One of the biggest challenges a church will have to answer over the next few years is how to continue to stay relevant and connected in a virtual society. For many community happens not in an auditorium on Sunday morning or in a small group on Wednesday night but on Facebook at 2:00 a.m. Communication is no longer a letter, a phone call or even an email; many people exchange information in 140 characters or less through a text message or a status update on Twitter. Community is out, social networking is in. Churches that don't connect in this new world will eventually be out of the loop in reaching the next generation, but connecting can be overwhelming because of the speed of change.
While the book Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies is written for businesses, it is also a good resource for churches trying to stay up with the change and form a vision for social networking. The authors begin with several cautionary examples of companies and industries that have been caught off guard by the sudden rise of social networking, a rise they call the Groundswell. They then give an overview of the general social networking landscape and define the technologies available. Finally they lay out a strategy for companies who desire to effectively engage this online community. While parts of Groundswell aren't applicable to the average church, it is a great resource for understanding what is ahead.
Should your church have a presence on Facebook? Should your pastor write a blog? Could a private social network be a supplement to your small groups? Could a social network replace your small groups? These are the kinds of questions all of us will have to find answers to; Groundswell is a good resource to begin the search.