WORKSHOP: Using Social Media for Evangelism and Global Outreach

websocialmedia600Two-thirds of the world’s population uses social media, however two-thirds of the world’s population do not attend church. This is where social media serves as a connector – on the worldwide web as well as in a classroom at the World Methodist Conference.

An international medley of participants from as far away as Canada, South Africa, Norway and the Bahamas bonded quickly around the ever-expanding topic of social media in the afternoon workshop led by author, consultant and speaker LaKesha Womack.  One District Superintendent introduced herself as “Techie Becky,” admitting that technology is challenging to keep up with these days, while another attendee described the social media platform as the “marketplace of the gospel.”

“I would select the verses of the great commission as our text for today,” shares LaKesha, “because social media helps us accelerate taking the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth – once we know how.” She acknowledges the importance of balancing social media with face-to-face personal connections, but urges all organizations using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and the like to strategically pursue ways to begin conversations. “In church, pastors are accustomed to bringing a message and considering it done, but social media provides the opportunity to respond and engage in a dialogue. Yes, that can be time consuming, so I would suggest only asking a probing question when you have time to interact. That is the beauty of social media when you can share a conversation with people wherever they are geographically and spiritually.”

socialmedia600webStrategic aspects of social media

While LaKesha recommends having a presence on Facebook and Twitter as a starting point due to their popularity, she is also seeing churches and faith-based organizations use Google Hangout and Skype to connect students or others in various locations into a common Bible Study. Others are using Periscope when a short-term video feed is needed to an event or learning opportunity that someone might not otherwise be able to access. “Not that many churches pursue a presence on LinkedIn,” she adds, “but it really could be a useful resource to connect members who might be looking for a job, who might offer a service other members need, and to locate certain skill sets needed by an organization or church.” “Pinterest is so popular with females,” adds one of the participants, “I would think women’s ministries would seriously consider having ideas and curriculum and spiritual resources there for those audiences.”

“Just as a helpful hint to those just starting out into the social media waters, there are basically three options with Facebook,” adds LaKesha. “You can (1) have a personal page and up to 5000 friends, (2) you can start a “group” and an infinite number of people can ‘like it’ or (3) you can create a business page which allows you to have ads, see insights on your visitor demographics, and boost posts that can be targeted to certain ages, times or areas.”

socialmedia600webshot2Bottom line, she recommends organizations mix up the content to include links to sermons or other messages, video, articles, questions, and pictures.  Consistency and clarity are important when placing content on social media outlets. “Another idea is to schedule some content posts through Hootsuite so there will be fresh content around the clock for global audiences to discover when they are awake and you are asleep.”

In a discussion about Twitter, LaKesha explained the use of the hash tag to social media newbies. “The hash tag, or pound sign, followed by onewmc2016 is the one we are using for this event,” she shares, “and these serve as an aggregator of all postings under a certain topic. Event planners – and attendees — can review what all is being said about the event in entries that feature 140 characters or less. It is important to pick a hash tag phrase that is easy to remember and follow.”

Adds LaKesha, “I always recommend organizations have a web presence in addition to social media, if possible, because you will own that in the event the social media platforms go away for some reason. The social media outlets should always serve as a feeder to your website.”

LaKesha, who also has a blog talk radio show, enthusiastically encourages others to connect with her: or or

Wesley Men: A New Wesleyan 100

There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them, except in the form of bread.

– Charles Dickens

hickle600web3Rev. Steve Hickle shared a vision during his workshop Thursday afternoon titled: Wesley Men: A New Wesleyan 100. As Faith Outreach Director of Stop Hunger Now, he’s working with others to build a movement to end hunger in our lifetime. “We’re going to discover that there is enough food in the world to feed everyone” he said. And his organization has been building coalitions toward that end for the past 10 years.

They’ve engaged nearly two million volunteers in packaging meals over that decade, and have delivered about 275 million meals in that time, distributing them to 1,500 places in over 70 countries. “Every place that receives these meals is a partner of ours and they take a lot of responsibility in getting those meals to where they need to go…  I’m a United Methodist, and I have been acquainted with what is now the Wesley Men’s group” (until recently they were called World Fellowship of Methodist and Uniting Church Men.) They’ve been working side-by-side for 4 years toward this moment. “We’re able to say to the whole Methodist family here in Houston that we can build a Wesleyan movement to end hunger.”

They’re calling this initiative Fast, Pray, Give.

Andy Morris, the Executive Director of Fast, Pray, Give referenced a resolution passed at the World Methodist Conference in 2006 saying we need to fast, pray, and give to end world hunger. “The men’s affiliate took that charge on as something they needed to do and when we started to look at how to achieve those goals we needed a partner.” Stop Hunger Now was the obvious choice. “It was started by a Methodist minister,” Morris continued. “They do a lot of what we need to do to attack the systemic causes of hunger by feeding children in schools so they can learn, can finish their education and earn a better income. They are then able to become self-sustaining. We’re breaking the systemic causes of hunger.” Their organization is now, for the first time, asking people to sign up at to help. “Our goal is to reach 5 million Methodists in the next five years.”

WT_3RectangleFPGHickle said Fast, Pray, Give “is this remarkable, accessible, grass roots way for many, many, people to be engaged in ways that will enrich their spirits and enrich their sense of how important it is to share food with hungry people. We see a lot of spiritual health and vitality coming out of this as we see people moving beyond their concerns for their own places and stretch around the world.”

Individuals can give directly through, but if your church would like to do something hands-on, Stop Hunger Now may be the answer. “We have locations in 21 locations around the U.S. to be able to bring a mobile meal packaging experience to your church,” Hickle continued. “Anything within 2 hours of our many locations is doable. If it’s further than that, we can talk.”

For Hickle, this is only the beginning. They are also looking into clean water initiatives and sustainable agriculture projects. “There’s much we can do together, but as long as we’re disconnected we’ll never be able to get it done.”