Old First’s reach is expanding: don’t look now, but Old First has nearly 500 followers on Facebook. That’s pretty astonishing, when you consider that our worshiping community is fewer than 200, including a lot of folks who are not on Facebook.
It’s a little hard to know exactly who those 500 people are. Probably about a quarter are folks who actually appear in the pews at 4th & Race, at least occasionally. Another large chunk are part of the wider UCC community–colleagues of Michael’s, clergy from other churches near and far, staff at the Penn Southeast Conference and the UCC national offices, etc. Another bunch are folks who once were regular worshipers here, but have moved away. Some are family of current members. Some have visited Old First as service campers. A few are members of our partner congregation in Bielefeld, Germany.
And then there’s a large group–about half of that 500–that we’re not sure about. Maybe they’re locals who are checking us out before they commit to walking through our doors on a Sunday morning. Maybe they live in the neighborhood and are curious to learn more. Maybe they are distant from Philadelphia but have found our postings somehow touch them and they want to stay connected. Maybe they clicked “LIKE” because they thought “Old First” is the latest microbrew.
But what we do know is that Facebook has given us a vehicle for reaching out far beyond our physical walls. And it’s not just those 500 “fans” of our page. There’s also the friends-of-friends who see photos and notices about church posted by our members.
Here’s an example: recently Adam S. posted on his page how happy his is to work with Old First’s Young Disciples (our 5th-9th-grade youth group). One of his many Fb friends saw his posting and commented that he recently moved back to Philadelphia and is looking for a church. So Adam was able to point him to our Web site. Without Facebook, that small interaction likely would not have happened. What a simple way for each of us to share with others what Old First means to us.
And isn’t that what our three-year Revitalization Initiative (which officially ended in Aug 2012, but lives on as our efforts in Community Engagement) is all about–to reach more people with Jesus’ message of love and acceptance?
We have no illusions that our virtual presence is anything like our physical one. We still know that gathering together and one-on-one relationships are what binds us. But our virtual presence gives us a new way to engage with one another and the community, near and far.
See you in church (and on Facebook!),