Social Media has changed a great many things, from the way breaking news is reported, to CIA disinformation campaigns, to fundraising through crowdsourcing, to party invitations. But possibly one of the biggest aspect of our lives that social media is changing as well is prayer.
Almost anyone who is on social media has seen at least one prayer post from a contact; many of us have posted our own. Using this new method of outreach has its benefits. The church phone-chains of old were time-intensive and required a large number of people to follow through on their measure of responsibility. If they didn’t make their assigned calls, the chain was broken and ineffective. After all, a chain is no stronger than its weakest link. Using Social Media in the current era, churches can create their own prayer-alert groups on Facebook, and subscribing to @mychurchnamehereprayerchain on Twitter will yield similar results. Just a few clicks and hundreds of people can be notified of prayer needs with little time or effort.
Having been involved in multiples of online prayer-efforts, Facebook Events, Skype groups, and conference calls, as well as currently learning effective and ineffective means of online marketing, I have made some discoveries about what could make online prayer efforts more effective or less so.
1. Have a specific target or focus. Divided focus or no focus at all reduces the effectiveness of any group. I have personally been added to dozens of Christian groups named things like “Worship God,” “Praise His Holy Name,” and “Servants of the King,” all of which are for general edification and encouragement as well as for prayer needs and favorite Bible verses. What actually happens is a bunch of people post random Bible verses and a few people type out really long preachy messages. As a result, prayer needs tend to get lost in the shuffle. I used to give these groups a fighting chance, but now I just leave as soon as I’m added. And if I lose interest, hundreds of others are going to lose interest as well, making a group with thousands of people listed have about fifteen active members. Fifteen active members with prayers hidden among random Bible verse posting does not a prayer campaign make.
2. Create minimal rules and guidelines. I am a member of one group that has literally five or six pages worth of text outlining the rules for the group, all of which carry threats to boot members if they transgress. The sheer quantity of rules make themselves impossible to enforce, which is fortunate as I and most other members would probably be out of the group due to accidental rulebreaking. Most people have common sense. A few people lack it. The few people who don’t have it aren’t going to read nine pages of rules if they even noticed there WERE rules. Keep it simple.
3. Update regularly. Most of the effective efforts I have seen in regards to prayer for healing or even raising the dead have taken place as a result of ongoing updates. One campaign recently had an update about twice a day, which is enough to keep people interested but not enough to be overbearing. As the founder of the “Raise The Dead Initiative” on Facebook, I have seen many people post requests for prayer for their deceased loved ones. The majority of prayer posts involve the request with zero follow-up. The honest truth is that with no follow-up, no one knows if the person is still even trying to resurrect their loved one or if they have given up, because they never say ANYTHING AT ALL after the original request. The fact is that we are all human and like to feel involved. The more opportunities we are given to celebrate success, the better.
4. Make yourself relevant. The old adage runs true: “People don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care.” Likewise, people don’t care how much you post unless you interact like you care about them. If you are looking to have an effective prayer campaign, you need to regularly put effort into other people. Post on their prayer requests. Comment on their hopes, dreams, fears, and random silly posts. Be a presence online. It really does make a difference.
5. Recruit the right people early on. Who you know really does matter. When recruiting people, those who are outgoing, have larger social networks, and/or have developed an active network are people you want to notify first. Make use of any tag functions that the social network has available and use them to your benefit. The sooner other active individuals get on board, the more momentum you will generate in a shorter period of time.
Regardless of whether the prayer effort is short-term, such as for raising the dead (which usually only lasts a few days), or for a long-term cancer-prayer effort, following the above guidelines will help streamline your efforts and maximize your returns. Ultimately, as your social media efforts are more effective, the prayer campaigns themselves likely will be as well. After all, effectiveness is the key, as in the end, prayer chains are about one thing: answered prayer.