Mission workers often find themselves in dangerous situations and places. In fact we find that responses to the Gospel are quite plentiful in the midst of adversity. This is true in the digital world as well. Some digital spaces have a reputation for helping us sin. The Internet has many pits waiting for us. From pornography to dating sites specifically made for having an affair. Yet the opportunity to reach people is too great to ignore it. Here are a few places your church could shine a light into.
Some social media spaces have a stigma attached to them. Image sharing platforms such as Snapchat are viewed as dangerous areas. This is because its content "self-destructs" in a few seconds. Many teens like this because of its privacy. Unlike emails or text messages, these conversations are more like real life. They are spontaneous and are not recorded. Yet many may see this as an opportunity to share inappropriate photos and videos.
The church should not avoid these platforms because of those possibilities. You can share images that fit into several content types. I outlined six of them in a previous article. If your audience is younger, they may need reminders to ask for rides to a particular event. Send out messages prompting them to ask for permission or a ride. In the weeks prior, prompt them to save up for an event so they do not need to rely on a parent to pay for them. Those types of reminders not only solicit a greater attendance. They help your students become more responsible young adults.
There are several websites that house free classified ads. They have many different types of ads there. These include jobs, community events, and selling items. They also have personal ads that many use to find casual sex partners. We should not let those spaces frighten the church away. Post your community events there. Promote your internship positions. Whatever you do, do not run from these darker corners of the web. Shine your light in a loving way.
Has your church considered advertising for something other than "church" and your city's name? How about using some of your Google Grant money ($10,000 of free AdWords per month). You can buy advertisements for atypical keywords. For example, if someone looks for a casino, advertise your gambling addiction recovery program. Do a similar promotion for liquor stores and alcoholism. Promote your pornography addiction program when people search for those topics. Be creative and meet people in those spaces when they are most vulnerable.
First, use accountability when you venture into these spaces. We do not want tempt someone to sin just because they are trying to help the church out. Have a two person team when setting up some of these accounts or visiting these spaces. Also, focus these efforts on outreach. While you may experience some success, you might not help your existing members. Some teens are not allowed to use platforms like Snapchat. Many adults block sites like CraigsList.org to avoid temptation. Lastly, sign up for your Google Grant. Do this regardless if you want to target those "negative" keywords. It is free advertising credits that Google gives to nonprofit groups. Use it wisely and help boost the profile of your church in search engine rankings. So get out there and be a source of light and love on the Internet.
Photo courtesy of Ekaterina Boym-Medler