Where’s the Church on Facebook?

June 11, 2007 by

If you’re plugged into the social networking site Facebook at all you’ve probably heard about the recent launch of their developer’s platform. For the uninformed, basically third party companies can now build applications for Facebook that integrate directly with the Facebook system. This isn’t slapping badges onto a MySpace page, this is full-blown interaction with your Facebook friends. Your Facebook friends can now see your Flickr photos, check out your Flixster movie ratings, listen to your Last.fm playlist and interact in new ways.

Bottom line: It’s cool (I go on and on about it on my personal blog).

Don’t believe me? Check out the Cause application and the 125,416 people who have joined the Save Darfur cause, donating $9,517 since May 24 (as of June 11 at 10:21 a.m. CST).

Where’s the Church?
The big question is where is the church on Facebook? Are churches taking advantage of this new community, even if it’s not a formal marketing approach (simply setting up groups and events doesn’t need to happen in an ‘official’ capacity)? This goes back to our discussion of how the church can use MySpace, and a lot of the same principles apply (of course churches need to decide how many social networking sites it’s worthwhile to join).

Build a Church Application
But I think one of the big differences with Facebook comes with this new developer’s platform. Now you can build things to interact with Facebook, and the church should be in this space. There are already applications that add daily Bible verses to your profile, but there could be so much more. And I’m not talking ghettoization of Facebook, but ways for people on Facebook to engage their social network with the church. Facebook is all about the personal connections–the church just needs to find a way to tap into it. Maybe we should forget building another Christian web 2.0 site and just build something that plugs into the 24 million people already on Facebook (or do both).

Testing the Waters
With any new tech development it’s always a question of whether it’s going to live up to the hype. This may very well be another move that fizzles. But who knows? It could explode.

Sometimes you just have to play with it and see what happens. For our part, I set up a new Church Marketing Sucks group on Facebook, as well as a CMS cause you can support (you’ll need a Facebook login for both links, and you’ll need to add the cause application for the second). Both were set up more on a lark than in any official capacity, but it’s fun to see them grow and see people I don’t even know joining up. And that’s exactly the point.

We even have a discusion post in the Facebook group asking this same question.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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16 Responses to “Where’s the Church on Facebook?”

  • Todd
    June 11, 2007

    Great post. I think we have too many Christian spinoffs and too few social website “missionaries.” Why reinvent the wheel and try to replace it with a less-functional, less-attractive option?

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  • Truth Seeker
    June 11, 2007

    Wow..they have over 125,000 people to sign up for helping Darfur and all they got is a lousy $9,000? That amounts to less than .08 cents a person. Wow! I wonder how much it takes to maintain that site daily. Probably a lot more than $9,000.
    But on whether or not the Church should be on Facebook. I see the benefit of it if it is done by a lay person who wants to use it as a way to reach people. But the church should not be in the buisness of using Facebook, in my opinion. I am still an adamant believer that face to face contact is the best method of reaching people. Why would should we invest into a “facebook socializing network ministry” when we can barely get people to talk to their neighbors while playing with the kids or mowing the grass? Technology is fine, but I am learly about these socializing networks. Very little authenticity in them.

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  • Bill LaMorey
    June 11, 2007

    I have an account on Facebook, but found it much less effective of a tool than MySpace. However, your post has inspired me to try harder with some of these new tools.

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  • Darren
    June 12, 2007

    I searched for flickr on facebook and found 5 applications. Has anyone tested the 5 different ones and found one they consider the best?

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  • Eliot
    June 12, 2007

    So.. uh.. what exactly would a Church application be? I don’t need a What Would Jesus Facebook application. I don’t want “Testamints” for Facebook. I can’t think of too much I would want that is from a church on my Facebook.
    Maybe I’m just not seeing the grand picture?? Anyone want to fill me in?

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  • Rob
    June 12, 2007

    I’ve got a Myspace and a Facebook page. I use them to keep in touch with kids from the youth group, especially college kids that are practically impossible to keep tabs on otherwise. I like Facebook waaaaay more, for a number of reasons, not least of which is I don’t get spammed for viagra and webcams every day like I do on Myspace. Since I work with some younger teens too, I worry what they might find on myspace by clicking through my page to a friend’s page and their friend’s and their friend’s, assuming that it must be safe since they started with me. There seems to be way more smut on myspace. So I told the kids to come over to facebook and I set up a group just for youth group kids and their families. I use it to send out updates and to recruit for events, but mostly just to keep in touch.

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  • Geoff Brown
    June 13, 2007

    I hate to do a “me too” post, but my experience with both Facebook and MySpace is the same as Rob’s except that I haven’t set up a group yet.
    One thing that adults using Facebook (in particular) need to be aware of is that this site is still perceived by many young people to be “their thing” and that the presence of adults is sometimes seen as infringement on their turf.

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  • brad
    June 14, 2007

    For me the question of how many social-type websites to join is pertinent. Running the communications department for the missions wing of an entire denomination, I’m dealing with a wide variety of technical ability and interest out there. If I sent out an e-mail telling our people we have yet another site to join every couple of months, no-one would pay attention anymore. Not to mention all the work that I would be doing to try and manually update information in five (or ten…or twenty?) different places!
    All that in addition to how sketchy Facebook is (privacy issues) means that I’m going to give this one a miss. Plus I think it’s going to burn itself out rather quickly. I’ve heard of several people that are already unplugging from it — once the novelty of re-experiencing your whole past is over, the attractiveness fades. But that’s okay, another raging fad will come along soon to take its place….
    But I gotta say this: If you’re called to minister on Facebook (etc.), don’t let my words deter you. I agree with above sentiments that the church needs to be out there more, where people are at. And, for this brief moment at least, that’s where people are!

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  • Matt Hogg
    June 15, 2007

    Some of your the responses on here are interesting. In the UK facebook is growing rapidly – particularly in the last 6 months. It is especially popular with uni students.
    I think this is where using facebook can be done to target communication at a particular group of people. We have a church facebook group which can also have events – I can then invite our group to the event (they can say if they are attending, maybe attending or missing out). The really easy/cool feature though is that you can set the event up so they can then invite their friends. We’ve had some students baptised recently who used facebook as an easy way to invite everyone from church – but also their non-christian friends at uni too.
    There’s also potential to use their very cheap ‘flyers’ adverts if you have someone in a particular college/uni network you want to reach. It’s only $5 for 10,000 hits (if you are in that college network – 2,500 hits if you’re not).
    I imagine for the next few years this will be particularly useful for reaching and keeping teens and twenties. As they grow older, they may stick with it – or dump it – but that doesn’t really matter. Facebook is definitely making an impact on how we reach and keep our students and twenties.
    With regards to facebook applications – I too am unsure where this could go? I feel there is potential for too much tacky stuff!

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  • Eric
    June 17, 2007

    Ironically, I found this site through the Facebook “causes” application. It sounded interesting, and now that I have found it, it has proven enlightening as well. As a college student at a large university, I can testify that a great majority of the students that I know use Facebook frequently. Many of my friends have been active with Facebook for nearly 2 years and are not “tired of a passing fad”. The new applications have not only made Facebook more interesting for current users, but have also caught the attention of MySpace users and have helped Facebook continue to grow rapidly. People are starting to use these applications for some great causes, and there are a lot of people spending their time on Facebook with purpose. I would definitely like to encourage people (especially those who are technically savvy, which I am not) to continue coming up with new ideas for “Facebook ministry”!

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  • Brad Christian
    June 17, 2007

    Facebook Facebook Facebook – Being a college student. I LIVE on Facebook. I don’t know about starting a church on facebook (you have secondlife for starting digital churches)
    Facebook is a marketing tool that churches can use. The Venezuelan riots were organized on Facebook. UNC Chapel Hill used Facebook to get people to attend a public break up that set a world record.
    If you are trying to reach people 16-28 (especially students) Facebook is a must.

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  • Ministry Management Guy
    September 21, 2007

    Facebook is not a community. 24 million people is the wild. Without a localized setting, reaching out to new people will always be seen as weird.

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  • Megan
    October 2, 2007

    What do you do when people post things, create groups, etc that don’t represent the church, give the wrong impression. Aren’t there risks? Do you try to manage all of it?

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  • Melissa
    July 3, 2008

    First of all Kevin, I completely agree with your opinions of Facebook and how the church should get more involved. It is not necessary to develop more Christian web 2.0 sites. Instead, lets create an app for Facebook (where all your memebers are anyways). The app doesn’t have to be wwjd do or the daily bible verse. However, it could be a way to journal about your daily devotions. What you read and your thoughts about the passage. With the capability to give your friends a chance to comment on your thought and new findings. The church needs to use Facebook and other web 2.0 tools to connect more effectively with their members. Web 2.0 is not a replacement for physical relationships but a supplement and extension of the physical relationship.
    Check us out…

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  • Matt Johnson
    July 25, 2008

    I am starting to experiment with Facebook for our church. We have found a lot of amazing ways to take advantage of the Pages and Groups sections. We are utilizing the Groups pages as ways to connect specific area of the church. We have multiple sites, so each site has a dedicated Facebook Group. We have also created one central Fans Page. This seems to be very effective because you can utilize Facebook applications within this sections. We are currently at about 400 Facebook members on our Fans Page. We have 300+ in 3 groups pages. The amazing thing about this is that we are not even promoting these portals. We are planning to push these portals through our website. This should increase traffic to the pages to about 1,000 unique visitors a week. I think this tool is a great way to utilize social medias to connect believers for the lord.

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  • Angela
    January 5, 2009

    I used one of the ‘gift app creator’ apps to create a FB app for our church. I called it ‘Church Stuff‘ (not very imaginitive), and put photos of things that are relevant to our denomination or our own congregation. Hopefully a bit of fun and a bit of outreach.

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