This is the first in a twelve-part series on Community formation and social media.
Do social media help or hinder the formation of communities of faith? Does the temptation to gossip on social media negatively impact a community trying to live together faithfully? Do people really share what’s happening in their lives on social media—are they honest—or do they just share their glossy selves and even invent some of that? Do social media legitimately show real community in high relief? How real? Does pastoral care actually occur via social media? Is community identity formed with the help of social media? What aspects of community formation are well suited to social media? Which are not? Do social media make community conflict worse? What are congregations—and communities of faith in all forms—doing with social media that helps or hinders their formation?
These are just a few of the questions we hope to highlight during this 12-part New Media Project blog series focused on community formation and social media.
We are particularly interested in these questions about community formation in large part because every case study we conducted in the last couple of years, and every essay we wrote, addressed some aspect of community life together, regardless of whether the cases were congregations, institutions, or organizations. In my own essay about the case studies, I reached for a theological handle with which to reflect and found social Trinitarian thinking. How do we understand and talk about how social and relational we are as creatures of God and as the body of Christ?
We hope that this blog series helps to jumpstart your own thinking about community formation and social media and our collective thinking about these questions.
Some upcoming blog writers are returning to share more of their expertise and wisdom with us. Some writers are new to the New Media Project blog. Together they will represent a variety of vantage points: from pastor to lay leader, from journalist to professor, from church planter to chaplain to member of a religious community. Some are Protestant, some are Catholic, some are non-denominational.
To organize the series, we asked two bloggers at a time to take on one aspect of community formation, hopefully bringing their differing opinions or viewpoints to the table. For example, the first two writers will explore community formation questions through the lens of church planting. The next two will look at identity formation. Then conflict. And so on. As we’ve done with blog series in the past, each blogger will note sources and resources that you can use for your own work. At the conclusion of the series, we’ll gather together all of the resources mentioned and add a few of our own from the New Media Project store of resources and from other sources we’ve discovered.
Finally, I invite you to join us in conversation about these blog posts on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments that follow the post. Please consider asking the questions with your own communities of faith, then share the responses, ideas, and stories that arise therein. And don’t forget to do some theologizing—why are we social creatures, after all? For what benefit is the body of Christ called into community? How shall we nurture and protect these gifts from God and hold them accountable at the same time? Help us “think theologically about new media” today.
Verity A. Jones is the executive director of the Center for Pastoral Excellence at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, and project director of the New Media Project which is now part of this new Center.
The New Media Project is a research project helping religious leaders become theologically savvy about technology. To request permission to repost this content, please contact email@example.com.