Can you picture Jesus tweeting his "thought of the day" or giving a status update on Facebook? For many the thought is blasphemous. But the reality of our day is that Twitter and Facebook are offering new ways to connect this "on demand" generation with Christ.
The 21st century is an instant-gratification culture. It can even be difficult to have a sit-down conversation with someone and discuss life issues when Twitter and Facebook provide a "history of events" in any given person's life. The question "What's going on?" is answered with "Did you see my Facebook status?"
If your group is not on board with these changes, you may want to explore some newer options. We have an entire generation relying on social media to share their voice and hear the voices of others, which means it is important for small-group leaders to share God's voice by implementing social media into their lives—and into their small groups.
Being part of a small group offers an avenue in which others can meet new people and form new relationships. In order to maintain these relationships, members are looking more and more to social media such as Facebook and Twitter to connect with group members throughout the week.
These connections are helpful between meetings and when a group member is unable to and a group session. Status updates on Facebook and Twitter allow people to stay linked with other group members and aware of what is happening within the group, even if they couldn't make it on Thursday night. Social media also allows people to give (as well as receive) Christ-like encouragement during the week. Posting a Bible verse on a person's wall or as a status update can give fast encouragement to someone in need.
A Great Way to Organize
Along with connecting small-group members, social media allows members of a small group to plan, manage, and organize events. For instance, Facebook enables people to create events such as movie or game nights, and then invite group members and others to join in the fun. In this way, Facebook can be an outreach tool. It allows group leaders (and members) to invite those who may not attend a church or may not be a believer to a fun evening where all can mingle and have fun without hesitation.
As a small-group leader and coordinator, I use Facebook and Twitter often to relay events we are planning as a group, and to offer encouragement to my group members. I also have a blog in which I convey devotionals and Scripture references, which I link to my Facebook page in hopes that they will be an encouragement to someone.
Twitter and Facebook have become valuable mediums in which I am able to see the status updates of several group members. These updates give me a window into their lives—including both struggles and praises. Knowing what is happening in my members' lives allows me to share the love of Christ and his words of encouragement promptly with those in need, and to rejoice with those who rejoice.
I have also noticed that Facebook and Twitter are vehicles through which members choose to relay their brokenness to me. I have received cries of desperation from the lonely and prayer requests for those in need. Facebook seems safer than e-mail to numerous people. Many individuals feel home and work e-mail will be viewed by a third party, so Facebook becomes the conduit through which they believe they can share their hearts without the threat of someone else reading their e-mail. Although small groups provide an opportunity for others to share their burdens, some find it difficult to reveal their needs in the midst of the group. Again, Facebook provides an opportunity for members to convey their struggles to me privately.
Just as Jesus broke the traditions of his time in order to reach those in need, so it is our time to break traditions in order to reach a generation in need of our Savior. So sign up!
—Peri Sandifer is Small-Group Coordinator at The Simple Church in Bossier City, LA. Copyright 2010 by the author and Christianity Today International.