If your church isn’t social, Facebook won’t help

The notion has been proposed that Facebook is killing the church, drawing people away by competing for their time and interest. Less face time, more on line.

While not denying that’s plausible, over at Religious Dispatches, Elizabeth Drescher floats another notion inspired by the fact that Facebook can be complement face time — strengthen relationships established in the flesh world. There’s a twist, however:

Not Enough Social to Go Around

The relationships among the undergraduates in Beck’s research were not formed on Facebook, they were enriched by students’ continued digital contact. The problem with regard to churches and other religious communities (and we see this over and over again with Facebook group pages whose only visitors are the minister and the technophile parishioner who championed the church’s foray into the digital domain) seems to be that there’s not enough social to go around.

That is, if church were, indeed, a robustly social experience, Facebook would enrich and extend that experience, enhancing week-to-week retention through ongoing conversation with valued friends—just as it appears to do with undergraduates moving from the first to the second year of college. Thin connections in face-to-face settings are not magically transformed by technology.

Mobile computing and associated social media have not replaced the main draw of the traditional church: spiritual connection in social context. But they have made it more difficult to mask the modern, broadcast-era practice of social and spiritual disconnectedness that plays out as much in generic coffee hour chitchat about football scores and the latest lame Seth Rogan chucklefest as it does in Facebook pages that enable participants (really, the old Facebook “fan” terminology is more accurate) to see a church’s message and comment on it, but which don’t invite genuine, person-to-person or people-to-world interactivity.

Pure cynicism? Or has Drescher put her finger on something real, the zombie church?

Read it all at Facebook Doesn’t Kill Churches, Churches Kill Churches

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