Social media

Madeline Mullenbach, left, and Katherine Thacker, right, help connect people to Jesus and one another through Southeast’s social media.

A wall in the small social media office at Southeast Christian Church is filled with photos of Thomas, a pastor in Liberia who contacted Southeast asking for prayer. His small church outside Monrovia struggles to care for people in the village, but Thomas never asked for anything except Bible study resources.

“Thomas prays for us,” said social media specialist Katherine Thacker. “Though his church is small, he follows what Southeast is doing and is starting small group ministry. So as our small groups meet, they’re launching in a small village in Liberia. Our dream is to meet Thomas one day.”

When COVID-19 restrictions limited face-to-face conversations at churches last March, social media traffic skyrocketed. People searched Southeast’s social media platforms looking for someone to talk or to pray with, for comfort, peace and answers to big life questions.

Every day, 60,000 to 80,000 see Southeast Facebook or Instagram posts. That doesn’t include online streaming. On Wednesdays, 250 to 400 different people respond to the simple question, “How can we pray for you today?”

Some contacts seem random. A search. A click on a keyboard. Getting to a link by mistake.

But Southeast social media specialists Madeline Mullenbach and Thacker believe one connection can change a life, so they focus on the one.

“We respond to people one at a time,” Thacker explained. “Responses and requests for prayer are confidential, individual and personal.”

About half of those who message Southeast through Facebook or Instagram are from Louisville. Many do not attend the church or have any idea about the size of the church or where its campuses are located.

They do know that responses are quick and personal.

Some who message the church would not or could not come in the door. In the anonymity of social media, some ask deep questions they may not ask face-to-face.

In a single day, Mullenbach and Thacker may talk with someone from Kenya, another from Mexico, Liberia or Australia. They may pray with someone in Louisville facing cancer, talk to a skeptic asking serious questions about God or listen to someone who is lonely, afraid or unsure of all happening in the world.

Not all interactions are easy; they handle difficult conversations with grace

Each post has purpose—a quote from a sermon, a Bible verse, an encouraging word, an invitation to pray.

“We think through our posts,” Mullenbach said. “With all this chaos happening around us, we need to be the church, anchored in and preaching the Gospel. The truth relates to everyone everywhere. We have an opportunity to connect with people who might not know Southeast in person.”

Thacker said it’s humbling to see how God uses a sermon, a post or a quote to meet someone’s need.

“When we realize that a message is perfect for someone in Louisville, someone in an underground church in a closed country or a place around the world we may never visit for people we may never meet, we see that the truth of the Gospel is always relevant and powerful,” Thacker said.

Last February, one man asked for prayer for his wife. Messages continued back and forth. In time they became more direct and personal. He asked questions about life: “Why don’t I trust God? What does it mean to have faith when times are troubling? How can I deal with what’s happening with my wife’s cancer.”

Thacker and Mullenbach send the couple encouraging messages, and they continue to pray for them.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, Mullenbach and Thacker talked with many first responders and started a Starbucks initiative. They gave gift cards to first responders, telling them to get a cup of coffee or smoothie on Southeast.

“Our heart was not to just give money for a cup of coffee, but to have a conversation with them,” Thacker said. “That led to good connections. Our goal is to be encouraging and uplifting. Sometimes we’re able to follow up with them. We don’t just see a user name. We see a person behind each comment. One goal is to make connections, to walk alongside them in whatever is going on in their lives.”

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