Evangelical leaders tweet, update their Facebook statuses and connect with each other on LinkedIn. According to the May Evangelical Leaders Survey, 91 percent are on at least one social networking site.
“Evangelical leaders find that social media can be helpful in connecting with congregants and constituents, in addition to building relationships with their friends and family,” said Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). “As ministers, you go where the people are. If the people are online, you go online.”
Facebook dominated the poll with 88 percent saying they are on Facebook, which currently boasts more than 750 million users. LinkedIn, which operates the largest professional networking site, collected 50 percent of the evangelical leaders. Thirty-five percent are on Twitter. Twelve percent indicated they were on another social networking platform, apart from Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.
David Neff, Editor-in-Chief of Christianity Today, said, “While I can easily live without Twitter and LinkedIn, I find that my friends have taken to sharing their lives and ideas on Facebook. Some have abandoned e-mail. If I am to stay in touch with my friends, Facebook is essential – until the next big thing comes along.”
Winnie Bartel of the Mennonite Brethren Churches has a Facebook account, but she is considering closing it down as she has witnessed many inappropriate relationships develop online. “As a family counselor, I have gone through so many marriage difficulties and breakups over the past couple years that all stem from finding ‘old loves’ on these social networking sights,” she said.
For churches and ministries, integrating social media into their ministry has few drawbacks, Anderson said. “Facebook and Twitter can help spread the church’s message and ministry, and it comes at an unbeatable cost: free,” he said.
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.