Christian Social Networks and Private Community Sites

As we’ve begun to look at numerous Christian Social Networks and Private Community Sites there is one test that easily distinguishes two paths that make a large difference in whether a Christian should use them:

Does the Social Network focus on the Community over the Cause?

Let me give two private Community Network examples:

Community-Focus: I demoed one private Community Network product that is set to be released later this year. In this product they pulled numerous ‘widgets’ into the framework to allow people to stay logged in and never leave. There was a tremendous effort on building community, including social activities for church members. This product will probably be quite successful in terms of use but I believe they will end up with a Christian ghetto where people aren’t led to be on mission.

causesocialnetworking

Cause-Focus: I demoed another private Community Network that would not allow you to create a Group unless it was (1) a real group that met physically and (2) if it was a social group it needed to be for the purpose of mission. If an event does not occur (or if there are no needs posted) a flag appears questioning if it is even a real group.

Cobblestone: As we launch this product we definitely are driven by our Calling by God that leads us to be on mission to the world. We want to see the activities within Cobblestone be about creating opportunities for mission that would be pushed out to Facebook and other 3rd party sites. If you have a basketball group in Cobblestone it should be a place for prayer and encouragement to represent Christ on the court but more importantly it should be pushed outside of the system to invite others.

Social Network Example: There are a few Christian Social Network sites as well. How should Christian Social Networks lead people on mission (the “cause”)? In our Church Website research there are a lot of Christians who use websites for discipleship and to facilitate their evangelism efforts. On our study, 73% said the church website was somewhat to very important in sharing their faith with others (friends, business colleagues, others). These social networks should focus on these causes (as opposed to just being a ‘social place’ like a Facebook or Myspace knock-off) to equip believers for the work of the ministry.

(Shape the future of Church web strategies, take the Church Community Network Survey.)

What are your thoughts about Christian Community & Social Networks?