‘Facebook Pastor’ Uses Networking to Help 500 Students

Post a Comment » Written on December 19th, 2008     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

ATLANTA, GA (December 19, 2008) – Five hundred needy students at the Frank L. Stanton Elementary School received Christmas gifts and new school uniforms this week after Covenant Pastor Shaun King used Internet social networking websites to raise funds from across the country and internationally.

Three hundred people across 22 states and several foreign countries donated some $21,000 during the campaign that ran through November and into the first week of December, says King, who calls himself the “The Facebook Pastor.” King serves as pastor of The Courageous Church, an Evangelical Covenant Church plant that doesn’t even hold its launch service for another three weeks.

King was at the school on Tuesday to watch the students open the gifts and receive the uniforms. “It’s been really exciting,” he says. Click here to see additional photos from that event.

GiftsThe excitement has grown across the country since national media carried an Associated Press story about King’s Facebook experiment that has been published on the websites of outlets including MSNBC, Forbes magazine, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Several TV stations also have carried stories, including a major Atlanta news broadcast.

King, who had volunteered at the school more than a decade ago while a student at Morehouse College, asked administrators how the church could help. They told him that although the school required uniforms, half of the children’s families couldn’t afford them. They asked whether the church could raise money for the clothes.

“We can help with that,” King immediately replied, not considering there was no way the people in his congregation could donate that much money. “It was something dumb I said, but as soon as I said it, we couldn’t go back on that.”

Looking back, King adds, “Crisis and lean budgets can really cause people to be creative.”

That creativity led he and congregation members to fan out across their social networking sites such as MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, blogs and the website 500toys.com they created for the campaign. They also posted videos of the children on YouTube.

LaughingHe and other church members were nervous when only $80 came in after the first day. As church members continued to advertise the campaign through their own virtual communities, however, the donations began to build.

“We didn’t spend one dollar to raise $21,000,” King says. For him, the experience recalls Jesus multiplying the fishes and loaves.

Although they spent no money, members did invest a lot of time. “We worked it really hard,” King says.

Members continually updated their sites with information about the drive. King says he doesn’t know 80 percent of the people who donated.

He also has used the social networking sites to build the core group of his church, which now numbers more than 100. Roughly 60 percent of the people learned of the new work through the sites, King says.

Rochelle McAllister told the Associated Press that she found King’s Facebook ad a month ago and added him as a friend. She was one of several volunteers helping pass out toys at Stanton Elementary.

Whether it was raising money or starting a congregation, King says the key is to convert online contacts into relationships. And that takes time. “You can’t just get on Facebook and do a project.”

Before launching the campaign, King already had an extensive online presence, maintaining his own blog, the church website, and engaging others through Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and, Twitter.

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