Religion, Spirituality and Social Media: An evening at Social Media Club Victoria

What are the hardest (or most important?) subjects to talk about? Many would say religion, politics and sex.  Well, last night at the Victoria’s Social Media Club, religion was talked about; openly, and with enthusiasm.  The topic: Religion, Spirituality and Social Media.

Leading the discussion were a three-person panel; Venerable Eshu Martin (Abbot) is the guiding force behind the Victoria Zen Centre, Mark Wagner, lead pastor at Westsong Community Church in Langford and Metchosin, and Nick Johnson, who runs social media activities for Saanich Baptist Church.  Moderator was Paul Holmes.

It was a great discussion from a diverse panel; different personalities, experiences, and perspectives.  The panellists were generous and engaging, and the audience of (25 or so) picked up on things with a lively, lengthy question/answer.  Here’s my notes of the conversations (note – these are my accumulated notes, not every panel member felt the same way on all things):

From the panelists….

On community:

  • Some people only communicate/participate in the religious community online
  • Online is expanding audience for the message; both locally and internationally
  • Online is another community, but not replacement for in-person
  • The church is going where the people are = increasingly online
  • Increasingly online is being seen as the community, wrestling with how to deal with this
  • Local, location-based, community works just fine online, can corporate (the broader religious community)?

From the youth perspective:

  • If not online, don’t exist
  • People will check out things online first, if ok, then may connect in-person
  • Will do their research online (e.g., Wikipedia), then challenge you directly with the data

Using the tools

  • “Open to technology”
  • Facebook, Twitter = the norm
  • Talks/sermons going into podcasts, videos – accessible at your convenience
  • Skype is being used for 1:1 conversations alternative form of ministry
  • Texting out reminders
  • Innovation is happening: creative applications of technology; e.g., Second Life, iPhone apps (check out website links to the panelists – some great stuff there)
  • We can measure extent we’re growing (or not) online through online analytics

On connecting

  • Being recognized in-person through online presence; e.g., hey, you’re the Facebook monk!
  • People are making connections through online first; then do you want to go out for coffee?
  • When online, people are free to pose questions that might not feel comfortable posing in-person

A few challenges

  • Trying to wrap head around everything
  • How to prioritize between the new and usual ways?
  • With social media, difficult to have a single, consistent message
  • With social media, privacy is out the window

From the audience…

  • Social media is messing up everything
  • Have to step up to using the new technology, no choice
  • Organizations/institutions used to tell constituents, now reverse

Ok, that was a pretty good evening of exploring religion, spirituality and social media.  What’s next politics or sex?

Did I get it right? What did I miss? What other observations around the mix of religion, spirituality and social media can you offer?

For what another church (United Church of Canada) is doing with social media, check out this recent post of mine.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to my blog. Thanks, Ben.


  1. Hi Ben,
    You make some great points here. Especially the one about teenagers, “If it’s not online it doesn’t exist.” I think that the church historically has always tried to stay away from things like social media, because it has “led people to temptation.” However, I think that it is necessary for the church to be able to communicate with the next generation via the method they are most comfortable with. Also, like you stated the church has an amazing opportunity to do great one-on-one conversations with shut-ins (without them leaving the house), and reaching a whole new audience!
    Thanks Ben for sharing!
    Jason Dykstra (

  2. Jason, thanks for your comment. Good points you make. I think all of the panelists made mention of your point (although I may have worded it differently in my post) how the technology/social media is an opportunity to connect one-on-one with shut-ins. And, generally they seemed to share the same sense of optimism, as I sense you do, for what’s possible with this new media form.

  3. Nice Job, Ben.
    Thanks for taking great notes.

  4. Thanks Cris. Your feedback is much appreciated.

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