In case you hadn’t heard, the much anticipated Initial Public Offering (IPO) of social media icon, Facebook, hit the stock market on Friday, May 18, 2012. When the initial offering price was finally determined prior to the shares being publicly traded, analysts and talking heads wasted no time commenting on whether or not the $38 per share valuation was too high. Being a “retired” investment broker, I have watched, bemused by the public wisdom that has seemingly eluded the bankers that brought this stock public.
The wider issue that has piqued my attention has been, “Is Facebook just a fad or will people be using it just as much in 10 years?” The reason I find this question so intriguing, as should you, is the increasing reliance we all have on the use of social media to end the isolation of families special needs. As the actual value of advertising campaigns on Facebook is debated, it should cause us to pause and ask, Is this an effective way to continue reaching our target population?
The only wisdom I have available to share with you on this topic is that which I’ve gleaned through my own experience. Allow me to offer a few insights:
- A decade ago, I was deeply affected by the book Experiencing God by Henry & Richard Blackaby & Claude King. Through the wisdom imparted in this book, I have learned to develop the habit of watching where God is at work, and joining Him in that work. Far better is it to pause, step back and see what the Lord is already doing, than to charge headlong into what I think should be done in any given situation.
- I came to social media kicking-and-screaming with reluctance, but eventually found it to be the exact tool God made available to reach those who wouldn’t otherwise be reached with His message of hope. Other colleagues in ministry were using this tool in different ways with success. I was willing to eat humble pie, and found myself consuming a heaping portion of it. Because I was willing to admit I was wrong, and move forward with something different, new inroads could be made to bless others.
- I quickly learned that Facebook isn’t the only game in town. Other venues like Twitter, blog sites, targeted chat groups, and most recently, Pinterest all ended up being added to our repertoire. I put to the test a variety of different social media tools, and stuck with the ones that actually yielded fruit. The ones that weren’t producing results quickly fell to the wayside.
- People in the special needs community love easy access to ideas and resources. So much of the rest of their lives are consumed by difficult tasks and extra effort. When we offer things via the internet that are user-friendly, we bless the very ones were hoping to reach.
- People in the special needs community love the opportunity to make friends, end isolation and find others who closely identify with them. Social media is one way, and in some cases may be the only way, for our target population to feel that sense of belonging. I have seen deep friendships develop through a variety of web interactions. I myself have had the great honor of meeting many individuals in person whom I met via the internet, as well as speaking to them on the phone and sending helpful resources right to their homes.
- For a ministry to be vibrant and growing, we must remain ever-vigilant when it comes to keeping our eyes opened to where God is at work. Today, it might be Facebook. Tomorrow, it might be something that has yet to be invented. The organization I lead is currently working on a program that will allow people to come together both in person and/or via streaming video chats like those available on Skype or Google +. Reinventing ourselves will never stop because societal and individual change never stop.
I pray this dialogue has been good food for thought today. No doubt, our means of reaching the world for Christ is only limited by our own initiative or imagination!
Additional Recommended Reading: “5 Things Facebook Users Want From Your Church” via Church Tech Today – Concepts transferable to para-church ministry.