Sunday, 3 April 2011

Why does St Paul’s, Camberley do Social Media?

"Don't be shy be social" – Andy Salt, St Paul’s Media Team

Social Media is a remarkable force in today’s society, making or breaking people and organisations, and shaping nations.

  • Barack Obama used Social Media to great success in his election campaign, to become President of the United States. Without it, he may not have become President. Indeed social media is now widely used politically
  • In the 2010/2011 Middle East uprising, one activist said “We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world”. This led to some countries switching off the internet. Some might argue without Social Media, these uprising may not have happened (or at least, not have been as effective)
  • Justin Bieber, the Canadian teen idol, has over 8.5 million followers on twitter. The music video of "Baby" is currently ranked as the most viewed and most discussed YouTube video.

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If Facebook were a country, its population would be the third largest in the world, after China and India. Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook), back in 2009, said: “As of today, 250 million people are using Facebook”. That’s 4 times the size of the entire UK population. As of January 2011, Facebook has more than 600 million active users, making it twice as big as the United States. Now Camberley has a population of around 30,155. If we expand that to the surrounding areas of Aldershot, Farnborough and Farnham, the population is around 243,344. Now on Facebook, there are 74,980 adults living within 10 miles of Camberley. As they say in the US, go figure.

OK, but how does this impact Christians?

Well, the Pope considers Social Media so important, he said: “I would like then to invite Christians, confidently and with an informed and responsible creativity, to join the network of relationships which the digital era has made possible. This is not simply to satisfy the desire to be present, but because this network is an integral part of human life. The web is contributing to the development of new and more complex intellectual and spiritual horizons, new forms of shared awareness. In this field too we are called to proclaim our faith that Christ is God, the Saviour of humanity and of history, the one in whom all things find their fulfilment (cf. Eph 1:10).” – Pope Benedict XVI (Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age)

The Church of England similarly sees Social Media as the future. Rachel Jorden, associate adviser on mission and evangelism at CofE said at the "Regeneration Summit" in Sheffield, "Whatever form churches take, they will almost certainly have to employ all the current media and communication tools used by young people in their everyday lives. Social networking, twitter, facebook, iphones...". Listen to the podcast for more on that here.

Pat Allerton, Curate at one of the most respected Anglican churches in the UK, Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) said: "I'm passionate about getting the church visible. What we do week in and week out is some of the most amazing stuff in life. If only we could get the church on the outside of it's walls, we could begin to win hearts and minds.". Listen to more on that here.

So, thinking this all through, I recon that if Social Media can help make a president of the United States, help co-ordinate an uprising across the whole of the middle east, and make one person such a celebrity his every move is doted on by 8.5 million people, then it may be used in Camberley, to spread the word about the power of God, and the good works being done in the community, by the church, in His name.

Currently, Camberley has only 2 churches that tweet, and maybe only 3 that have active Facebook pages. Justin has 8.5 million followers on twitter. St Paul’s currently has 260. We have some way to go. But I think I’ve made my point. If Facebook can reach 74,980 adults in the Aldershot Urban Area, and St Paul’s is focused on “living Christ in Camberley”, then I think to ignore Social Media would be to ignore a vast online population. So my question to Camberley Christians is, what would Christ do?

I’d like to encourage everyone to think "don't be shy be social". Start communicating actively in your community by using Social Media, and remember, communication is 2-ways. Let’s make it social!