Praying in the Digital Space
When we think about designing a new church website or consider a church social media strategy, it’s easy to fall into a traditional model of “broadcast” thinking – what information do we as church want to share with our audience, both parishioners and potential newcomers? Information sharing and story-telling are certainly important. Yet the power of today’s digital and social media is that it doesn’t have to be a one-way conversation. Social media is inherently social – the power of today’s media is in its ability to facilitate two-way conversations. Not only can we share information and tell our stories, but we can use our digital platforms to engage in deep conversations. Social media gives us expanded ways to practice relational ministry.
Consider the ministry of prayer. Extending, enriching and sharing home prayer life is a role that church social media can encourage. Rather than thinking of prayer as something that only happens in a specific place or a specific time, we can help people see that they can pray anywhere and any time, using the digital devices that are always close at hand!
Here are some ways -
- Prayer prompts can be created and shared. Here’s an article from Building Faith showing how one congregation developed a “Prayer of the Week” practice, crafting specific written prayers, showcasing them in an attractive graphic design, and scheduling them for sharing on a weekly basis. This might be a great starting point for people who are uncertain of how to begin a regular home prayer practice.
- Social media can elicit prayer needs – formally and informally. Many people turn to social media in times of crisis to request prayer for themselves or others. We can intentionally include these pleas not only in a spur of the moment prayer but in other daily prayer practices. Also, we can consider the more mundane postings that occur every day – what are these posts about? Family concerns? Daily joys and sorrows? Glimpses of humor or beauty in day-to-day life? How might we reference these intentionally in our prayers rather than just responding online with a click or comment? Each post can invite us to relate more deeply to one another, and to include one another in prayer. Here’s an article from Vibrant Faith that explains how to make this an intentional practice.
- Social media can be a space for intentional prayer communities. Creating a Facebook group (which can be public or privately organized) allows the opportunity for a defined community to form in which people can ask for and receive prayer. Twitter offers the opportunity for a less defined community – prayer can be organized around a hashtag and/or a set time for a Twitter chat dedicated to giving and receiving prayer.
- Don’t forget – prayer need not only be written or spoken word! Today’s social media platforms are visually-oriented. Visual prayers can be invited and suggested, encouraging people to respond to words or themes. Canva is a great tool for creating attractive combinations of words and images; and Instagram is a social media platform best designed to share visual imagery. The Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE) brilliantly creates visual prayer prompts and encourages others to create imagery. SSJE's Brother Give Us a Word initiative offers beautiful visual memes; and every year their #adventword initiative unites hundreds of thousands of people worldwide to share prayers identified by hashtag across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
When designing church websites and social media strategy, it’s easy to forget that we have the power to transform not just our communications ministries but our prayer ministries as well. With a little intentionality, we can use these tools to deeply enrich and enhance our own practices as well as the prayer lives of those we serve.
Our goal at Membership Vision is to help churches and other faith communities to tell their stories in the digital space. Each church, irrespective of size, has a living and active story to tell, and technology provides an opportunity to share that story in a way that is welcoming and engaging. Technology can also distract us and keep us from connecting with one another. It can be a burden to keep communications current, to engage in the many ways that members of your community connect with each other, both inside and outside of the church walls. We aim to remove technological hurdles and allow churches to communicate online in an effective and sustainable way. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (805) 626-0143 to talk about the ways we can help your church build a digital presence.