The Social Church – Book Review

The Social Church – Book ReviewThe Social Church: A Theology of Digital Communication by Justin Wise
Published by Moody Publishers on February 1st 2014
Pages: 192
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The Social ChurchPeople are often confused why a marketer is working digital communications for a faith organization, and Justin Wise sums it up well in The Social Church. To paraphrase him, the social media tools are being used by all, so let’s use them for good.

This book is a little different than most social media books, and Justin puts it best in the introduction. “What’s needed now in the church is not ‘how to’, but ‘where to’”. So he nicely assumes you know what the social media platforms are and how to use them. It’s refreshing not to have to skim through the how to. There are other books that do that brilliantly.

Justin uses a mix of resources to explain the need for innovative communication in the church. I love that he mixes Bible references, with Christian history (Martin Luthor translating the Bible into German), and secular communicators like Seth Godin. There’s a bit of pop culture too. It paints a stronger picture and helps understand things can be learned from both inside and outside the church (or your immediate team/company for secular readers).

The first half of the book runs through the church’s communications history. Martin Luthor is a large part of it, and the spread of the gospels is used as communications with the tactics available at the time. Justin uses his experiences as a minister to add a tangible element to the book. Sure the other things happened hundreds of years ago, but he’s doing this now. This first half was, for me, a very big setting the scene. I know I’ll end up referencing it at conferences but mainly to convince the attendees that they can try new communications tactics and that I’m not just the marketing brat telling them what to do.

The rest of The Social Church is more practical. It describes having a Big Idea to bring all the communications tactics back to. Essentially it’s goal setting, but I also rename marketing tactics so any cynical audiences will accept them (and I die a little inside each time I dumb it down). I feel more time could have been spent setting up the Big Idea and describing how to decide on one. It was great how everything after this point related back to the Big Idea. The Washing Feet chapter stands out a little but is probably there for the people not yet accepting social media as a communications tool. The next chapter, Navigating the Digital Generation Divide, actually does a better job presenting arguments when it suggests looking at the audience and their communications preferences rather than dictating the tools.

Who Is The Social Church For?

I think it’s intended for more experienced church communicators, but I think it’s better suited to those newer to the role and are curious. It supports the why and not the how, and from experience I’ve found the how easier to learn with a purpose.

This book has inspired the curriculum of our upcoming Evangelism Workshop for the College of Congregational Development in Seattle. Check it out and if you have a church communications tip, please share it in the comments.
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