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Jean Boonstra, B.A., serves as the Associate Speaker for Voice of Prophecy. Previously she created and managed the online interactive It is Written Bible studies for children, My Place With Jesus and because of her love for history and children, wrote eight books in the series Adventist Girl. Jean lives in Colorado with her husband, Shawn, and their two daughters.
 


Connecting through Social Media (pdf)
 
If I had to choose one word to summarize my experience in our early years of ministry, it would probably be this: disconnected.
 
Not long after we were married, my husband received a new assignment from our conference. We embraced the challenge and looked forward to branching out on our own.
 
The transition was much more difficult than I could have anticipated. We now lived more than 12 hours from any family. We had a new climate, a new lifestyle, and three churches to pastor. I found a job, but it was less than ideal. I sat all day in a windowless office processing accounts receivables. My husband loved shepherding his new flocks, but that kept him on the road constantly as he shuttled from church to church. After sitting all day at my dreary desk, I walked home to a dark, empty apartment. Long distance phone calls were very still pricey, and almost none of our family members had e-mail addresses. Flights to this remote area were atrociously expensive. Now, nearly 20 years later, it is still difficult for me to write about the feelings I experienced during these years.
 
I felt disconnected. Disconnected from family. Disconnected from church friends. Disconnected from my husband. Disconnected, even, from myself. What a difference staying connected through social media could have made!
 
Spouses within a conference or union don’t often have the opportunity to encourage each other. We live long distances from one another, and being married to a minister means that our lives are always very busy. It is far too easy to become disconnected. Social media can be a surprisingly easy way to build and maintain relational links.
 
Practically speaking, how can a site like Facebook be useful for conference and union ministerial spouses groups? I’ve identified five essential ways. As you read through these ideas, you might be wondering about how to execute them. Don’t worry! I’ll walk you through everything in the video tutorial and even show you where to click on which screen to make things happen.

1.Facebook allows you to create a secret group.
 
As ministerial spouses we are usually surrounded by a sea of people. But finding a safe person that we can trust in the midst of the sea is challenging. We don’t always feel comfortable sharing personal struggles or information. Surprisingly, the very public world of social media can provide a much-needed safe haven.
 
A secret group on Facebook is that safe place. And it isn’t some clandestine meeting place where everyone wears funny hats! A secret group on Facebook is simply a place where none of the group information is available publicly. Only members can see any information. Members can only join when invited by the person who created the group. It is so secret, in fact, that unless you are a member, the group name doesn’t even appear in a general search. It is ridiculously easy to create—I’ll show you how in the video tutorial.
 
A ministerial spouses group can be a welcoming and safe way for spouses in a region to connect and minister to one another. It can be a blessing for new spouses who are just getting acquainted and also for those veterans who want to stay connected with friends they’ve grown to love and appreciate. Most importantly, a secret group creates a place for spouses to feel safe with others who understand their unique calling in life.
 
2.  Share news—almost in real time.
 
Spouses can keep up to date on what is happening in each other’s lives. The group is set up so that any member can post photos or comments, and any of the members can comment on them. So if a spouse loses a parent, for example, they might not feel up to posting that information as they’re grieving. However, another group member can post the information for all to see. News and information about the funeral and where to send condolence cards can be shared with one quick post.
 
One thing I really enjoyed in a group that I belonged to was news of new ministerial families. Family pictures were posted, along with information about where and when the family would be joining the conference. It was encouraging to read the uplifting, welcoming comments. Facebook allows us to do more than read news; it allows us to interact with the people in the stories.
 
Ministerial Facebook groups are the ideal place to share current, timely news such as births, weddings, pastoral moves, funerals, and much more. News can be updated quickly and easily, keeping everyone in the loop.
 
3. Encourage other spouses and families.
 
Our sister and brother ministerial spouses understand the unique complexities of our role in ministry. We are, therefore, uniquely equipped to encourage and uplift one another.
 
Encouragement can come in so many forms. Share a favorite Bible text. Request prayer for an unspoken request. Offer a prayer for that request and post a comment to let someone know you prayed for them. A Facebook group provides a safe place to post requests that might otherwise be too private or painful to share with a Wednesday night prayer group or with a wider group of friends on Facebook.
 
Facebook also allows you to share encouraging articles, devotionals, and videos. The interactivity of Facebook naturally creates an environment of encouragement. This safe haven community can offer a world of encouragement to those struggling with the loneliness and difficulties of ministry.
 
4. Post information about upcoming events.

Get-togethers are the highlight of any ministerial spouses association! Use your Facebook group to post information about upcoming events—camp meetings, ministerial meetings, and even information about larger church events such as Union, NAD conferences or a General Conference session.
 
I once belonged to a group where someone posted a suggested packing list for a trip that many of the members were taking. Information in the form of PDFs is simple to upload. Members can post questions, comments, and or even an RSVP right in the group. Imagine the time saved as compared to writing letters to each individual.
 
But what if your conference or union doesn’t have an active group for ministerial spouses? You might feel that talking about events, or even creating a group, is not relevant to your situation. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Your Facebook group could spark interest in starting a  more formal group. What begins on Facebook could evolve into a vibrant ministry that includes annual get-togethers.
 
5. Plan outreach projects together.
 
Most ministerial spouses that I know aren’t just along for the ride. We, too, feel a call to ministry, and a Facebook group can be just the place to inspire outreach opportunities.
 
The needs in our conferences and unions are great. Ministerial spouses can help with—and even adopt—projects in their region. We can pray for evangelistic meetings. We might be able to volunteer our time for special projects in our sister congregations or uplift an ailing community service program. Through the Facebook group we can learn about one another’s hobbies and perhaps be inspired to help others based on our interests and passions. If several in the group like to knit, then perhaps making caps for soldiers overseas could become an outreach project. If there are several medical professionals in the group, perhaps a mission trip could be planned.
 
Outreach has a way of not only helping those we serve but also satisfying something deep in our own hearts. Community outreach has the beautiful effect of binding us one to the other in a common purpose. Connecting us.
 
Looking back on the early years of our ministry, I thank God for the lessons He allowed me to learn. Those years living far from family allowed Shawn and me to come to think of ourselves as our own family—separate and distinct from the ones we grew up in. The quiet evening hours gave me ample time to reflect on how He was leading me and to ponder what my future should look like. I met a lot of strong, smart, and inspiring people during those years. I also learned from the disconnectedness. I learned to push myself out of my comfort zone and to make connections with individuals. Perhaps most importantly, I’ve realized that my experience was not unique. Most of us go through difficult seasons. The struggles are inevitable, but staying connected with those who understand and support us can make a world of difference in the journey.
 
[VIDEO] https://vimeo.com/140950728
 
Watch this video to see how to start a password protected Facebook group.