Social media can make Christians better
Positive online habits in the US shared by faithful Australian women
Every day at 6am Sydney time Jen Barker posts an uplifting Bible verse on her website Fixing Her Eyes and shares it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She hopes it will not only give Christian women a lift at the start of a new day but also spur them to open their Bibles.
“We don’t just want them to just the read the verse and that’s it,” says Jen, a 40-year-old primary school teacher in Sydney. “We actually want them to engage with Jesus throughout the day. This is a prompt and a reminder to fix your eyes on Jesus.”
“We’ve had a few women telling us they’ve been opening their Bibles for the first time in a long time. That’s been beautiful and it’s been such a privilege to hear some of those stories.”
“Our hope is to share as many women’s stories as we can” – Jen Barker
Jen launched Fixing Her Eyes in September last year with the aim of using social media as a way of encouraging and challenging Christian women to think about how being a Christian makes a difference to their day.
As well as offering a daily Bible verse, the website is designed to be a much-needed platform for women’s voices with contributions from a diverse range of Christian women, including short interviews and a category called “my postcode”. It also has a Google map showing churches where women preach regularly.
“Our hope is to share as many women’s stories as we can,” says Jen.
“It’s very difficult to find somewhere where women’s voices are being broadcast, a platform for them to be heard. You could Google and find what every male in Australia thought about any particular issue, but when it came to Christian women it was really hard to find their perspectives.
“That’s where the ‘5 minutes with’ came from. Every woman’s voice matters. We might see some things differently but, at the end of the day, we follow Jesus. The postcodes category is to encourage women to see what is happening in the church across Australia.”
Christian women enjoy social media even more than the average woman
With 4500 Facebook likes in just one year, Fixing Her Eyes is clearly meeting a need for inspiration and encouragement among thousands of Christian women across the country. The popularity of Fixing Her Eyes is like an Australian-based illustration of a striking result from a survey by US researchers Barna Group. Surveying American women’s use of social media, the Barna Group revealed that more Christian women log on for encouragement than do the general population.
After filtering out those who identify as practising Christians, and comparing the results of the two groups, Barna found the Christian woman enjoys social media even more than the average woman. Two thirds (65 per cent, compared with 52 per cent) reported that it has a somewhat or mostly positive effect on their lives.
Overall, four out of five practicing Christian women in America are on Facebook, and half of those check their accounts at least every two hours (26 per cent in the next 30 minutes). In general, the Barna results of the two groups are close when it comes to checking social media and how long they stay online.
We hope to encourage women to reach out to their Christian and non-Christian friends.”
But the results diverge when it comes to encouragement. Three-quarters of Christian women (72 per cent, compared with 59 per cent of average women) say using social media sometimes or usually encourages them and more than half say it energises them.
More Christian women say one of the best things about being on social media is spiritual encouragement (20 per cent, compared with 7 per cent of the general population). One quarter of them like finding inspiration and ideas (26 per cent) or learning new things (24 per cent).
As if echoing the results of the Barna survey, the main purpose of Fixing Her Eyes is encouragement. But Jen also sees a role for social media in letting people know about Christianity and personal faith.
“I think it’s a great tool for people to like and share posts with their friends to show they have a faith and that it’s a part of their life,” she says. “I think Americans are a lot better at that than Australians – I think it’s a cultural thing. Americans are far more evangelistic in their lives. As Australians we tend to close in a little bit more, so I think everyone needs to work out how that works best for them … because it’s a great opportunity to let people to see that their faith is an active and meaningful one.”
Jen also hopes that friendships will develop between women online and that offline relationships are also strengthened.
“We hope to encourage women to reach out to their Christian and non-Christian friends. We hope that women will share our articles to encourage their friends and will continue to talk about them. We want women to think about their faith, fix their eyes on Jesus, know that they are loved, grow in their understanding of him, pray, worship him and grow to be more like him.”