How to Talk About the Bible on Social Media
6 tips to start the conversation
“The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.”
(John 1:14 MSG).
Who is your neighbor? In a time when nearly 70 percent of Americans are on social media, we can think of “neighboring” in terms of both physical space and cyberspace. Just as we seek to bring the Word-made-flesh into our physical neighborhoods, we can also bring Jesus into our online communities. But how do we do this?
When I started actively engaging in Twitter—because as a writer I thought, I guess I have to do this for marketing—I felt like I was a minnow swimming in the waters of a deep, endless ocean full of sharks. I couldn’t see how being a good neighbor to others had anything to do with social media. But as I learned how to relate and interact with others online, I began to see them as neighbors. I had a whole new community in which to live biblically.
For instance, when race relations came into the spotlight in my city, I realized that I had very few people of color influencing my thoughts and my faith. Through social media, I was exposed to new podcasts, started hearing about influential books by people of color, and was invited into the conversation.
Certainly, there is no substitute for actual relationships, but social media provides me with a way of listening to those I wouldn’t normally hear. It gives me a way to connect with those beyond my physical reach, a way to freshly engage my spiritual life. I recently participated in a Twitter chat about the Holy Spirit, and the imagery that came from it had me in tears. Participants reminded me of Scripture I had forgotten, and in doing so enlarged my perspective of the God I love.
Rather than thinking of social media only as an advertising tool, I started looking at it as a way to interact honestly with neighbors. I began to wonder, “How could this be a tool to engage others with Scripture?”
Here are six take-aways I’ve gleaned from engaging in online communities. Perhaps they will be helpful for those of you starting to think about using social media to facilitate conversations around Bible-reading:
- The neighborhood, first and foremost, is diverse. We can’t assume that users of social media are all millennials. Do your research to learn the different demographics of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, and plan your interaction accordingly.
- Choose one or two social platforms for building relationships and learn all you can about the best ways of communicating on those platforms. There are research tools for all of them: Facebook groups, Twitter lists, and Twitter chats. You can choose from an array of podcasts, articles, and many social media tools (some free) that can help you schedule posts ahead of time, make a social media plan, and even create cool graphics without much effort so you can fit more naturally into your chosen neighborhood.
- Social media is not a place for neutrality. It’s not that you have to take a stance on every issue, but you (or your church or organization) should speak up—graciously—for what you feel passionate about. It’s important not to sacrifice authenticity to gain followers.
- And yet social media is not a podium. If we apply marketing tactics to enhance our engagement strategies, then 80 percent of what you post on social media shouldn’t be your own content. If we want others to consume our content, we must be reading, listening, and curating more than we are talking. In his book Thin Places: Six Postures for Creating and Practicing Missional Community, John Huckins says, “While listening seems like a basic skill that doesn’t require much effort to develop, in many ways it has become a lost art.” If social media becomes a place where Christians aren’t listening to one another or the wider culture, the church will be worse off for it.
- Be personable, and personal. And if you are acting as a church or organization, find a way to show the humanity within your group. People engage with organizations that they develop a personal connection with.
- Don’t be afraid to engage with those who don’t share your opinion, but mind your tone. It’s quite easy to throw stones on social media, attacking others and dodging the verbal stones thrown at you. But the Bible advises us to season our speech with salt, taking advantage of opportunities for savory communication with others. Scripture is living and powerful and reverberates well through the medium of relationships—even online relationship. The platforms of social media can serve as places where we make Scripture come alive as we seek to incarnate Christ in our questions, responses, and interactions with those in our online neighborhood.
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