Do you remember this fingerplay rhyme? This is the church. This is the steeple. Open the doors. And there’s all the people. Not anymore!

When Jesus invited the disciples to ‘follow me,’ He taught in the temple AND on the shore. Where are the people on the shore today? Google Insights reports that every month, more than 30,000 people search “church online.” (p. 12) This means that 30,000 people are searching for Christian connections online. The internet is not what people do, it’s where we live. And it lives in our hand.

Social Media to Social Ministry: A Guide to Digital Discipleship, written by Nona Jones, is hot off the presses with multiple references to quarantine and church life as we now know it. Nona Jones is the head of global faith-based partnership at Facebook and lives in Gainesville, Florida where she co-leads a church with her husband. She’s in the trenches.

I’d heard her several times on various podcasts and couldn’t wait to get my hands on a printed copy of her research, her suggestions, and her knowledge. I read this book in one day and it’s already so written in that I’m almost embarrassed to send it to my daughter in Oregon. We both have a heart and hunger to share Jesus with families wherever they are.

Mrs. Jones gives all the practical tips to move social media from being a billboard and Sunday-message-only to a place where discipleship and relationship grows. Though there are other social media platforms, Facebook is the best place with tools already in place to offer Christian education, Christian fellowship, and Christian pastoral care. Really!

Before you get all ‘There’s nothing good on Facebook’, “Right now three out of four Americans are on Facebook. If 75 percent of your community were located on one side of town, in one neighborhood, would you refuse to put a location there?” (p. 16) Relationships are the basis for discipleship. Our roles are to provide intentional opportunities for ‘building relationships and facilitating connections so discipleship can happen.’ (p. 25) Discipleship happens when a more mature, disciplined person walks alongside in robust learning and conversation with a less mature, less disciplined person to help them along their way based on Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12 which begins, “Two are better than one….”

Online ministry to families is walking alongside the bigs with teaching and conversation so fully it overflows into their littles in everyday life. It overflows into their conversations, their prayers, their practices, their habits, their hopes, their dreams, and their laughter. Facebook groups offer the feedback loop that is crucial to sticky discipleship online. The author offers multiple suggestions to grow a church’s discipleship even within the livestream. Because I am ‘on’ during the livestream, I can’t do a thing about that, but I can do other things.

On a Saturday night I started a Facebook Group for grandparents to make sharing their faith a priority with their grandchildren. I have an event coming up, but decided to start the community beforehand. Tying it to our children’s ministry page, I invited a handful of folks I knew were grandparents. Following the tips provided within the book and multiple online conversations, that handful of grandparents had grown the group to 30 by Monday morning. I’ve never had a small group grow to 30 within two days of open registration. You? This is a new small group, they have begun the conversations, and the discipleship has begun. One week in and we are at a small group of an active 46.

More to think about…
“People under age thirty-four make up 63% of Facebook users.” (p. 51)
“Eight out of ten Americans actively use Facebook.” (p. 53)
“People may leave other social platforms with new information, but not necessarily with new friendships.” (p. 57)
“The Church is called to be more than a ‘house of content.’ We are called to be the light of the world.” (p. 55)
“The reason so many pastors (and staff) limit their online churches to livestreaming is because we have forgotten what church is: people.” (p. 67)
“Online church has the capacity to minister to people’s lives 168 hours per week. Every second. Every minute. Every hour. Every day. Every week. Every month. Every year. Life transformation doesn’t happen by osmoses every Sunday, so why would we think it could happen that way online?” (p. 67)
“Online church is real church because it’s filled with real people who need a real Savior.” Nona Jones, Social Media to Social Ministry, p. 33.

“Go and make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:19a