Connection Over Content: Should the Church Take a Page from Facebook?

Facebook changes something every couple months. The design, the newsfeed algorithm, the relationship with advertisers—this change is different. There is a clarity around the priority of relationships and reducing the content that gets in the way.”

This is how RJ Grunewald of Orange Leaders assessed Facebook’s priority shift a couple of years ago (“What Facebook Knows that Churches Don’t”).

Before it became many other things, social media was an easy way to stay connected with people around the world and around the clock. I joined Facebook in March 2005, a little over a year after it launched. (Yes, you read that right.) I had moved halfway across the country to attend graduate school and missed my family and friends. This new way to keep in touch was simple and appealing.

A lot can change in 15 years. When I first joined, an .edu email address was still required, which limited Facebook to users who were typically over 18 and connected with educational institutions. Long before “Timeline,” “News Feed,” and the “Like” button were activated, the “Profile” was our post-login landing page, and friends wrote back and forth on each other’s “Wall” because commenting directly on a status update was not possible in the early days.

Consider that: in order to reply to a friend’s status update, I had to intentionally visit her Facebook page and write on her wall. If she wanted to continue the conversation, she had to return to my wall and do the same. If I liked a friend’s status post and wanted to express it, then I went to his profile and said so via typing on his wall. As Facebook evolved, direct interaction opportunities like this were losing in favor of content delivery.

The arrival of advertisements, business pages, and media outlets connected us to brands, services, and news interests. With millions of users of all ages, backgrounds, and interests to appeal to, scrolling through “News Feed” became more about finding or sorting through content and less about connecting with people. As friends’ posts disappeared from our feeds, we spent more time passively watching viral videos instead of actively connecting.

Is something similar happening in the church? Are we just scrolling through events and programs without really connecting with one another?

Jesus connected with people. Meaningful connections with people are critical for sharing the Good News. Is Facebook onto something that churches can improve upon as well? Grunewald, stated:

The Church has always, at some level, been in the content delivery business. From writing to teaching to preaching, Churches have something to say. It’s part of what it means to be the Church. However, the problem comes when our churches make content delivery the win. When content delivery is the win, we build events, programs, and messaging simply to deliver the most content to the most people. When content delivery is the win, we focus on what instead of who.”

Reality Changing Observations:

Q1. How might the Church use content to create meaningful interactions between people?

Q2. In what other ways can technology develop or change to better facilitate authentic human connection?

Q3. If you have noticed this change in your feed, how has it impacted your use of Facebook?

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