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Members of a local online community in Rogaska Slatina, Slovenia, meet at a live event in March to discuss life issues. The LIFEconnect initiative is the denomination's first major ministry outreach solely using social media. [photo courtesy tedMEDIA]
June 04, 2013 | St. Albans, England | Ansel Oliver/ANN
The development of a social media strategy for outreach in Europe is paying off for Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders trying to connect with those potentially interested in learning about God.
The online community LIFEconnect, launched in 2010, offers content and discussion groups for various lifestyle topics. This year, the online project began offering live meeting events and streaming presentations. Follow-up statistics from March and April meetings show the project is drawing tens of thousands of viewers and participants, and in some cases motivating them to visit an Adventist Church.
The initiative is operated by the Adventist Church’s Trans-European Division, based in England. The region includes 22 countries and is home to slightly less than 83,000 Adventist Church members.
Currently, 13 countries in the division are participating in the LIFEconnect project, with another half dozen expected to join this year.
“Jesus told us to go where people are, and today more than 2.5 billion people are on the Internet,” said Miroslav Pujic, Communication & Media director for the Trans-European Division. “Digital roads are quickly taking us to millions to share the story of Jesus Christ.”
While other church regions are finding success with major media outreach – such as television production and distribution in countries including Romania and Brazil – LIFEconnect is the denomination’s first major ongoing outreach initiative solely using social media. Though small for now, division leaders are finding some success in highly secular regions, where other methods of evangelism have yielded few results.
“I know of the challenges and sacrifices made to implement this project, and it’s thrilling to see this method of outreach delivering such great results, said Williams Costa Jr., Communication director of the Adventist world church. “Our church has been using other methods of outreach, and that’s fine, but we need to keep being innovative in finding new ways to share our message.”
In Albania, home to only 200 church members, more than 20 visitors came to an Adventist Church following a streamed LIFEconnect event. The nightly program had about 1,100 viewers.
In Serbia, organizers noted 10,500 viewers of a streamed program in one weekend. While some were church members, many community members participated in the program and at an auditorium event.
In Macedonia, a streamed program gained 3,300 viewers over a weekend. A national pop music recording artist came to a live event.
In Montenegro, 80 percent of registered users are not members of the Adventist Church. Some 3,000 peopled viewed a weekend program in March, with three people coming to visit and Adventist Church the following Saturday.
“This is becoming the major outreach method in Serbia,” said Dragan Grujicic, LIFEconnect leader for the Southeast-European Union Conference, based in Serbia.
Pujic launched LIFEconnect in June of 2010, following two years of planning and development. Church administrations in participating countries were required to designate a Web pastor for the project, a network developer and volunteers.
The initiative is operated at the division by a small team of developers, a marketing manager and a content manager.
Pujic said roughly 32,000 people followed streamed programs online or participated in corresponding events in auditoriums in March and April.
He said the division plans to add the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and several Nordic and Baltic countries to the LIFEconnect project by the end of this year.