Healthy E-Ministry

How to stress physical presence while leveraging social media

The current issue of Leadership Journal focuses on e-ministry: how leaders can use social media to effectively minister to others. The fact is that Facebook, Twitter, and other social media are here to stay—and that means we must learn to leverage them for God's purposes.

But there's a right and wrong way to do that. And Tim Challies' article in Leadership Journal explains the limitations of virtually connecting with others. After all, he writes, many of the key ways pastors minister require physical presence: marrying a couple, holding a hand at the hospital, baptizing a new believer.

It's the same for small-group leaders. Bible discussions, prayer for healing, and meals just aren't the same in the virtual world. Leaders need to be present to hand a tissue to a crying group member, lay hands on and pray for a new leader, or show visible concern as a group member shares his or her story.

Challies writes that leaders must learn "what it means to be present in and through new technologies" and understand when physical presence is best. But there are two challenges: these technologies try to convince us that virtual presence is just as real as physical presence, and they're able to distract us from being fully present (it's pretty difficult to concentrate during your prayer time when you hear a notification from your phone).

This new virtual reality brings two new ways to minister to people. First of all, people are more lonely than ever, craving real connections. We can provide that both by meeting them on social media and by showing them there's still a place for physical presence. Second, people are grappling with how to use social media well—in a way that furthers God's kingdom, not distracts people from it. As leaders, we can help people wrestle with this issue, working hard to model good social media use.

A great tool to further understand this issue is Physical Presence Matters. In it, Will Johnston explains why our bodies are fundamental.

To learn how to use Facebook to deepen group relationships, read Make a Facebook Group for Your Group.

To read the full issue of Leadership Journal, visit their site.

How do you use social media for small-group ministry? How has it helped deepen relationships? How has it distracted you from God's work?

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