Posted by: Philip Rushton | February 21, 2012

The Power Of Presence In A Facebook World

Our new caregiver team has been working through a curriculum called “The Power of Presence.” The premise of this study is that simply being present with other people can have a healing effect in their lives. Facilitator Doug Manning makes this observation: “I have never understood how counseling works, even though I have been involved in counseling for most of my life. I still have no idea how I can sit with my chin in my hand and grunt every once in a while and then people get better. “ Manning goes on to suggest that when people are able to talk and feel as though they are understood, they develop insights that help them grow. The role of the skilled helper is not to impart info; rather, it is to be present with people in such a way that they can feel safe enough to figure out what they need to grow.

I think it is essential for us to recover the power of presence in our technological age. There have been some experiments lately with doing church online. New small groups theorists are experimenting with online group gatherings, and some churches actually hold services that you can participate in by logging in online and never leaving your house. Recently, on the CNN belief blog, there was an article about a church that has experimented with having worship services on facebook.

While social media has its place, I am not convinced that it can adequately replace the power of real life presence. The problem with social media is that it allows us to filter our lives and edit our friends. If I am bored with reading your updates I can hide them with the click of a button. If I want to hide what is really going on in my life I can create a profile that puts up a façade.

When we are separated by technology we do not experience the depth of human interaction that is essential for us to thrive as human beings. Technology can remove shared experiences and memories, sacrificial service towards others, physical support, conflict, empathetic listening, and many other things that make relationships formative in our lives.

Last night Julie and I hosted our community group for people that are in the 20’s and early 30’s. We meet every other Sunday night at our home for a potluck and conversation. Right now we are taking time to tell our stories. We’re sharing about the three people, places and events that have shaped our lives. As we have been experimenting with this new group I have come to realize again the importance of real life interaction. The reality is that you can have 500 friends on Facebook and still feel extremely disconnected from community.

For this reason, I have been working to create a culture at the church where community is important. Last year we launched 5 new community groups and this year I’m working behind the scenes to launch a few more. If you are feeling the effects of this disconnected and distracted age, let me know! I would love to help you plug into a group or equip you to launch a new one.

With that being said – I’d love to hear your thoughts on this online social network blog:) You do not even have to leave your house to interact with others! I will also attach this to my Facebook page to make it more accessible. Irony noted . . .


  1. Maybe I’m just in the wrong generation but still feel that we need a people fix, eye to eye when possible. Perhaps the pew arrangement of a “perfect” church would be ‘in the round’ so we could see something besides the back of someone’s head. Keep on the small group track, it is a great need and a great blessing. Blogging is fun, but could it ever be worshipful?….. I doubt it.

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