Book Review: The Definitive-ish Guide for Using Social Media in the Church

This was reviewed for The Presbyterian Outlook is an also online here.


by Bruce Reyes-Chow

Shook Foil Books, 99 pages



Whether you are mystified by “yelpers” and “tweetups” or consider yourself fluent in the realm of social media, Bruce Reyes-Chow’s guide to social media in the church can help you become more faithful in your digital engagement.


But pure traditionalists and digital outsiders will have a difficult time getting their hands on this book — it has been released only in e-book form.


A relatively short read, this book introduces readers to the key social media tools and provides guidance for determining the most helpful approaches in a particular context.


“Social media will not save the church,” declares Reyes-Chow. Collectively, social media provide an expression, a medium, a tool — and as such, are naturally devoid of the institutional church’s bureaucratic structures. Therefore, in an era that is both increasingly skeptical and digital, social media invite people to build relationships and collaborate on a new, level playing field.


As a resource, “The Definitive-ish Guide” offers a full glossary of terms and tools, including items like “cloud computing” and “tagging.” In depth, it explores Reyes-Chow’s top five tools: Facebook, blogs, Google docs, Yelp, and Dropbox. With care, he outlines how these tools can be used to support worship, pastoral care, evangelism, education, preaching, congregational life, mission and administration.


You may be surprised to see Twitter missing from this list — especially if you are a Twitterer yourself and aware of how prolifically the author himself tweets. However, lesser attention is given to Twitter and even newer entries into the social media realm, such as Pinterest.


Most notably, Reyes-Chow points out that social media compel the church to be an active participant and conversant in the world — a world being transformed by interactions that happen on social media.


Fear not: Reyes-Chow reminds readers that this brave new world does not and will not replace face-to-face interaction. Yet, hallmarks of personal interaction — authenticity, transparency, reciprocation, grace and compassion — can be just as present in social media encounters as they are in interactions in the fellowship hall.


Our churches must be open to trying new things without straying from the principles of faith that inform our understanding of what it means to live and serve in community. For example, when the church engages social media authentically, visitors have a chance to see who we are at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing.


Guides for caution and accountability are stressed. Yet Reyes-Chow urges boldly entering digital interactions, because “a prophetic word delivered on the shoulder of a healthy interaction can have great impact on people.”


If pastors remain guided by the current comfort level of the church, does that mean we feel the only people worth reaching are those already being reached? Building up community, Reyes-Chow asserts, requires new tools and new disciplines.


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