Why We Use Facebook Groups for Prayer

Would you believe that when I started working at Wintonbury, we barely had a functioning website, not a single staff member was on Facebook and most people carried flip phones? Nine years later and wintonbury.org is central to our communications; our church body connects regularly on multiple social media platforms; and the majority in our church, including teenagers, own smart phones. We even have our own app! 

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The digital era has arrived in full force. Churches and individuals all over the globe are navigating this brave new world like explorers on an unknown sea. One challenge is the magnitude of information we wade through every day. From email to app notifications to printed flyers to social media messages, we simply can’t consume it all. Additionally, we worry how much “screen-time” is too much and if we’re sacrificing “real” relationships for shallower, digital ones. We love to use the internet to advance God’s kingdom, and loathe the evil that is at our fingertips.

Like any tool in this world, the internet’s influence is determined by the user.

Wintonbury leadership spends a lot of time thinking and praying about these issues. While we don’t have all the answers, we are committed to the following:

  1. Creating and fostering clear, helpful and healthy communication in and outside of the church walls.
  2. Keeping you informed without unnecessarily adding to your information burden.
  3. Following Jesus’s example of meeting people where they are.

There's so much to talk about regarding the church and modern communication, but today, I want to address one common question:
 

WHY DO WE USE A FACEBOOK GROUP FOR PRAYER REQUESTS?


PROXIMITY: THAT'S WHERE THE PEOPLE ARE
Facebook boasts over 1 billion daily active users and over 2 billion monthly active users. According to the Pew Research Center, Facebook now has more people than any major world religion except Christianity. Mark Zuckerberg, creator and CEO of Facebook, believes Facebook communities may be able to fulfill a role religious organizations once supplied and he has redefined his company’s mission accordingly.

I am not qualified to analyze all the implications that has for society, but if nothing else, I know that people need community and they are seeking it on Facebook. By the billions.

So, on a purely practical level, Wintonbury uses Facebook because a majority of our congregation is already there - seeking community, making connections and building relationships. We are meeting our people where they are.

But there’s more to it than that. If we are to obey Jesus’s command to “Go in to all the world and preach the gospel”, then we ought to go meet them everywhere we can, including on the web. We are light-bearers, truth-bringers, joy-singers.

If billions of people are seeking community on Facebook, we should be there because we carry the shining treasure of knowledge that genuine community begins in Jesus and flows out of Him into His body, the Church.


TIMING: PRAYER IN REAL TIME
If you submit a prayer request on the Prayer Wall, people often respond within an hour (almost always in less than 24 hours) to pray. Years ago, Wintonbury sent prayer request emails to the congregation every Friday. This meant that depending on when you submitted your request, you could wait up to a week for others to join you in prayer. Our Facebook group allows you to ask for and receive prayer the moment you need it. How great is that?!


COMMUNITY: FOSTERING GENUINE CONNECTIONS
The ability to communicate with people so easily, and to do so at (or near) the moment of their need, fosters bonds we could not otherwise make. There are some people on the Prayer Wall whom I rarely see in person, yet I am united with them in heart, mind and Spirit by the conversations and prayers we share through Facebook. What a gift.


SECURITY: FACEBOOK GROUP BENEFITS
Prayer requests are often personal, and many of us are understandably concerned about sharing those requests on a platform open to billions of people. We take your (and our own) privacy very seriously!

  • The Wintonbury Prayer Wall is a “Closed Group”. Members must be approved by a group administrator (group admin includes two staff members and an elder) before they can see or participate in group activities. We only approve people we know and trust; and they must attend Wintonbury regularly or be closely related to our church in some way (e.g., members who have moved, outreach and missionary partners).
  • Unlike email or print distribution, the Prayer Wall enables you to see the names of other group members so you know who has access to your prayer requests.
  • Hackers and data-miners are a threat to all internet communications. However, emails can be forwarded and paper can be shared with anyone, whereas Prayer Wall visibility is limited to group members (even Facebook employee access is limited and monitored).

While the Facebook Prayer Wall is a great resource for today, technology and congregational needs will continue to change. Likewise, we will continue to seek the best ways to encourage a community of prayer at Wintonbury.

If you are not a Wintonbury Prayer Wall member, find us on Facebook and request to join. I’m glad to help if needed. Also, anyone can complete a Prayer Card on Sunday and submit it with the offering, or send an email to the church office and staff and elders will pray over these requests during the week. 

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback and answer any questions I can!

© Wintonbury Church 2017

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