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Why We Podcast, Blog, Use Social Media

(In January Cory Miller wrote an article about leveraging social media for the gospel. The following blog is an example of the kind of useful “tool” that the Internet and social media can be for churches and the gospel. I originally wrote this so that our church would understand why and how we engage people on the Internet.)

Why do we tweet, blog, podcast, Facebook, do video and whatever else that will be next? The obvious answer is that people are on the Internet. We are going where the people are, where people spend their time. This is especially important for our church since most of the whole body is only together once a week. The Internet and all the connecting points it affords us is  a way that we can influence and hopefully edify people between Sundays. This means of influence is not optimal since the best way to interact with people is face-to-face, but Paul wrote letters when he couldn’t be with people personally. We would do well to follow Paul’s lead and utilize the mediums that are available to us without neglecting personal interaction. For Paul it was with ink and paper, but for us it is through electrical stuff I can’t begin to understand. We would be foolish not to engage people via the Web even though we might not understand it or even like it.

Ryan Smith, our pastor of worship through music and media, does a great job of keeping us current with our website and also with social networking so that we can connect with people where they are. As with all things, sometimes the best thing we can do to influence people is be intentional and consistent. We have always had the sermons on the website but last summer we added the Question and Answer Podcast, which is a time where we answer questions from the previous Sunday’s sermon. This Q and A Podcast in-and-of itself serves a number of useful purposes including a level of feedback and interaction from the congregation on Sunday, and what we have found is that people seem to be connecting with what we are doing. When we first started we had a handful of listeners but it appears that we are slowly building a small but consistent audience (1765 downloads in February alone). Again, I can’t  emphasize enough the need for being intentional and consistent. I believe this has been the key to our growing Podcast connection and influence.

Just to give you an idea about how God is using this, I have provided some stats that Ryan has culled from our website. I am encouraged, but not satisfied. I hope that God is using our efforts to edify people to obey the gospel. I hope and pray that He does this more and more for the praise of His Glory.

One other thought. I’m not overly impressed with the sheer amount represented by these numbers. I am impressed and pleased with the progression or the trend I see in these numbers. Rome was built one brick at a time; little by little. It looks like being consistent and intentional is paying off with the help of patience. We must be patient and actively wait on God in all things, even in incarnational Internet ministry.

The following stats are merely to illustrate an upward trend that is the result, I believe, of being intentional, consistent, and patient while working hard at excellence. Again, I give most of the credit to Ryan Smith. The stats:

  • In 2010, we are experiencing 35% more web traffic than in 2009.
  • This past week was the highest week in web traffic in recorded Eagle Heights web presence.
  • Consistently, www.eagleheights.com is falling in the 200+ unique visitor range per week in 2010 and has not fallen below 200.  For comparison, in 2009 we only broke the 200 barrier twice.
  • Since the launch of our new website in summer of 2009, we have had over 31,500 unique page views.
  • 37% of web traffic is from new visitors.
  • From April 2009 – Dec. 2009 we had 2039 podcast downloads.
  • Already in only two months of 2010, we have had 2790 podcast downloads
  • 1765 of those downloads come during the month of February.
  • Already in March, we are on pace to break February’s record by over 125 downloads.
  • Listens are not unique to new uploads.  Rather people who are listening are going back and listening to previous pod casts as well as new pod casts.  This shows active and expanding listnership and is not merely indicative of new Core Group traffic.

The whole gospel of Jesus Christ is the point of all our striving in the strength that He supplies, but whether it is with  a pen and paper or a computer, we should use every available avenue to get to people with the gospel for obedience to the faith.

Brent Prentice

Author: Brent Prentice

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  • http://corymiller.com Cory Miller

    Brent, thanks for the mention … but more importantly, showing how social media can be used FOR the advancement of the Gospel and multiplying your ministry impact.

  • Rodney Jones

    Brent, without a doubt, the social media network used by our young (young of mind) is a powerful tool. I don’t know that the corrective admonitions of the Apostle Paul could be as easily adapted to the media as you infer. Yes, it might even provide a more direct method tor the Apostle to send criticism to an individual rather than a congregational body. If I could come up with one major failure in the expanding use of the social and technological networks, it would be the lack of human interaction and accountability. How many times did Paul call upon the wisdom of the congregation at large, the obedient within the community, or the elder/leader of a believing community to regain control of the community through sound doctrine or chastisement. Having looked upon a few (very few) chat rooms, and facebook posts, I can see some serious problems with orthodoxy within those who believe, or say they believe. The truth needs to be out there, but how does one use the media to speak the truth (write, video, blog, photo, IM, etc.) and ensure the message is received without the one thing the media is lacking, community in action – personal face to face accountability. Wow, what an option to have a way to ask questions about the last sermon, or some before it, maybe even to read the same types of books and articles the pastor reads. Wow, what a way for a small group to keep in touch on a daily basis with discipleship and discipline. But, Wow, what an awesome challenge to ensure someone who is seeking the truth is not misled by really cool graphics, music, beat, etc. or the high “hits” that might indicate popularity for other reasons. Unique visitors and new visitors to your site are great, and the fact that the podcasts are being downloaded is also super. But there are one or two things that a beliver cannot do at home in front of the keyboard, what are the figures for those? I myself, download several different podcasts, and I am choosey regarding the doctrines I allow myself to hear. But, I consider myself to be a Christian already, so any stats that have my visits to podcasts do not have someone who has heard the Gospel for the first time. As a matter of interest, I wonder if someone who was “joined to the group” would get much out of following something that they are just as likely to surf on by, when they find out it is the Gospel, and they are not interested.
    As a conclusion, God said through one of his prophets that his Word leaves his mouth, and will in no way return to him Void. So, if you have the God given gift, use the media to reach people for Jesus. But, don’t forget to call them to, and touch them in community.

  • Brent

    Rodney, I really appreciate you raising these questions and concerns, because I think they are questions that must be thought through.

    You are right to point out that Paul’s letters are largely corrective and the best way to do correction and teaching is face-to-face as would have been the case when Paul sent his letters to trusted men who were able to teach. I wasn’t meaning to infer the Internet or social media or podcast as a primary way to do correction (though it might accomplish that) as much as I was intending to say that it is a connecting point or a feedback opportunity for our church, among other possibilities. (As a matter of fact, not only does our church get to ask questions via texting about the sermon for a Q and A podcast, but the following week they then go to a small group and then revisit the same text and talk about application.)

    I also am concerned with the lack of biblical human interaction and accountability in local bodies and the trend of “Internet churches”. My point was simply to say that we have various Internet mediums available to us and we should use them to interact, teach, preach, etc. through the power of the Holy Spirit for the praise of His glory. I see our web presence as a (not the) front door to our body, and also as a way for our people to interact when we are a part in body.

    What is concerning to me, in addition to the concerns I share with you (and perhaps it is generational or because of lack of knowledge and skill or whatever the reason may be) is that so few churches and pastors are not using the the Internet and Social media in a way that might poke and prod people to at least think about the gospel of Jesus and what it means to live biblically in all of life, even life on the Internet. Or to say it more pointedly, many leaders and churches have no strategy for leveraging social media as a medium of influence in the lives of Christians or non-believers. Is it any wonder that churches can seem so irrelevant culturally and methodologically?

    You stated and then asked, “The truth needs to be out there, but how does one use the media to speak the truth (write, video, blog, photo, IM, etc.) and ensure the message is received without the one thing the media is lacking, community in action – personal face to face accountability.” Good question, but perhaps the Holy Spirit might use the strategic influence of social media as a tool to stir people toward this very thing. But unless we engage people where they are they may be content to stay there, (if they are without biblical community) without any biblical accountability.

    “As a conclusion, God said through one of his prophets that his Word leaves his mouth, and will in no way return to him Void. So, if you have the God given gift, use the media to reach people for Jesus. But, don’t forget to call them to, and touch them in community.” – I agree.

  • http://www.flockology.com Eric Seiberling

    Brent…one quick question. How large is your church and what kind of resources (people, dollars, etc.) do you dedicate to your social media and outreach efforts? Do you have any type of formal social media plan or do you dedicate a person (I assume Ryan Smith) and tell him to “have at it!”

    I think it is great that your church is focused on spreading the word through the digital space. Many of the counter-arguments used to using social media sound a lot like the arguments used for avoiding contemporary worship. (It isn’t real worship, the technology gets in the way of conveying the message, people only come to see the “shiny objects”, etc.) We have seen over the past 20 years that it not the case and it should not keep us from digital marketing today.

    At the end of the day, a number of people confuse MEDIUM with MESSAGE. The unchanging Gospel of Jesus Christ is just as our even more meaningful in today’s world as it was 2,000 years ago. The changes in technology allow us to carry that message faster and more interactively across the globe. Sorry, but I don’t see an issue there.

    I can truly respect Rodney’s point of view that the spiritual community is essential to growth. God made us inherently social beings and community helps instruct, correct and lift us up in our spiritual faith. But…cannot these same things be done in an on-line way? The technology today collapses distance as we think about it and allows community to be only 17 inches away.

    The core of Rodney’s argument was made in 1521 as well. We need learned people to be able to instruct the flock on the correct theology and keep them from straying down a bad path. Luckily, Martin Luther blew off the criticism, translated the Bible into German and along with the printing press, transformed Christianity as we know it.

    While I do not even remotely suggest that social media is the same level of change, we need to be careful that we avoid technologies to help us rapidly grow the Kingdom because we are afraid of it.

  • Brent

    Eric,

    We spend money on our website and some advertising on facebook and google. Really our plan is consistent and intentional saturation. We blog, we tweet, we facebook. I think there are a couple of ways in which we do this. We do it from a personal standpoint, meaning we tweet and blog and facebook to help people have an understanding of who we are and what we do. I know it is terribly disconnected from a personal, life-on-life standpoint, but it helps to answer the question, “What does a pastor do all day?” The answer is that we have real lives and think about a lot of the same things other people do. The second way we use it is to show people that we as people and pastors are constantly thinking about the life of Christ as it relates to all of life. We tweet verses that are meaningful to us. We tweet quotes from authors who are mentoring us. We blog about issues in our church. It is amazing how many face to face conversations about biblical ideas take place because of what was posted on facebook or twitter. I think the beauty of this strategy is that it doesn’t cost a lot of money, just a little time and thought. I hope that answered your question.

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