“No cell phones in church” may seem like an obvious rule, but on Sept. 25 thousands of Christians turned to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share what church looks like, sounds like and feels like in communities around the world.
Social Media Sunday was started in 2013 by Carolyn Clement, a volunteer at Trinity Episcopal Church in Tariffville, Connecticut. After local success, she teamed up with other church communicators to take the event to a national level in June 2014 and again in October 2015, gaining more participants each year. Now an ecumenical movement with international support, the goal of Social Media Sunday is to encourage social media use within both churches that already use social networks and those that are more reluctant. It’s also a day to show the power of social media to help Christians be and do church online, both on Sunday morning and in between times of formal worship.
This year marked the second time the Diocese of Toronto has actively promoted Social Media Sunday, encouraging churches and individuals to participate in ways that fit their own communities. About 15 parishes shared posts throughout the day and urged their members to do the same, using the hashtag #SMS16. The results were as varied as the churches participating, including behind-the-scenes photos of preparation for worship, selfies from the organ bench, live tweets from sermons and updates from coffee hour. The Sunday school at Evangelists, New Tecumseth used a digital camera to capture church through children’s eyes and posted the results on Facebook, while St. Philip on-the-Hill, Unionville shared the excitement of its annual Blessing of the Backpacks.
In every case, the participating churches and individuals embraced the idea of using social media more intentionally to share their faith and their experience of church. In a tweet, All Saints, Whitby described the day as a “time to reflect on how use of social media in our church & our lives can be more God glorifying.”
The next Social Media Sunday has been scheduled for Sept. 24, 2017, and planning has already begun. Church communicators from any denomination are invited to join the Social Media Sunday 2017 group on Facebook to share their strategies and ideas. Ongoing conversation about churches using social media is available in several other Facebook groups for church communicators, and during a Twitter chat every Tuesday night at 9 p.m. EST using the hashtag #chsocm.