Reaching Out with LinkedIn

puzzleYesterday, I attended a St. Paul’s Business Builders meeting and came back really pumped. The featured guest was Wayne Breitbarth, who spoke on using LinkedIn to stay connected. My purpose was for business, but I came away in awe of how this technological brainstorm can benefit churches.

LinkedIn, like Facebook, MySpace and many others, is a social networking site. Unlike others, it’s a business site and, for the most part, is without the worthless banter you’ll find elsewhere. LinkedIn’s purpose is for users to maintain a list of business connections they know and trust. As of July 2009, there were 43 million registered users.

What makes LinkedIn so fascinating are its “degrees of separation.” Remember the joke about the six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon? Well, LinkedIn narrows this down to three: direct connections, second-degree connections and third-degree connections. While your direct connections are those you know and trust, their direct connections become your second-degree and their second-degree become your third. I know, it sounds a little complicated, if not pyramidal. But compare it to the old-fashioned ideal of gaining introductions to distant people via a mutual, trusted friend.

So, how can churches gain from this? Well, how limited is your creativity?

For starters, LinkedIn users are allowed three website listings on their profile page—the page viewed by your connections or the public, depending on your choice of settings. What a great way to direct millions to your church’s website! Be sure to click “edit” and give the link a name other than “My Website.”

LinkedIn has powerful search features. Businesses use this feature to seek resources for their bottom line. Churches can seek resources for their heavenly goal. Are you looking to build a new building and want to hire a contractor affiliated with your beliefs? Are you looking for a graphic designer for your congregation’s identity? Search LinkedIn’s people, jobs, companies, business, answers, inbox or group options.

LinkedIn’s Groups feature is exciting. It’s comforting. It’s welcoming. Groups are communities based on common interests and affiliations, where members can communicate via forums and LinkedIn messaging (email). Users can easily join one of the thousands of groups already formed (I searched the “church” category and came up with 1,749). Or users can create a group of their own. Imagine a group for your congregation and exchanging encouragement, prayers, schedules and news.

Perhaps LinkedIn’s greatest feature is one I should reiterate: 43 million users. Even if this is a passing fad, it currently has the attention of forty-three million people. Talk about going out into the world with the message of Christ!

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