A little over a week ago, I read a Facebook update from a friend that her husband was in critical condition; then she Facebook chatted me to start praying and that it didn’t look good. I started praying right then and there, then called another close friend and we prayed. Scores of my friend’s friends on Facebook were pouring out prayers, Bible verses, and words of encouragement to her. All of us could read the comments; all of us were encouraged.

What struck me the most about what happened (my friend’s husband did pass away) was how immediate people from all around the world began praying and lifting my friend up immediately. We were all tuned in, checking Facebook for updates on how we could be helpful, or just offer encouragement.

It got me thinking about how pastors, worship leaders, youth ministers, and small group leaders could encourage others through Facebook.

1) Create a Friend List: It’s hard to keep up with hundreds of friends on Facebook. There’s no way to get everyone’s updates if you have 400 friends unless you are checking in constantly throughout the day. To solve this conundrum, sign in to Facebook, go to your homepage, then look on the middle left where it says “Friends.” Click the “more” tab then “create list.” Put everyone from your church, or small group, or youth group all in one list.

2) Connect Daily. I know it’s hard to add one more thing to the daily to-do list, but it will be worth it, trust me. Go to your newly created “church” friend list and read their updates, stay tuned in daily. My pastor actually texted me to say happy birthday last year – all because my birthday showed up in his Facebook events list (there are 1,500 people who attend our church). Monitoring your peeps daily and posting notes of encouragement or picking up the phone if they are having a problem are great ways to show that you are paying attention.

3) Stay Current. Facebook is perhaps the best place for churches to communicate what’s going on – from the Wednesday night kids events to what the sermon will be about on Sunday, to event time changes, to upcoming special events – make use of this powerful tool. Encourage each pastor and leader within your church to post updates, create events, even invite people one-by-one to get people connected. Spread the responsibility and set guidelines for how to connect appropriately.

These are just a few ways that Facebook can be harnessed to reach people for Christ and connect them to your church. Can you think of any other ways to reach people through Facebook?

Lauren Hunter is a freelance writer, church technology PR consultant (http://lhpr.net) and founder of the blog ChurchTechToday (http://ChurchTechToday.com), Technology for Today’s Church.