My 9-year-old posed this past week with a stuffed toy tiger and said, “Take a picture with your phone. You can post it on Facebook.”

This past fall I attended a Society of Adventist Communicators (SAC) convention, during which attendees posted scores of photos on Facebook and Instagram, using a special hashtag (#) handle.

Scholastic Fair projects were almost due at school. After a basic Internet search wasn’t successful, I turned to Pinterest and found tips on making spiders with floral foam and acrylic paint. I also found a neat idea on how to make a small statue.

While engrossed in researching social media, I happened to check my Twitter home page feed and found a tweet for a article, “Teens Abandoning Social Networks, Study Says.” I learned helpful information about new trends in social media—some of this material will appear on this spread.

No doubt about it, social networking is big. Global, in fact. On the largest platform, Facebook, there are more than 1 billion users. Twitter boasts 500 million users.* And while some teens and young adults are migrating to Instagram, Kik, Snapchat, and Vine, they aren’t abandoning social networks.

But what is social networking? And of what is social media comprised? The next few pages—and articles on www.adventist—will describe some of the platforms that are used primarily for connecting and communicating. Guidelines will be given for successful practices; and several Adventists will share how they use social media personally and professionally—for fun, for family, and for ministry. Social media is more than the superfluous—here’s a practical look at how to make it purposeful. 

* See

Kimberly Luste Maran, an assistant editor for Adventist Review, is still trying to come to terms with having “followers” and “following” on Twitter.

16 Common Social Media Sites

While their popularity waxes and wanes, and new sites emerge and replace older ones (remember MySpace?) in measurable usage, here are some of the most common social media Internet sites (as of July 2013). These sites are generally accessed through personal computers, notebooks or tablets, and smartphones (via apps).  Some of these may be better described as messaging services (Snapchat is one) that bear similarities to text messaging, but they still fall under the umbrella of social networking.

Facebook   Twitter  Google+     LinkedIn
Pinterest     reddit   Instagram   Flickr
Snapchat    Kik•      WordPress Blogger
Tumblr        Storify  YouTube     Vimeo

To learn more about these sites, and about the various categories of social media, check out these links:
23 types of social media sites
Tips the 6 types of social media
5 social networking platforms teens like more than facebook
The 7 most popular facebook alternatives for teens
Social media marketing different types of social media

Of Snapchats and Tweets

I’ve dabbled in almost all of the more popular social networking crazes. I’m fairly consistent with checking my Facebook, posting pictures to Instagram, and once in a while reblogging a funny post on Tumblr. Most recently I’ve become a bit obsessed with Snapchat, a way to send quick 10-second videos to your friends anywhere in the world. It’s a lot like instant messaging, except your friends get to see your beautiful face!

The site I’ve found most useful outside of the “catching up with friends” aspect, however, is Twitter. Not only do I follow my friends and the occasional comedian, but I also follow sites specific to my field of interest, which is journalism. My time line is filled with tweets from the New York Times and Writer’s Digest, as well as information about job openings and internships. They link me directly to job applications, articles of note, and much more! 

Janelle Collins, who will graduate this fall with a degree in journalism from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, shared this while a summer intern for the Adventist Review.

Staying Current —and Connected

ALEXANDRIA MARTIN is a 17-year-old student at Burton Adventist Academy in Texas. She shared with KIMBERLY LUSTE MARAN which social media platforms she uses and why.

How often do you use social media, and on what devices?
I spend at least two to three hours a day using social media during the regular school week. During the weekends I use social media networks throughout the day; approximately four to six hours each day. I use Facebook (FB) on my phone. I also text, and use the YouTube and Internet Explorer apps on my phone. In addition I use my computer to check FB, fashion blogs, YouTube (video Web site), and Pinterest (Internet idea “pin board”). I use Skype as well, to video chat and connect with my friends and family, whom I don’t get to see all the time.

For me, using social media is just a normal way to stay current and updated with friends, information, etc. Recently I ran for Student Association president and I used FB to create a page as part of my campaign. I invited most of the student body to view my page and used it to share with them my goals and thoughts about next school year. I also posted pictures of the students on the page, holding signs that encouraged people to vote for me. I think my FB page played a significant role in my campaign. It made everyone aware that I was running, it gave me easy access to the students, and also gave them easy access to me. A lot of students messaged me their ideas and suggestions through the FB page. I was able to communicate with the students in a way they are extremely familiar with, and they resonated with my campaign, which resulted in my election.

I also follow a bunch of people on YouTube, ranging from comedians to beauty gurus to music teachers. You can learn about anything from YouTube. Thanks to YouTube, I’ve learned songs on the guitar and piano, as well as makeup tips and how to solve certain math problems I was struggling with. I’ve used Twitter to keep up with some of my favorite celebrities. And I use text messaging to contact pretty much anyone, even teachers when I have questions about assignments.

What do you do that’s religious or spiritual?
Whenever I feel that I’ve had an “a-ha” moment or experienced God in a cool way, or even have a question about something “spiritual,” I post it on FB. Many times my friends have commented, “Thanks for sharing,” or “That’s exactly what I needed to hear today.” In return I’ve been blessed by people sharing their thoughts and spiritual experiences on FB. Also my Sabbath school group, my youth group, my academy, and my church all have FB pages. Through these pages information about upcoming events, and encouragement and uplifting words, are spread. There are a lot of spiritual/uplifting channels and videos on YouTube as well. 

The way you use social media depends on what kind of person you are. I happen to have a relationship with God, so that’s reflected in my use of, and communication through, social media.

Do you take a break from social media on Sabbath?
No. As I mentioned earlier, social media is just a way to communicate. I don’t stop communicating on Sabbath; however, I do focus my use of social media on things more geared toward God. I won’t use YouTube to listen to secular music or to watch videos about the latest celebrity trends, but I will use it to look up some Kirk Franklin. I’ll use Skype and FB on Sabbath to connect with my friends and family.

Daniel in Digital Babylon
A perspective on the social networking landscape


The Bible makes it fairly clear that in order to reach people, you need to go to where the people are. That’s all I’m attempting, just making an honest effort to hang out where today’s generation is “hanging out.” Barna Group president David Kinnaman revived the phrase “Digital Babylon” to describe today’s social media landscape. I like to think I’m making efforts to “dare to be a Daniel” in Digital Babylon—trying to be where next generations are.

Social media has really flattened out the structures of society. We have the ability to reach a wide, eclectic, diverse group of people—worldwide. It’s not uncommon to follow a celebrity or notable author on Twitter, and likewise the famous can also follow you. In today’s culture, and it seems accurate to say, we are reaching each other.

The latest technology methods haven’t changed much about humanity. We are social beings, eager for relationships. Whether it is the latest info divulged at a quilting bee or the latest viral video, we all want to share our lives with each other—we all long for significance and purpose. We all want meaningful relationships.

Although speed, genre, technological advances, and languages vary from generation to generation, we still communicate basic human needs. Generally I see today’s needs being familiar to every era. The need for love and attention. The need for meaning and direction. The need for answers to life’s most fundamental questions. The need for relationships.

There are many ways church members can engage others and encourage each other through social media, but a key principle for any activity in social media is: Be Kind.

As it is an expansive public arena, social media is one of those places where the most basic of Christian courtesy and compassion can be our best expression of our faith. Kindness to others is a great virtue to hold high when interacting online.

Another principle is: Be Discreet. Just because we can express every feeling, thought, opinion, and urge doesn’t mean it’s wise to do so. No one has given us permission to emotionally vomit online. Further, if there is a conflict, fight, or disagreement, social media is among the worse places to communicate. Following the biblical model in person has proven to be a time-tested exceptional method of reconciliation (see Matt. 18). 

This one is important too: Be Civil. Civility is defined as courteous or polite behavior. It’s a discipline that can distinguish believers in a media world that thrives on instantaneous, infamous, and often rude acting out. Your video may not go viral, but if you’re civil, you will be known nevertheless for all the right reasons.

Finally, keep Matthew 5 in mind. Several times a day I post to various groups of people, mostly through Facebook. As I stand on my “purpose firm,” I remember these points:

Be a blessing.
Be a light.
Be mindful.
Be faithful and loyal.
Be generous.
Be loving. 

A. Allan Martin is teaching pastor at Younger Generation Church (, the young adult ministry of the Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church in Texas. Before the turn of the century, he actually used rotary phones, cassette tapes, and typewriters. Martin recommends these video links:

Bringing small groups together through social media


Not long after we were married, my husband received a new assignment. We eagerly accepted, but the transition was much more difficult for me than I anticipated. I felt disconnected. 

My experience could’ve been vastly different if Facebook had been around, particularly a small group like the one Diane Thurber has spearheaded in the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (RMC). 

When Thurber and her husband, Gary, arrived at the RMC, she decided to use Facebook to encourage communication and bonding among ministerial spouses. She created the RMC Ministerial Spouses group—a secret group (it won’t pop up in a Facebook search, and you can join only by invitation).

This secrecy creates a unique social media experience, similar to some of the Adventist online forums of the 1990s. Group members can interact in a private, nonthreatening space. Here’s some of what Thurber and the group discuss. 

Using Facebook to connect means that the group can share news quickly, and often in real time. Photos of special music are posted right from church. Funeral information and updates, birth announcements, and news on pastoral family moves are common. Questions are asked, and answers supplied, right alongside the announcements. Group member Karyl Bahr Krieger says, “Sometimes I even find out about conference decisions, new people, event dates, etc., before my husband does!”

Survival Tips
Recently someone posted a link to a Web site with helpful packing and moving tips—absolute survival skills for any ministerial spouse. The group has shared links to helpful counseling resources, and even suggestions for places to walk and unwind on Sabbath afternoons with the family.

Encouragement seems to come naturally to this group. Prayer requests are made and prayers offered in the safe sanctuary they’ve created. The group shares devotional thoughts, uplifting videos, and addresses so they can send cards to those who are sick or mourning. Vivien Vasquez says, “I personally feel that through social [media] we have become closer to one another. We have come to know each other a little more and share information that otherwise we would’ve never known.”

Events and Outreach
The group supports one another in the different outreach projects in their areas. A commitment to help in the next district’s evangelistic meeting becomes possible when the need is shared. Collaboration on group projects such as overseas mission trips or knitting hats for newborns is made easier through connections such as the ones made in this group.

Thurber and her group have met her original goal—communication and bonding happen all the time in their Facebook group. These are two things that help any ministerial spouse—new or seasoned, in transition or settled. Connected versus disconnected—a world of difference. 

Jean Boonstra was social media and quality assurance coordiator for the Adventist Review when she wrote this. She’s planning to stay in touch with her friends at the Review through a variety of ways, including, of course, Facebook.

Delivering the Message Through Instagram


We use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr in the Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church, and try to take advantage of the interaction among them. I’ve been using social media for five years, and I prefer Instagram. Aside from its superfast growth, it’s picture-based. A picture tells more than a thousand words, and In-stagram gives you the flexibility of a “miniblog,” where we can tell stories and share our church’s “brand” through photos. Instagram can also serve as a link between Twitter and Facebook. 

The Instagram pictures I post appear immediately on Twitter and on my Facebook account, so I have an opportunity to tag members. The members who don’t have an Instagram account enjoy the pictures through Facebook—and even their friends and family also have a chance to enjoy the pictures as they appear on their Wall.

I have close to 900 pictures on the #ygchurch [hashtag], and about 1,000 on the #asdachurch one. As a photography aficionado I’ve learned that the best camera is the one you have with you when important things happen. The best picture is the one taken at the right moment! Pictures serve as emotional anchors and help bring meaningful memories back to life. I’ve posted such a large amount of pictures by being dedicated and intentional. I believe in the impact Jesus has on anyone who attends our church. The congregation has so much to offer, and I’m committed to recording our story!

I carry my iPhone at all times and have the habit of recording things I consider meaningful or important. I cherish the potential impact of church in the life of our members and on their non-Adventist friends and family. By recording the activities our members engage in, I’m setting visual landmarks and taking advantage of our members’ emotional anchors (worship services, baptisms, baby and teen dedications, sermon series, concerts, social activities, community service events, etc.), and also inviting non-Adventists to join and enjoy fellowship with us by sharing them through Instagram. 

I can think of former Adventists who have decided to give Adventism a chance again after watching the events and ministries we have in Arlington. I can tell stories of families who weren’t excited about God anymore who decided to join us because they were attracted to one particular activity depicted in an image!

We do our best to represent Arlington church for what it is: a fellowship of love, acceptance, and forgiveness. That authenticity and grace-filled environment is cherished and naturally attracts and inspires people who are searching for such an experience. 

In many ways social media is just the reflection of who we are. Sooner or later people find out if you are fake, or if you truly are who you say you are! Social media platforms can be effective only if you have something significant and solid to offer. 

Josue Murillo serves as children's ministries, Revive Community Care, and communication pastor for the Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church in Texas. 

Why We Use Social Media. . .
And how we can all use it better.


If you’ve ever sat down to just “see what’s new on Facebook,” then you know that social media sites can quickly take up a lot of time! So why are we—a busy religious organization with ever-present press deadlines—investing our time in social media?

Because that’s where you are! Our mission is to connect with like-minded individuals who share our beliefs and mission. To provide inspirational content, church news, and to respond to what’s important to you. Social media is a way to keep doing what we’ve been doing for the past 164 years. It’s a great way for us to spend time with you.

But it isn’t perfect.

As in any social situation, privacy is a big concern, and it should be a priority for every social media user. Here are five tips that may help you be safer and happier when using social media sites:

Learn—and use—the privacy settings. Privacy settings—particularly on Facebook—are highly adaptable and can be set to protect your privacy well. Even if you think you understand the privacy settings on your social media sites, revisit them—the parameters change regularly.

Never display your full birth date. Your full birthday is a key piece of an identity thief’s puzzle. If you choose to share your birthday on Facebook or Twitter, never display the year.

Watch your own content. Constantly ask yourself if the content you’re sharing will pose a risk to your own privacy or safety. For example, if you’re a woman traveling alone, don’t mention the city or hotel you’ll be in. Or, if sharing pictures of your grandkids’ kindergarten graduation, don’t share identifiable school information. Protect yourself—and especially children—by sharing only “neutral” content.

Watch what you click on. Unscrupulous individuals can use social media sites to gather information. For example, a post with a photo of a red Porsche could ask you to “ ‘Like’ if you Love your Porsche.” With a click, users share information with someone “pharming”* for it. And be very cautious about clicking on any outside links.

Time management. Periodically analyze how much time you spend on social media. Set personal boundaries and designate certain days or times—such as family vacations—as social media “off” days. 

If you haven’t already connected with us through social media, please do. Here is where you will find us:

• Twitter: @AdventistReview
• Facebook:
• Pinterest boards: Adventist Review and Adventist World
• YouTube Channel: 

* “Pharming” occurs when individuals fraudulently gain access to a computer or network server and misdirect users to Web sites that look legitimate but are not. Personal information such as credit card or bank account numbers could then be searched for and potentially stolen.

All a-Twitter
How 140 characters can encourage thoughtful discussion

JANELLE COLLINS, Adventist Review summer intern, interviews JENNIFER JILL SCHWIRZER, counselor, author, musician and songwriter from Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania.

What sets Twitter apart from other social media in terms of its ability to reach people? 
Twitter limits the number of characters of your post—it forces brevity. We live in a sound-bite age. Twitter trains communicators to keep it short and sweet. It mimics actual conversation much more closely than Facebook, where people can wax eloquent. Grandstanding is impossible in 140 characters. 

Do you have a specific message you hope to promote with your Twitter presence, or is it all inspired and/or spontaneous? 
I try to keep my posts philosophical and spiritual. So I might tweet “Life is so unfair. I have it far better than I should,” instead of “Just ate a salad.” The posts go right to my Facebook page, where people comment, sometimes loquaciously. It’s tempting to post about controversial topics such as politics, homosexuality, rock music, or women’s ordination. Those posts sometimes elicit hundreds of responses. But I limit the amount of that kind of thing because I’m not convinced those discussions really help people. Basically, I try to point Twitter followers to Jesus and give them a thought for the day. 

A lot of artists use Twitter as a means for self-promotion, but your use differs. 
I show up as a person on social media. I’m an artist, but I don’t present myself as a commodity to be promoted so much as a person who creates. The post “Buy my new CD at . . .” will be preceded by many posts saying such things as “Just got back from an exhausting day in the studio. Why do I do this?” Ultimately, I want followers to know Jesus, prepare for His soon coming, help others prepare, and leave the planet. 

Have you had positive interactions or responses from your Twitter followers? What has made the biggest impact for you personally? 
The most quantifiable success story so far is that a group of musician friends and I raised more than $10,000 for our most recent CD, The Lamb Wins. We set up a Facebook page for the CD, then a Kickstarter campaign, then promoted the Kickstarter fund-raiser on Twitter and Facebook. Probably 80 percent of the donations came through that. I have only about 300 Twitter followers, but more than 4,500 Facebook friends, so my reach is quite good. But again, I don’t approach these things in a commercial, self-promoting way. I do promote, but in the context of me as a person, a person who loves to engage others. This feels more real, and ultimately more Christian, to me. 

Blog All About It

JANELLE COLLINS interviews ROGER HERNANDEZ, ministerial/evangelism director for the Southern Union Conference, and coordinator of LEAD (Leadership, Evangelism, Accountability and Diversity), an initiative for pastors.

I understand that you consistently write a blog. How do you decide what topics to address?
I decide in three ways. One, I write about things in the news and the way Christians act. For example, Rick Warren’s son committed suicide. I wrote about the famous pastor’s loss and the way Christians reacted to the suicide—some of them rejoiced because Warren’s supposed to be a false teacher. This was very troubling to me, so I wrote about how we treat each other as Christians—sometimes there’s more damage done to each other by each other than from outside sources.

Another area is personal interests. I like leadership, so I write a lot about it. And I also write about conversations I have with pastors and ministry leaders in churches. I’m especially interested in young adults and their relationship to the church and to Christ, so I try to connect with them. I try to get their perspective on the church; what problems they see and some of their struggles. I write about these experiences.
How did you develop the concept for LEAD? What do you do to attract people to your ministry?
The words “leadership,” “evangelism,” “accountability,” and “diversity” comprise the acronym—these are the goals. I attract people by connecting with them on Twitter or Facebook. Everywhere I make a presentation, which is different places in the North American Division, I always say, “If you want to keep the conversation going, here’s my Twitter and my Facebook, you know my e-mail, you can connect with me through these.” I’ve found that it’s usually a younger demographic that connects, most of the older pastors don’t use Twitter or don’t know what a blog is, so I always explain it in my PowerPoint presentations. 

How do you plan to continue incorporating social media into the growth of LEAD?
Twitter and Facebook give me access and connections to people, a good amount of people, who don’t come to church anymore. And Twitter seems to be their only remaining connection with church. I am careful to keep things real, but not be negative.

Sometimes I’ll post messages and some people who haven’t gone to church in years will comment, “I watched that message you put on YouTube, and it was a blessing to me, even though I’m not connected to church. But what about this?” And they’ll ask questions or ask for prayer. 

Going forward as a church, if we utilize social media, it might be a point of connection or reentry with people that have disconnected. One thing I passionately believe is that every pastor or ministry leader or departmental director should have a Twitter account, at the minimum, and a Facebook page. They’re missing a whole segment of their church demographic if they don’t. 

History Lesson

KIMBERLY LUSTE MARAN talks with ALLAN MARTIN about the early days of Internet use for ministry.

When did you start communicating via computer?
Back in the early 1980s, while I was in college, I put together an e-mail-distributed ministry communiqué called “cat/a/lyst,” to share with young adults upcoming Christian events/activities and inspirational opportunities.  I took a year out after my sophomore year to serve with the Florida Conference Youth Department; during that time I developed the cat/a/lyst. I just took clip art and took upcoming events that might have been of interest to young adults—it started off as something that was duplicated and copied in the basement of the Florida Conference office.
Well, that’s how it started, in the Florida Conference. And subsequently, when e-mail became a more frequent method for correspondence, we stopped doing the cut-and-paste deals and began e-mailing folks. I would say in those early days maybe 100-200 young adults were on the mailing list, and I would just send it out, like spam. That was the very root of entry. That’s how we started to communicate with young adults electronically.

In the early 1990s I was the first online moderator for the Adventist Teen/Young Adult Forums for the North American Division [NAD] in CompuServe—back in those prehistoric days when America Online [AOL] ruled.

Back then there really weren’t any social media platforms, and there was limited Web browsing. At that point the church seemed a little leery of laypeople using the Internet. So we had a little safe Adventist forum inside of CompuServe, and that was the beginning, in my opinion, of the possibilities of social media beginning to spark in people’s minds. In that particular section of CompuServe there were a couple of forums that would periodically meet together. At that point I was still young, and the division wanted to have someone moderate these places where people were gathering. I served as the moderator for the youth, not only hosting the online gatherings that we would have, but also moderating the discussion boards and making sure that everyone was behaving. That was my early start into what was the forerunner, I think, of social media.
Describe what that was like. How does that compare to what’s going on now?
It is kind of a foreign element to folks who haven’t been a part of those types of forums. But it was really fascinating. In many very real ways I got to build online relationships with members of the Adventist Church from around the world. . . . The online accessibility in our little CompuServe forum really afforded an opportunity to intersect and dialogue with all kinds of people. In that forum, too, I think we were beginning to see the predecessors of the expectation of being able to communicate with every level of the church. Prior to CompuServe, it would be unheard-of to have a discussion with an NAD president or the General Conference [GC] president. But via CompuServe we would arrange it with our folks at the division or the world headquarters. People would sign on and be able to ask questions and basically have an online chat with various leadership individuals in our church. In fact, in many ways it was an opportunity to get a sense of the Adventist family in a very electronic way. It had its limitations, but it was a lot of fun. Also I think it brought awareness to what would be necessary as far as courtesy online. Do you remember Ralph Blodgett?
He has passed away, but I still remember his efforts to try to keep people civil in the midst of this new arena. We weren’t talking to faces, but we were certainly exchanging ideas and having an opportunity to disagree and debate, which at times could get very heated. So we were learning a little bit more about some of the pitfalls of not only online social media but also e-mail. . . . There was a big learning curve during that period. It did take a little bit of time to get accustomed to communicating well. But today’s teens would be very comfortable in those early forums.
I remember the CONNECT.kit that came out in 2000. There’s a VHS tape and a compact disc in it, which was kind of revolutionary at that point, right?
Yes. I think it’s too bad that Mark Zuckerburg wasn’t an Adventist, because in those early phases, what was happening on the Harvard campus is what we wanted to achieve. We wanted to see different young adult ministries, initiatives, movements, and efforts to be connected with one another. We wanted to find out whether or not we could create synergy for what was happening by encouraging one another, seeing what other people were doing, being able to learn what was actually working in young adult ministry. All of this was based on young adults in their local settings across the nation being able to share information, tell other people what they were doing and getting feedback off that. And really, that desire is the definition of social media.
So how would you say that we’re doing that now—young adult church groups, the ones that were in that kit—or the ones that kit was supposed to reach?
The interesting thing is—and this is one of the Achilles’ heels of young adult ministries—that even before us, even with the Boomers and Generation X, when we thought about young adult ministry, it was to our generation. So as our generation got older, guess what happened to us being young adults? We became young marrieds, we became young marrieds with children, and then we became adults somehow, somewhere. What happened with those ministries that were a part of this kind of Web-based network is that we were using tools in regard to creating a dynamic database. Now Facebook has taken that same idea and just basically blew it up to full access.

To this day I still have contact with those individuals that were a part of those initial networks that were developed. But many of them have moved on because they’ve grown older. So I think one of the things that I thought was really spectacular about CONNECT.kit, and [Web site engine for networking young adult ministries part of connect], is that individuals who would probably never have had any intersection with each other shared a passion and were able to convene together, and network together, even to this day.

I have long-term relationships with these folks even though they’ve moved on in regard to their ministries in other areas. We’ve also shared sad news, where we’ve seen places the church really didn’t mentor members of our generation, and we’ve seen them fall away from the faith or we’ve seen them become disenchanted with Christianity. Anyway, we’ve been able to stay far more in touch with one another and far more social with one another as a result of some of these social media elements, even though some of them such as the CONNECT.kit are prehistoric to the social media today.

Here are a few places young adults can go these days:
IGNITIONblog: NAD Young Adult Ministry Leadership Training
NAD Young Adult Ministry Advisory Facebook page:  From 30 in person 2x/year to more than 600 24/7
Just Claim It 4, from the NAD Youth Ministry Department:
Generation Youth for Christ: A youth-initiated and youth-led movement of Seventh-day Adventists from diverse backgrounds, united in commitment to serious Bible study, intense prayer, uncompromising lifestyle, and boldness in sharing Christ with others.
GODencounters:  a young adult movement that has been propelled by social media and Internet technology,;  the vibrant young adult ministry of the Arlington Seventh-day Adventist church, which uses social media to go beyond their church walls in their mission to deepen the devotion of next generations to Christ Jesus. 

A. Allan Martin is teaching pastor at Younger Generation Church at the Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church in Texas.

Why Use Social Media?
One pastor’s take on using it in ministry


Pastor Josue Murillo’s social media audience on Instagram is comprised vastly of young adults and youth (both church members and nonmembers). By connecting Instagram to Twitter and Facebook, Murillo has increased the Arlington, Texas, Seventh-day Adventist Church’s reach exponentially to older generations who have access to the other platforms (especially Facebook). These days Murillo wouldn’t be caught without his iPhone, which he uses to post on various social media platforms.

“Our church Web site now features an Instagram button that shows the latest #asdachurch and #ygchurch hashtags of pictures posted by church members engaging in various activities,” explains Murillo. “While the majority of pictures are directly related to church events, others depict common social activities—some pictures that are used often happen outside the church and have nothing to do with a particular ministry but still show the lives of our members.”

The photos that Murillo and other church members post include children and young people getting ready for church on Sabbath (posting pics of their attire), families celebrating birthdays, small group gatherings during the week, Bible studies, hospital visits, inspirational captions, and sporting events. Says Murillo, “To me, that’s so deep and meaningful! It tells me they still consider themselves representing and linked to our church family not only during the weekend but also in their daily lives!”

Members who are excited about their church life—and willing to broadcast it—is thrilling for church leadership too. And it is also a good opportunity for the pastor to let people know they are the priority. “Social media gives me a chance to connect with my members and their needs in a powerful way,” Murillo says. “By reading their ‘statuses’ I learn a lot about my congregation’s needs, weaknesses, and strengths. I’ve found out about members’ illnesses, losses, births, personal struggles, and challenges and have been able to respond faster than ever!” Murillo stays in touch through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on his smartphone.

Murillo remembers a young family he met several years ago whom he remained connected to through Facebook. They lived at least an hour’s drive away from Arlington but, unknown to Murillo, they were paying close attention to his Facebook status updates. Says Murillo, “I wasn’t aware that they were going through a serious spiritual crisis when they reached out sending a message to my Facebook inbox, asking about our ministries in Arlington.” The family was extremely curious about Murillo’s pictures and, after Murillo answered their questions, they promised to be at church the following Sabbath.
“To make a long story short,” adds Murillo, “they are now attending Arlington Adventist Church regularly and are engaged in ministry!”

This isn’t the only contact Murillo has had with “outsiders.” He keeps in communication with people who live in other states—and outside of the United States—but consider themselves Arlington church members. “Although they’ve never set a foot on our church campus,” Murillo shares, “they keep in contact with us through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram while ‘attending’ our church services via our Internet live stream, or rebroadcast, every Sabbath.” 

Murillo is committed to serving his church—and he’s committed to using social media as part of that service. “You cannot underestimate the impact of social media,” he says. “It gives you the opportunity to be ‘available’ to so many people! Although it is in a virtual way, it still opens real doors and makes you accessible. 

“Social media creates significant challenges when it comes to interpersonal relations,” warns Murillo, “but it also opens new opportunities to establish meaningful dialogues with real people in our constantly changing, modern society.”

Kimberly Luste Maran is the young adult editor of the Adventist Review.

Allan Martin and Social Media 101
How do you use technology for human interaction?

BY JANELLE COLLINS, based on an interview conducted by KIMBERLY LUSTE MARAN
Social media is defined, and consumed, in different ways by different people. To some it’s a place to post pictures, vent, catch up, or pass the time. To others, such as A. Allan Martin, it’s an evolved process, a new, revolutionary form of outreach that can have positive results if it is used in the right way. “Electronic and online communication have always been integral to my ministry with youth and young adults because I have always felt that technology and the Internet were where you’d find younger generations. It’s as native to them as television and radio have been for generations past,” he says.

The question is how does someone from an older generation integrate themselves into the fast-paced, ever-growing world of social media and this type of interactive communication? Martin believes it’s about understanding the fundamentals. “From a very basic sense, I think people want to be validated. I think they want to be heard. I think they want to have a conversation in which a person gets who they are. This is not rocket science; it’s just basic human interactions, Interpersonal Relationships 101.”

Martin has been a vital part of social media in the Adventist Church since the early 1990s, when he served the North American Division Youth and Young Adult Department by moderating online forums on CompuServe. Martin continues to use social media now to reach out to a younger generation. “Facebook is easy enough to use as a hub from which to share stuff with other social-media platforms, such as Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Since my profile and most of my pages and groups are all public, I’m reaching whoever decides to follow my posts, and in many cases friends of friends of friends can look in to see what is going on [that’s part of the unique power of social media].”

Having been involved in the early days of online communication, Martin has seen how it has changed, and he has experienced the significance of these changes. “In the early days of the Internet there were Web-based discussion boards, which I suppose were early predecessors of social media. . . . I’ve heard it compared to the invention of the Gutenberg printing press, also heard it akin to the invention of radio or television for previous generations. . . . I’d say it is a phenomenon much like discovering that the world was round, except reverse. I believe through social media we’ve discovered a futuristically flat world, where at a touch or a type of a screen we can be anywhere in the world.”

While something that vast is a great place to share your faith, Martin warns that we should be careful of how we are perceived online. “My faith is going to come out naturally as part of my life experience. But the people are pretty adamant about proselytizing I think are not necessarily received well in social media. People that are rabid about their political positions aren’t very well received on social media.” Martin compares “the beauty of social media” to a first date, in terms of how to approach certain topics. “I want to build commonality, I want to be able to understand where people are.”

The importance of this is seen all over the media. An all-or-nothing approach to witnessing via social networking can render even the most earnest user ineffective. “When anyone goes on there with the specific kind of overt intentionality to proselytize, people in social media know to often tune them out.”

The delicate dance of sharing but not oversharing will always be present in social media. Martin knows this, and while he utilizes the benefits of these various networks, he says there is no replacing the most fundamental way of communication. “Part of the challenge in regard to social media is that even though you can share basically all kinds of information about yourself, it’s really not the same as human interaction. So there are some pitfalls in regard to that.”

Then how can someone who is interested in reaching out through social media do so without alienating people? Is it even possible to reach those in cyberspace who could easily ignore you? “I do believe that this generation is far more open to spiritual experiences and religion that works for their friends. And in the Adventist Church community, much like I said earlier, although we love to create our own little demographic distinctions between the generations, the same human needs that Adam and Eve had are the same human needs that we have today.”
Around the World

Martin sees social media as a way to move us forward in a very biblical way. “As a teen, when I heard an evangelist cite from Matthew 24:14 I would have a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea. In a world of rotary phones, cassette tapes, VHS videos, and typewriters I had a hard time grasping the idea of the entire world experiencing the gospel. But today with social media, those ancient yet futuristic words don’t seem so abstract. Social media has the exponential power of reaching literally around the world many times over.”

The examples of this are encouraging to any young adult or layperson interested in employing social media for ministry. Martin says there has already been a “tremendous” impact through a ministry called UNITE, an idea conceived after a 2012 Southern Union High School Prayer Conference. Ryan Becker, a student from Southern Adventist University, was instrumental in helping bring this idea to life. With the help of several leaders within the Southern Union, UNITE has developed into a full-fledged ministry.

Their Web site tells their mission, and demonstrates just how integral social media can be to spreading a positive message and sharing faith. “UNITE seeks to create a network of churches where young adults can get involved locally, offering tools to equip them spiritually to let their lives reflect Christ’s love and service.”*

Martin appreciates the importance of a network of support, which is what helped this idea for a young adult ministry to really take root. “There are people that are on leadership for union young adult ministries, and college leadership there at Southern, and we’re able to intersect and pour a bit of wisdom, and pour a bit of experience, and provide support for this young adult who had this idea. . . . Their capability to do types of things has been exponentially propelled as a result of social media platforms.”

The opportunities provided through social media are limitless. We’ve seen it used selfishly, and we have seen it used irresponsibly. As Christians, however, our job is to ensure that we approach social media thoughtfully, and with an appreciation for its possibilities. “Be civil, be kind, and be discreet,” Martin advises. He sees social media as the next step toward uniting and continuing our great commission to share a message with the world. “I can only imagine what tomorrow will bring.”
For more on this topic, and to read interesting research and articles, check out these links:


More Tips for Engaging in Social Media

JOSUE MURILLO, or “Pastor Josh,” the children’s ministries, Revive community care, and communication pastor at the Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church in Texas, shares some tips on how to get the most out of your social media use—as a church leader and as an individual.
Social media is definitely a powerful tool that God can use to advance His kingdom. Our culture is constantly being shaped by social media, and we cannot waste the opportunity to establish presence—and influence it with an authentic approach. Many who are out of your physical reach, or wouldn’t even accept talking to you in person, are willing to establish relationships via social media and can be swayed by a single picture, statement, or video post. Here’s a short list to consider as you engage in social media use.

1. If you don’t know much about social media, don’t be afraid to ask those who know. Buy books, read Internet articles, and engage intentionally in conversations to learn more about it. It isn’t that complicated! The best book I’ve found on the subject: 
Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, by Michael Hyatt (

2. Take advantage of your real strengths! Be honest with yourself and with your audience; never offer something you don’t have, or misrepresent your church! If you attempt to create an artificial image of your congregation, you may end up with many disappointed followers. Authenticity is key!

3. Be intentional with your posts as you take advantage of any opportunity available. Look for specific goals you want to accomplish and devise a strategy that will allow you to be consistent. Do your best to stay focused at posting what will be consistent with your purpose and mission! Don’t get distracted with useless posts or engage in meaningless arguments.

4. Be extremely careful at building your social media reputation! After a while, people decide who to “follow” and who to ignore. If you’re intentional, careful, and authentic enough, they’ll appreciate your input and open up to your influence.

5. Do your best to stay up-to-date with latest news and social trends. That’ll help a lot in establishing relationships, sharing opinions, and providing answers.

6. Avoid being perceived as judgmental. Remember Jesus’ advice at being prudent! You can share your principles and beliefs without appearing as imposing.

7. Don’t repost any article or video without first fully watching it! Example: If you’re reposting an image with an inspirational statement and a Bible verse, check first if the statement matches the verse. Many times they don’t!
8. As a Christian, remember to represent your Lord in everything you say and write; do it all for His glory!

This article was published July 18, 2013.


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