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‘Friending’ church

Synod School teacher demonstrates new media role in evangelism

August 9, 2011

Headshot of Kim Coulter

Kim Coulter

STORM LAKE, IOWA

A short video, a little bit of show and tell, and a lot of discussion ― it’s the way Kim Coulter led her class on social media here at Buena Vista University (BVU) during the 58th Synod of Lakes and Prairies’ Synod School.

With an opening video that proclaimed, “If Facebook were a country, it’d be the world’s third largest,” Coulter made the argument that social media can play a role in the church.

The video, Erik Qualman’s “Social Media Revolution 2011,” pointed out that 93 percent of marketers use social media for business and Coulter said, “If companies can do that, why can’t churches do that?”

Coulter, an avid user of social media herself, on Twitter as @desmoinespresby, said, “Part of social networking, to me, can be evangelism. You can talk about your faith to your friends from church and among your friends who aren’t in church.”

Walking from table to table in what is normally a computer lab at BVU, Coulter answered questions about Facebook and Twitter from participants whose social media experience varied from beginner to expert.

“They (social media) teach me things about their church community and how they’re using Facebook,” she said. “It’s all about sharing God’s good news by telling our stories.”

On the screen in front of the classroom, Coulter points out the Twitter “hashtag” for Synod School ― #synodschool ― and what happens when a Twitter message is “retweeted” (an original message repeated by one of the followers of the message originator.) “See,” Coulter said, “You’ve just expanded your audience.”

During the week she helped the 20-plus participants in her class connect online in new ways.  By the end of the week, at least 18 had established Facebook accounts and eight created Twitter accounts, Coulter said.

“Internet users can find community online. Church can happen through these networking environents if we only choose to live out God’s plan for us,” she said.

Coulter’s class, “Using Social Media for Church – It’s Not Just a Fad,” was one of more than 60 classes offered in July at the week-long educational event that drew more than 620 participants.

Duane Sweep is a frequent contributor to Presbyterian News Service. He is associate for communications for the Synod of Lakes and Prairies.

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