Facebook Pastors: Interview
Prac interview with Daniel Harding
The missional church values connection to people and the potential of hyper connectivity, offered by social media, should be something that we harness for our benefit. The most prevalent social media platform in the Australian context is Facebook. Crossover Online ran a series of interviews in 2010 with ‘Facebook Pastors’; Pastors who use the medium to great effect in their ministry. One such pastor is Dan Harding, Executive Pastor of City Life Christian Church in Brisbane (Now Life Point Church). We spoke to Dan about the integral part Facebook plays in the life and ministry of City Life.
To get started, tell us a bit about your church and what you do.
City Life Christian Church started roughly six years ago as 5 people praying in a bedroom; that their friends would come to saving faith in Jesus. We now have a morning congregation consisting (mostly) of young families. We also have two night congregations meeting on university campuses, consisting mostly of 20-35yr olds.
How long have you been using Facebook in ministry and why did you start?
We have been using Facebook since around mid- 2007 – whenever it opened up to non-US college students. It was a natural way for us to connect with the people in our church and those we were trying to introduce to Jesus’ message of grace.
How does City Life use Facebook as a mission tool?
Facebook provides an incredibly consistent and personal connection with friends and networks. Regulars in our community can stay in touch with what’s happening and can easily invite their friends to events. For some of our events, people in the church have sent out over 6,000 Facebook invitations!
What percentage of your target group are Facebook or social media users?
About 30-40% of our night congregations have iPhones, so our target group is highly connected. Rough estimates would put our morning congregation at about 50-60% Facebook users, and we would be shocked to find anyone at our night congregations who is NOT on Facebook!
If Facebook was to shut down overnight, would social media still be an integral part of your ministry?
Definitely. Social media (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, Bebo) seems increasingly to be integrating into the way we do life. So much of our community’s life is integrated with social media (conversations, relationships, events, parties), it is naturally a part of everything we do.
Is Facebook an effective missional tool? Do you have any success stories?
Absolutely. While it is by no means a replacement for other missional tools, it is a new (albeit experimental) medium to connect, communicate and care for a community.
Tim (not his real name) invited his friend to an outreach series on Facebook. After sending out the invitation, a friend responded to Tim via Facebook to ask questions about the series and the Gospel. After explaining the message of forgiveness through faith in Jesus, Tim invited his friend to repent and become a Christian, online. He led him through prayer and the guy became a Christian…on Facebook!
A number of people have come to our outreach series purely through clicking on a paid advertisement on their Facebook page. Others have been interested in exploring faith, have found us online via our website, or Facebook, and have invited themselves along. They could check out the details of the event, see who else was going and “get a feel” for us before attending on their own. It breaks down the initial “I don’t know anyone” feeling that newcomers typically experience.
Have you found any downsides?
There are privacy “risks” in using Facebook, but other than the odd person (usually a Christian) defaming our Facebook page, we have not experienced any downsides as a mission organisation.
How many people are connected to your church on Facebook?
We currently have 555 people in our Facebook Group, City Life. More importantly, however, the combined total of unique friends connected to our pastoral team is approximately 2,500.