Want to Participate in a Holy Mystery?

Want to Participate in a Holy Mystery?

Suzanne and Michael– as the folks most involved in our website and communications– have watched in quiet amazement as the “ticker” on the website (under the video, next to the blue Facebook “share” button) showing how many people have passed our website on to others via FB continues to climb.

Rather than being steady, this climb has gone in spurts:

~When we first debuted the new site last Christmas.
~When we went live with the current version– with the “Reasons People Come to OUR Church” video and Faith Stories.
~When we added new people’s Faith Stories.

We weren’t surprised by those jumps on the counter. It makes sense: when we do something new with the website, that translates to additional notice.

When our number of “shares” seems to be slowing down, Michael tries to figure out ways to prompt our people to begin sharing all over again– your posting initiates a domino effect, and “free” advertising via the social networks of your friends and acquaintances.

In the last few weeks, we’ve had another climb on the counter lately. Almost 50 more people people have shared our website via their FB pages. This time, it’s all a bit more of a mystery… What could have caused this?

~We tried a Facebook ad at the beginning of June: a little Old First teaser showed up on something like 80,000 FB pages of people in the Philly area in the first 10 days of the month. How many even noticed it, we can’t be sure, but perhaps we accrued some name recognition, even if subliminally! And we can know that about 80 people were interested enough to follow our ad to our website.

Who were they? Why were they interested? What were they looking for? How did they react? That’s all more of a mystery. But since we only pay for the people who click on the ad, it was a cheap way to get some air time!

About the same time we posted the Faith Stories on the Fence. And people are reading them. Friends are letting us know they saw our face “on a billboard in Center City.” People have stopped by the office to ask about the church. Maybe these too are leading people to our website, which then they share with others.

The fascinating (frustrating?) part of the story: we have no way of knowing who is sharing our website with others! Or why. Or what they are saying about us!

Michael noticed the other day that one of the newest people to sign-on our Old First Facebook fan page is a professor at a very conservative seminary. That caused him to wonder– could we be getting “shared” as an example of apostasy (what church looks like when it’s lost its way)?

Suzanne and Michael have decided– along the lines of the wisdom that even a bad story in the New York Times is good publicity– that we shouldn’t worry about it. That we are proud of who we are as a church. And that we think our “Faith Stories” are presenting a good picture of what we believe and have to share with others. If we want, as a congregation, to surprise people with what church, faith and God can be about, well then, we need to simply push off into the deep waters of the greater public sphere, know we are going to encounter some disapproval, but trust God and the Spirit to help us get noticed and heard and understood by those who might respond to our understanding of God’s message about what Love means…

How can you help? Share the website with your friends. Not too much. (Overkill always anesthetizes people from noticing anything new!) But every so often, could you find “an excuse” to tell others about our website with all the creativity and subtlety Old Firsters are known for?

The other night, Michael was at a reception, and someone was surprised to hear he was a minister. In that loud, crowded setting, Michael could not be sure exactly what was so hard for this person to believe. But he simply responded, “Hey, check out the church I serve; you can visit our website; that might help you put me and ‘minister’ together.”

A few days later, I got an e-mail from this person: she’d never know church could be like Old First. (Michael wasn’t exactly sure if she meant that in a complimentary or incredulous way!) But, what can we do but be ourselves; in fact, being ourselves “loud and proud” has something to do with faithfulness!

For Facebook users, telling people about church can be as easy as posting the link to our website on your FB page, with a creative caption.

But one could also simply say to a friend, “Look what our church is trying.” Or send someone an e-mail with a link.

Michael had lunch with his colleague, Trent, from St. Luke’s UCC the other day. Both pastors were talking about how their congregations were doing well with folks looking for a church community. But both also recognized that the real challenge is to be able to begin speaking with people who have little interest in or can’t even imagine how church could add to their lives.

You can help spread the word that church might not be what they expect; it might surprise them!