has moved to “like”, what might “belong” look like?

We have long used “join” metaphors for baptism, for example. What happens when we use “like” metaphors instead for baptism? What happens when we use “follow” metaphors instead for baptism?

It is very noticeable when church uses web 1.0 approaches in a web 2.0 world.

Web 1.0 was pyramidal, a top-down approach. In web 1.0, the vast majority of people simply acted as consumers of or reactors to what was produced for them. Web 2.0 is about participation, equality, it is interactive; social media is the model…

For the meeting of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui there is a closed Hinota Whanui group. The preferences are set so that only admins can post; others can comment on the post. For the Liturgy Page the settings are such that anyone can post to the page’s timeline. For the church’s facebook page only admins can post.

Young people think and act in a web 2.0/social media culture. Older people think and act in a web 1.0 culture. Older people tend to organise gatherings well ahead – with venue and time and protocols; younger people often have no idea what they will do later in the day until texts are sent around, or facebook is updated, and suddenly there is a group organised and an activity is underway.

Church runs very much in the former, 1.0, model. Is this a reason why young people may not be proportionally present? A lot of what I see in church attempts to “attract young people” may be cosmetic changes, the equivalent of tarting up an image on a static, web 1.0 page…

What might church in the latter model look like? What might worship in the latter model look like? What might liturgy in the latter model look like?

What might church look like in a facebook world?

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7 Responses to Church in a Facebook World

  1. I think that Church in a Web 2.0 might involve elements of a Jesus Culture video on YouTube. I think that your brothers & sisters across the sea at Hillsong Church might look something like it, in spite of their other problems.

  2. This is a challenging post and one that has me rethinking the parish facebook page and blogsite that I administer. I have shied away from allowing non-admins to post to the parish fb page because I was worried about crackpot ideas being associated with the parish. When I put out a call for contributions, all I got was some anti-Islam poison that was circulating the net at the time. Mmm.

    • Thanks for these important points you make, Gillian. There is much that needs to be thought through in the web 2.0 world. You are right that, even with disclaimers, people will identify what is on your parish’s facebook page with your parish. Crackpot anti-Islam stuff is relatively easy. I would follow a one-strike policy with that: remove the post and block/ban the contributor from any future posting. Important to realise is that the admins are responsible for the posting and for comments. I am responsible for your comment to which I am responding. Should someone take offence at what you have written – I am implicated. And that’s the same for your parish facebook page. Admins hold responsibility for comments. This is the sort of discussion we need to be having in our web 2.0 world. Christ is Risen.

  3. I can see this change in the way we ‘belong’ to church having longer roots than just rise of a social internet.
    It goes back as least as far as the ’70s in my experience – with the charismatic renewal movement providing a very strong vehicle in the ’70s and ’80s. This enabled people to see themselves as part of something that was bigger and broader than their local parish.
    Even our family, which was not particularly convinced on the theology, were interested because its ecumenicism. I remember listening to tapes of a Catholic charismatic speaker and thinking “Wow, I didn’t know Catholics thought that way about things”.
    And it also gave permission for people to move across denominations and parishes and form social/worship groups that were not parish bound.
    But coming back to the church after some time away, our parishes still operate, as you say, on the “join” and “belong to” model.
    Forty years of emergent change and only now we are starting to get it? (something very biblical in that perhaps)

  4. The Facebook world is very much a Web 1.0 world.

    The faceless controllers of Facebook are out to control the world, by one-way diktats.

    Did they ask anyone when they changed evertyone’s e-mail address to a Facvebook one? No. They didn’t even tell people they had done so, and nor did they tell people where messages sent to that Facebook address could be found and read.

    Do they ask you when they change your feed from “Most Recent” to “Top Posts” (the ones THEY want you to see)? No, they just do it.

    THEY decide which of your friends’ posts they will show you, so that your freedom of association is controlled by the faceless people at Facebook.

    Facebook is not Web 2.0, it is Web 0,5.

    I never “like” pages at Facebook. I may “like” friends’ posts, and may “like” individual comments, but pages, no. Because I know that if I “like” a page” Facebook will display stuff from that page in an “in your Face” way, not only to me but to my “friends” as well.

    I don’t give a damn if some Facebook friend “liked” the page of this or that commercial firm whose producs and/or services iknterest me not one little bit.

    The Facebook world is one in which people are subtly (and not so subtly) manipulated for commercial gain, and heaven FORBID that the church should seek to emulate that.

    • Thanks, Steve, for bringing this balance and critique. Very important, I think. I encourage people to watch this talk on “filter bubbles” to think further about this point. As with any powerful thing – there is a shadow side. But I still hold to the good in this powerful thing as being a metaphor we can explore more to understand mission and ministry better in today’s world. Christ is Risen!

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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