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Pastors get social during breakfast event

The Rev. Andrew Schensted (from left) speaks while the Rev. Eric Hullstrom and the Rev. Christopher Drew listen during Friday's Social Media Breakfast-Rural Connection event at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lakefield.

LAKEFIELD -- The Rev. Andrew Schensted and the deacons at Bethlehem Lutheran Church were looking for new ways to connect to the members of their congregation.

What they found was social media.

"The deacons were talking about ways to connect further," Schensted said. "We started talking about other ways to reach people. One of those ways was social media."

For about an hour Friday morning, Rev. Eric Hullstrom, Rev. Christopher Drew and Schensted talked about how they use social media in their ministry at the Social Media Breakfast-Rural Connection.

The three local pastors shared how they used sites such as Facebook and Twitter to connect to the members of their congregations -- and beyond.

"Early on, I said this has to be an additional tool we use; it can't be what we use exclusively, especially in a small community," Schensted said. "We have a very broad generational gap.

"We look at it like it's not replacing what we've previously done. It's just enhancing what we do."

Hullstrom takes it a step further and uses a blog site to host the church's webpage.

"The church didn't make any decision to do this," he said. "I just kind of set it up, told the respective councils what we were doing and they were fine."

Hullstrom uses social media to connect with younger members of his congregation.

"If I need to get ahold of people, that's how I do it, through Facebook," he said.

For Drew, the decision to start social media came from the fact his congregations didn't have a presence online at all.

"As I've used it, I realized I better have something in the Bible to support it," he said. "What's driving the content? Will it be things that make us look good, or will it be things that make Christ look good?

"These are tools that should be used by God through His church to bring people to faith. Now, the social networking approach I have is very substantially different."

The social media group, which has explored many topics since its inception in late September, is hosted in part by Julie Foote and Lori Henning.

"I went to the social media breakfast club in Redwood Falls after attending one of the Blandin (Foundation) conferences," Foote said. "I thought, 'Why can't we be doing this down in southwest Minnesota?' I immediately thought of Lori. My goal was to have everyone talking about Lakefield, Jackson, Sherburn and Worthington like they had been about Redwood Falls."

Through the Social Media Breakfast-Rural Connection, the group meets in Lakefield and Sherburn. They are hoping to start a similar group in Worthington.

"For us, for the rural communities, I think people view us as lagging behind the more urban and metro communities," Henning said. "We want to bring that information to them and show them it's a way we can connect with their membership or customers, whoever that person would be. We want to provide that information and bring in speakers into the communities who are doing this successfully and show how they can do it as well."