Session Proposal: Church 2.0 – How social media can strengthen religious communities and foster interfaith dialogue
Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 | MikeNelson
This paper builds on the limited body of quantitative work that has been done on how American religious institutions are using the Web. It compiles data on how hundreds of different churches are using the Web and social networks such as Facebook to connect existing members and reach out to new members. The focus of this work is not on “brochureware,” parish Web sites, mailing lists, and “Godcasts” that provide a one-way means for churches to broadcast information to parishioners. Rather, this work examines how the Internet and social media are being used for many-to-many communication between parishioners and clergy. This study reveals how the use of social media by religious institutions is influenced by the size of congregation and denomination.
In addition to being used to foster discussion within a single church, social media are also being used to enable discussion between different faith communities. Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affair has funded an undergraduate research project, led by Professor Michael Nelson and Sara Lichterman, a CCT graduate student, which is examining how social media can be used to foster interfaith dialogue. While the Bridging Bable project is only a few months old, early findings reveal both the potential and challenges of using Facebook and similar sites to bridge religious and cultural barriers.