If you find yourself feeling shy when opportunities to share your faith arise, here are some tips that just might help you open up to friends and colleagues without scaring anyone off.
Posted in , Aug 24, 2016
If you're like me, the phrase "sharing faith" might conjure up some unpleasant memories. I’m thinking of TV preachers making absurd promises about the spiritual rewards of donating, neighborhood canvassers passing out tracts on the perils of hell, and door-to-door evangelists barging in to ask, “Are you saved?” I often wonder if these messages actually feel like good news to anybody.
But take heart. You don’t have to march down the street waving a Bible to share your faith. In fact, the options have never been greater for those of us who want to tell our stories in more measured ways. In my job coaching people of faith in how they use technology, I’ve seen even mild-mannered Midwesterns find thoughtful—but still powerful—voices to testify online.
In fact, I believe digital communication can be a great way for people to practice talking about what for many of us has become an all-too-personal topic. Here are four ideas for sharing your faith without being creepy. (There, I said it.)
Check in at church
The location-based app Foursquare popularized the idea of “checking in” online. Now most social media platforms offer a way to post an image or brief message about where you are and what you’re up to.
This practice has become so familiar that no one will be scandalized if you check in at your place of worship. In fact, you should consider it a quiet invitation to people in your network: “You might not know this about me, but I attend religious services.” Don’t be surprised if someday one of them reaches out for more information.
What should you post? It depends on the day and the service, I suppose. But I like to share a photo or quotation of something that inspired or supported me on Sunday morning. That kind of message implicitly answers the question “Why do you bother?” at a time when fewer people are choosing to do so.
Connect faith to everyday activities
Faith doesn’t just happen at church. Religious educators say that faith practices at home are at least as important as the things we do at our synagogues and churches. So if you share about the faith dimension of activities you’d post about anyway, you get the bonus of helping strengthen your own spiritual development.
For example, if your family participates in a 5K for charity or volunteers at a community shelter, you might take the opportunity to explain how your faith has called you to this outreach.
Pinterest is perfect for this kind of reflection: “This weekend, the kids learned how to make friendship bracelets. We even talked about how God weaves our lives together with the people we care about.”
Take your language cues from others
Participating in social media is a public (or at least semi-public) act. That means your friends and followers, and their friends and followers, may have other faiths or no faith at all.
If you’re writing a post that all your friends will see, use honest, everyday language that even someone who’s never been to church will understand. If someone starts a conversation with you in response to a faith-related post, tailor your language to how that person speaks about faith. If you start the conversation, do your best to gauge what words will resonate.
For example, when someone posts difficult news, I choose from anything between “Prayers ascending!” (common language in my faith tradition) and “I’ll be thinking of you,” depending on the person. Remember: sharing your faith is not really about you!
If you spend much time on social media, you’ve probably stumbled across the hashtag #blessed. I’d estimate that 15% of the people who use it are making fun of the other 85%. And often the latter deserve it.
But I’m convinced that at the core of the #blessed phenomenon is a genuine desire to share gratitude. When social media users express the ways that true blessings come from beyond their own power and aren’t about making them look good, the results can be remarkable.
So if you’re looking for a way to begin sharing your faith online, you might get started by posting what you’re thankful for. Skip the hashtags and just speak from the heart.
You never know who’s paying attention, including total strangers who may someday be grateful for the faith, hope, and love you helped spread to their little corner of the Internet.
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