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Facebook Blesses Churches

Facebook sent 200 ministers, including many AG pastors, free streaming kits to make putting their services online easier.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread its way across the United States and churches began closing due to restrictions of gatherings of more than 10, an unexpected blessing was offered by an unexpected source — Facebook.

Some Christians have voiced concerns with Facebook in the past, sharing worries about potential issues with Christian content being taken down. Yet in March, about 200 ministers, including scores of Assemblies of God pastors, received a valuable and timely gift from the company: a streaming kit.

The kit, which makes it much easier for people to do videos and live messages, included a tripod that is bendable and easy to manipulate, a phone grip that attaches to the tripod, an already charged battery power source, and a card with a link to instructions about how to livestream. All of these items were packaged inside of a high-quality backpack to make transporting the gear easy and recording or going live from any location much simpler.

“When Covid-19 began to spread, we started to see various stories about the global community of faith contemplating closing or having already closed,” explains Nona Jones, head of Global Faith Partnerships for Facebook. “We realized there would be a need for live streaming, one of the central products we offer, but we also realized that many churches weren’t live streaming at all or sporadically. We felt it was important to try to resource as many churches as we could, providing the tools they needed as rapidly as we could, as the virus was advancing.”

That’s not just “PR talk” for Jones. She is passionate about Christ and compassionate toward the Church. In addition to her work at Facebook, she’s leads Open Door Ministries, a church in Gainesville, Florida, with her husband, Tim. She’s also an author, musician, speaker, and a mother of two young boys, among other things.

Jones, 37, also makes it clear that she’s not the “lone Christian” at Facebook.

“There is a group of a couple thousand Christians at Facebook — believers from around the world,” she says. “We often meet, pray, and worship together, even if not in person, we connect online and virtually, keeping each other in prayer and supporting each other.”

The kits were sent on a first-come, first-served response, until their supply was exhausted. Jones says that the feedback has been incredibly positive, as ministers have been very grateful.

“They’ve also been using the kits,” Jones says, “which was what we wanted.”

Jordan Hamlin, Next Generations pastor of New Covenant church in Buffalo, was clearly impressed with the kit he received. He even made a video of himself opening the kit and describing the quality and usefulness of each piece.

Kathy Cannon, who pastors Sacred Church in San Bruno, California, was also greatly pleased.

“They made it so you could easily grab this and go live on Facebook or record media — everything they did, they did it with high quality. It was just a huge blessing,” Cannon says. “We’ve had it for three or four weeks now, and I instantly started using it. In fact, I’m using it right night now to record a session for Network of Women Ministers.”

Jones says that she was on a plane in February reading Barna Research Institute’s 2020 State of the Church report. She was disappointed to find that, of all of the things on pastors minds, trends in digital technology/online church was at the very bottom of the list.

“But who could have guessed, just a few weeks later, it would be many pastors’ only thought?” she observes.

Jones believes that the pandemic and the resulting use of social media has fundamentally changed the way churches operate. She has spoken to ministers of small congregations of 20 or 30 who are seeing 100 to 150 people tuning in.

“Pastors are seeing that when they use social technology, it extends their reach,” she says. “I think this is a reset of how pastors see using technology for the Kingdom.”

God is also being glorified through the pandemic and social media. Jones says all she has to do is turn on her Facebook app to see that.

“On my news feed on Sunday, the Word of God is being declared constantly,” Jones says. “There’s more preaching, more teaching, more testimonials. I firmly believe God has been moving because the declaration of the Word of God has been growing. I see the hand of God moving every time I open up my app.”

Jones, who says she very proud of her team and how it has responded to the crisis and the tools it has built to assist churches in communicating with their congregations, adds that she prays churches don’t limit themselves.

“Churches are now thinking about livestreaming their services,” Jones says. “But there are 168 hours in a week; a service takes up one hour . . . it’s time to think of ways to take up the other 167 — to use these tools to help people grow in their faith.”

Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.