Facebook and new churches

LifeChurch.tv are attempting to start a church through the Facebook platform, or at least help create new aggregations through leveraging the Facebook API. More about it here from Bobby Gruenewald.

As for me, I find Facebook annoying, especially the zillion friend requests I get each day. However, I should really ask:

1. Anyone else doing this?

2. Pros and cons?

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Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name “Precious” :-)

31 Comments

  • I just sent you a Facebook friend invite j/k 🙂
    I would be interested in getting feedback from your readers. If they have a chance to install the Facebook application, we have live experiences at 11pm (GMT) tonight and 3pm or 4:30pm (GMT) tomorrow.
    Thank you.

  • I may not be the most qualified person to answer this question, since I have never had a facebook account (and only set up a myspace account so that I could listen to music and comment on one particular friend’s site). My wife does facebook a wee little bit. Still, I think I’ve gotten a pretty clear vibe on how it works.
    I’m not entirely sure I understand how reading and leaving little smidgets of messages fits into po-mo “church” insofar as we’re talking about corporate worship and so forth. Maybe it could be a helpful community building tool (and some view church as needing to be no more than this… i digress), but I’m not so sure about an ‘experience’. But maybe I’m missing something.
    But a thought crushed my mind a few weeks ago about the whole facebook thing in general. As I was sitting, thinking about blogging (not about the act of blogging, but the idea of it), I was curious that blogger-type blogs, myspace, and facebook are all considered blogs, yet they’re extremely different in nature. It seems that there are ‘different crowds’ per se whose niche is either facebook-style or blogger-style (would it make you feel better if i said typepad-style?). Here’s what i found fascinating. It seems that the myspace types are really into maintaining about 100 different surface level relationships… keeping their hands in as many pots as possible so as not to ‘miss out’ on what’s happening with everyone else. It’s like hyper-reality gossip TV, if you will, except the gossip is firsthand so it wouldn’t technically qualify as gossip. But you get the idea. Then you have the blogger types who tend to be more ‘subject-focused’ (i.e. interested in conversations about particular topics), and who tend to desire fewer but deeper levels of relationship via the blogosphere. Even within this realm, you have those (like myself) who use their blogs as somewhat of a journalistic (and/or pastoral) outlet, as well as those who (like you, Andrew) like to share usually brief synopses and lots of great links to thought-provoking articles and such, as well as chronicling the day-to-days of interesting life (many of us, if we took the latter approach would simply bore people to death because of our painfully uneventful lives).
    Anywho, since the topic was on the table, I thought I’d see what you all thought about the nature of these different types of e-communication and how healthy or unhealthy, useful or unproductive, they might be for the body of Christ. But who knows… maybe everyone’s participation will debunk my theory that facebookers are interested in chat rather than dialogue! That is, if they show up. 😉 I’m teasing… a little.

  • i have just started on facebook, i have found it good for “actually reality” social networking … (i think myspace allows people to “create” their online identity)
    I have also started a group for church and it is a pretty cool communication tool…
    I think facebook rocks (unless you are famous and everybody wants to add you…. oh the pain that TSK must feel 😉

  • bobby – thanks. i will probably respond to your invitation.
    matt – good thinking and worth further thought. i am recently seeing two groups: those that like real time discussion (skypers, video chatters, MUD, etc) and those that prefer non-real time interaction (bloggers, email, etc)
    i wonder which one of these the Facebook crowd fall into?

  • I was in my latter stages of college when facebook came out around 4 years ago. I spent a year or so after that working with college students at a church. Facebook was great when we met someone on campus or at a party we threw so we could get to know them a little bit better and figure out which of our team could relate to them the best. We also communicated alot of little stuff (like small group meetings) and it proved to be helpful instead of the quick voice mail message.
    When facebook opened up for everyone it seemed to grow alot, but I think it was really designed to work best in a campus setting. But I think that the average almost 30 year old is still communicating in the forms that they were when they were in college so it could very well maintain it’s status as a viable communication method.

  • Matt,
    Just to clarify…our live “experiences” incorporate streaming video worship/teaching, video and text chat and several other things. We are using the Facebook platform to connect people to these events and to each other.
    I agree with your thoughts that people use these technology tools in different ways or to different degrees. I think the same thing that you are describing happens within Facebook. Some people are highly selective about adding friends and are looking to create a relatively tight network of relationships that have much more of a dialog. Others are “collecting” friends and merely chatting from time to time. Yet others are probably a bit of hybrid…they have many friends, but the conversations stays pretty centered around a few topics and/or small subset of those friends.
    I’m not a Facebook fanatic…I just see it as a tool.

  • Andrew…Facebook is actually both. I think that is why you see people engaging with it in such different ways. Some people are active at updating their status (similar to twitter). Others are simply sending messages or writing on “walls”…those are not viewed as being as “instant”, but more like email.
    I didn’t actually send you an invite…I couldn’t distinguish which of the 300 results for Andrew Jones was you 🙂 You are welcome to send me one…there are not many “Bobby Gruenewald” search results.

  • I had the facebook idea before facebook came out. I wanted to start an online application for our community where people would talk back and forth to each other, have all their book library listed where people could share their books and any other resources, post all sermon materials, links to other articles and resources. Then facebook came out and everyone started using it which now makes me wish i could develop an app (which i may do one day) specially for our community to just use that instead of providing an entire new system instead create a smaller system inside the big one.

  • Andrew, as a youth director I find Facebook a great tool for communicating with my teens. It also gives me a pretty good idea as to who’s putting on the show on Sundays. As far as the friend requests go, I never add anyone I don’t know and I keep my profile page plane jane.

  • I love facebook, and the dynamic it gives to the (admittedly pre-existing) communities I’m part of. We use Facebook groups to welcome new folks, share dum stuff, talk about what God is doing etc, and communicate news. It really fosters a sense of belonging, and is another avenue for feedback and discussion. What I love is that it brings a kind of community into an area that for many still seems quite cut off and isolated (for all the talk of web 2.0 I think for most the internet is still quite a solitary space.)
    Like your realtime distinction – although FB can be realtime. Have you seen me.dium.com?

  • Facebook church is a bad idea.
    Why? Facebook is already a church, that’s why.
    To launch a Facebook “church” it just to re-invent the wheel. It is not a community wanting another community. People get on facebook because they want to engage people in the already established facebook community. If they wanted a different community, they would seek it out, methinks.
    Plus the medium is not exactly conducive for spiritual experience.
    I don’t want to break stuff down for the sake of breaking it down, however. That does no one any good, and the truth is, Livechurch sounds like they want to advance the values of the Kingdom of Heaven in a way that will reach those it is currently not reaching.
    I’m all for this.
    So, as far as that goes (which is very far in my opinion), this is the pro.
    The con of it is that it is not a very good idea. It is not as far reaching or as effective as they want to maybe believe.
    Who knows.
    I hope they prove me wrong and attract millions of people to the values of the Kingdom!!!
    cb

  • As is often the case, it almost doesn’t matter whether we like it or not, because Facebook is where it’s at. As believers, we need to find a way to use it to reach people for Christ. There is one “praise” application entitled “Give It Up To God,” but no one that is really using Facebook to further the gospel. In fact, that is exactly the topic of discussion over at talkministry.com.

  • I am on facebook. I have found it helpful to reconnect with a few old friends. It can become a partial waste of time. I think that there are people who might like the way it does not require face-to-face interaction (you can simply “poke” someone, for crying out loud, to get their attention – you don’t even need to write anything down!) But overall, I think it can be a good tool, if people use it intelligently. Many friends in the emergent community here in Canada are using it well. When my kids grow up (they are 6 and 9 now) I will need to figure out how much I want them to reveal about themselves on something like facebook, or bebo, or whatever. That day may come sooner than later! I have misgivings about how much our children may sometimes end up posting on the web, and who is reading those posts (not only their friends?). Anyone have thoughts on this?
    Michel in Canada.

  • I just attended the facebook internet campus of lifechurch.tv and was really inspired by it. I see facebook as a potential for networking in order to attract people to the internet campus – but as an over 40 netizen I really dont get much value out of facebook other than a diversion from the mundane. However even facebook is quite mundane IMO. At least its better than myspace. I did myspace for about a month – I might be able to keep facebook going longer – You can actually follow a dialog in it. Great job bobby on the lifechurch facebook campus!

  • Andrew and Bobby,
    I posted my initial reactions and (hopefully constructive) criticism to the LifeChurch Facebook app over on Stephen Shields blog (faithmaps.wordpress.com). Here’s what I wrote over there:
    I think the new media stuff that LifeChurch is pioneering is really great, but … I just have a problem with calling this app “Church.” Why not just call it “LifeChurch,” which is their “brand” anyway? Why make THEIR church’s app THE “Church” app on Facebook? That seems, well, a bit arrogant and presumptuous, honestly. I’m immediately turned off and wishing for some other “Church” app to be created so that I can install THAT one instead of this one. Am I cynical or what? 😉 Seriously, though, claiming the name “Church” is a bit over-the-top.
    On the bright side: I guess it’s better than the Mormons getting to it first. Or the Rev. Sun Young Moon. Or (gasp) the Scientologists!
    OK I’m done. That was a fun rant. I enjoyed it. I hope you did too. (sigh)
    Here’s one last thought: Maybe LifeChurch should open up their “Church” app (much like how Facebook has opened up their API) for other Christian developers to make “Church” on Facebook truly representative of the worldwide body of Christ (not just one megachurch in the U.S.). Just an idea …
    Onward and upward,
    Steve K.

  • Steve,
    You are reading mind…In fact, we hope to make most all of the technology we build available to others in the same way we share our videos/graphics for free. The challenge is the timing of such an initiative. Since very few churches have an online church experience/service (more than just a webcast), we didn’t prioritize making this particular app available yet. Perhaps that will change soon.
    Though I appreciate what you are saying about the name…we certainly didn’t want the effort to come across as arrogant or presumptive.
    You are always welcome to give your feedback on our blog (http://swerve.lifechurch.tv)…I always appreciate the feedback, but I rarely catch of the comments throughout the blogging world.
    Thanks

  • i’m on facebook. i’m actually considering a facebook fast bacause:
    1. it is messing with my sense of self worth and identity. seeing my friends interacting with each other and not initiating anything with me, or not even responding to my initiating, is starting to get to me!
    2. our church has tried using facebook as a way of communicating/discussing etc but it doesn’t seem to do what we want it to do. it may just be the people in our church – i loved the blog we had but that didn’t seem to get any momentum.
    3. facebook has been great for catching up with good old friends but i feel i’ve lost out somewhere in ‘real’ community. it has left me feeling wanting.
    4. as i consider a facebook fast my biggest fear is that i’d end up missing out on something special. that scares me!! surely the special things are the things that pass between people when they get together and share life.
    5. as a mum of 2 small ones facebook seems to offer me lots of support and frindship but when i need somewhere to go and plonk myself down, drink tea and fall apart, facebook is a poor substitute for the neighbour who i could have been chatting to if i wasn’t checking facebook to see if i had any friend requests!
    having spent several years in a church that liked it’s 5-point (or whatever number) messages, this is my 5 point reflection on facebook!!
    lovelovelove
    bea

  • I’ve worked with youth for over 20 years, and the number of them who have re-connected with me via Facebook have made it very worthwhile.
    And even my 70-year-old mother is on Facebook!

  • This is so affirming for me! I completely agree with Bea & Matt: I gave up my myspace account because I found myself involved in the “gossiping” and wanting to know what was going on with everyone else & what they were saying to other people. And then found myself hurt when no one left comments for me. I decided that I just didn’t need that nonsense in my life and I’ve felt so free since then!
    Granted, I LOVED connecting with old friends – that was fantastic, but I feel that this forum needs a bit more refining before I’ll get involved again.
    Glad to know I’m not the only one! I actually got ridicule because I closed my account. But I was also finding my friends socializing behind their computer screens and not out & about involved with one another. As technology evolves, I feel like it’s a balance we’ll have to find.

  • well, i facebook and myspace. but my facebook was set up by a college girl i discipled. honestly, i log on more there than myspace. i dunno- perhaps largely bc i don’t see it as a tool used to scam for dates and such. but it’s not different than friendster in that way.
    facebook- lots of my students (since i work for a university) use it. so it’s just a way i stay connected to them. it’s funny though- they check facebook more than email and txt msging!! it’s funny that in the last year, it’s gone international. i see the english use it a lot to stay in touch!
    however- facebook also has its scary points. it’s increased the level of stalking around campus and control/abusive type relationships. there was a whole segment devoted to the misuses of facebook at the freshmen orientation!
    it does have fun applications… not just music and movie favorite clips. ppl are constantly writing new programs to interface with facebook. you can make groups and do invites and such. so that’s appealing to those who have an attention span of a gnat. it does increase community moreso than myspace.
    anyways- it’s fun. it’s useful. but it’s also an addiction prob for most.

  • Yeh, I use it but I haven’t decided to keep it.. friend requests I can live with but the zillion GROUP requests and the zillion PLUGINS..

  • Multiple churches are creating apps on Facebook. We built LifeChurch’s app, and we’re allowing any church to have a presence on Facebook through the application platform.
    Click on my name to find out more.
    joe

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