Summertime can be a challenging time to gather people in person around a Bible or other book study. Our sister brings an idea for a Facebook group bible study, and would like to hear from some of us who have had some experience with this means of interaction.
Somewhere, sometime during Lent an idea was posted in the comments section of RevGals...about starting a FB group bible study. Intrigued, I made a mental note to myself to file this away. Now, as summertime approaches I am wondering about doing something like this for summer. Here is what I am working with.
1. Very few people in the congregation are on FB.
2. The church does not have a FB page.
3. I do have a FB page.
4. I made the decision to include parishioners if they friended me...I won't post anything on FB that I would not say in a public space.
5. One of our very few younger working women has expressed an interest in a bible study which does not meet at night or during work hours.
Here is what I am thinking/pondering/asking:
1. What has been the experience of those who have done this?
2. Any unforeseen pitfalls that occured?
3. I could see some of our "very interested (read nosy, gossipers) signing up just to "keep tabs"...not with the intent of participating. Am I being overly concerned there?
4. This has the potential to reach those who do not attend, not members, but are social media types
I realize perhaps not a typical AtM...but I always glean so much wisdom from the "M's" and other who comment. Thanks.
Martha, who blogs at Reflectionary, has some experience using social media in this manner…
I tried adding a blog component to a Bible Study last fall, but I found writing up the topics of the day after teaching the class was more of a time commitment than I could make. It took over an hour to write an adequate blog post, and after spending 90 minutes in the class itself, I had to move on to other things. I feel badly, because one of our younger working moms was reading it and left some comments.
If I were going to do an online Bible Study for church via Facebook, I would use the closed group option. A group is great because all those subscribed get notifications of activity, so there are prompts to keep up. A closed group means people can't stop by just to snoop. They have to be *in* the group.
The drawback of the closed group, obviously, is it's not an effective outreach tool unless you have another page from which to promote it and invite people. And if, as you point out, there aren't many church folks on Facebook, it may not be the best "setting." Like any other church activity, social media requires critical mass to feel like a thing that's actually happening.
Hope this helps.
I have been involved in both the congregations that have a fb presence and those who do not. I'm not sure I would use a Bible study as a reason to get people on fb. There are challenges with a congregation that expects fb to be used as a communication tool (how come you didn't see that my status update said that my grandmother died?). Also, do you want to be the one teaching fb etiquette to the social media newbies?
What if you started something with the folks that are already on there? Or if you did a blog instead of running it through fb. Would it be live chat for a certain period of time during the week or would it be a post with folks free to comment through the week?
Okay, now to answer the questions you actually asked... :)
1) The attempt at a FB Bible study didn't take. We are now building a blog following and that has been easier to maintain.
2) The way folks filter their newsfeeds made it so some folks missed what was going on inadvertently. Also, we had folks join fb that should never have been on fb.
3) No. You are not being overly concerned there.
4) Maybe. For your situation you'll need to do a 'work smarter, not harder' analysis. If it does build some steam, but no one in your church notices, does it become something you are doing in your free time? And is it worth that free time?
Looking forward to reading the other answers as well. I'm sure someone has pulled it off effectively! Blessings upon your ministry!
Earthchick, blogging at earthchicknits, also has some experience with this type of study:
I started a Lenten study group on Facebook this past Ash Wednesday, and it ended up being a really wonderful experience. I did it almost on a whim, after reading one of the RevGal comments about this sort of thing right before Lent. I created it as a "Closed" Group - meaning anyone could join (though I had to approve their membership) but that no one outside the group could see what any of us wrote. It felt safest to me that way.
25 people joined the group. Of that group, roughly a third of those had no official connection to our congregation (with the bulk of those being people who don't live in the area but know of either me or our church somehow); another third were people on the fringes of our congregation (either very sporadic attenders or brand-new to the congregation); and the final third was made up of active church members. Two of the people who participated were former congregants who no longer live in the area, one fringe member who participated was someone who is hearing impaired - for these three people, the Facebook group made involvement in the congregation possible in a way that it hadn't been before. Of the 25 people in the group, the most active participants (judged by regular comments) by far were those who are on the fringes of congregational life and those who have no official connection to our church - it was quite surprising, really.
So to your fourth question, YES, doing something like this has the potential to reach a whole sector of people your congregation might not otherwise reach. As long as your goal isn't necessarily to turn those Facebook participants into people in the pews, then it's great. For me, this effort was an experiment with a goal of helping connect people to each other and to God in meaningful ways beyond the walls of church, without concern for whether or not they had (or would have) official affiliation with our church. I believe it accomplished this goal, and to a greater degree than I anticipated.
What I also didn't anticipate was how much time and effort it would require from me. With the pace of social media as it is, I felt the need to post something every day. That was great in the beginning of Lent, when I had a lot of energy and ideas, but towards the end, it was feeling a little overwhelming. On the whole, though, I felt the effort was worth it, and I felt like the experience helped me grow spiritually and relationally as well. It was really great to get to connect to people in this way, and I would highly encourage you to give it a try.
Can you offer some insights based on your experience? Or do you have more questions than answers? As one who is planning to facilitate a book study this summer in real time and via blog, I am interested to hear more.
May you live in God's amazing grace+