Facebook recently started showing users more posts from their friends and family in the News Feed, a move that means people will see fewer posts from publishers and brands….including churches.

According to Facebook, the move is designed to encourage people to interact more with the posts that they actually do see. The thinking is that you’re probably more likely to comment and discuss a post shared from a family member than one shared by a business or organization you follow.

It’s a big gamble, in part because Facebook is bound to alienate a major set of users: publishers that create a lot of the free content that appears on Facebook. The social network has a reputation of routinely changing the algorithm, which in turn means publishers need to change the content they share on the service.

But Facebook is clearly taking a stand and declaring personal connections trump publisher and business reach.

According to a new study from Lifeway Research, 84 percent of churches have a Facebook page. While this change is likely to have a large impact on them, Nathan Clark, Director of Digital Innovations at Northland Church in Orlando, Florida says that it might not all be bad.

“The great commission call that Jesus gave us was a very personal call for us to move in the context of our existing relationships, sharing the love of Jesus and inviting people to follow Jesus with us. Facebook’s move will make it harder for Northland Church’s account to reach people. But, that’s because Facebook is making it easier for each of our congregants to reach people. Which, in the end, is the sort of evangelism Jesus called the church to anyway. So there’s a lot of opportunity from a discipleship and evangelism perspective and ultimately we’re more excited than concerned.”

And Clark also believes the move might ultimately be good for churches forcing them to expand their social media presence in other directions.

“It’s a good reminder not to put all our eggs in someone else’s basket. Facebook is like a rented facility with no set lease. So while we want to take advantage of any platform for the Gospel, our chief focus will always remain on God and the people we’ve been called to love and train and invite into community. And while a tool is effective to reach those people, that’s great. But if the tool no longer works, we can look for other ways to faithfully steward our congregation.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company is also responding to criticism that time spent on Facebook “is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other” adding Facebook expects the change will mean that people will spend less time using the service.

Source: Ministry Tech