By Tita Parham
The number of U.S. adults using social networking sites has nearly doubled since 2008, according to the Pew Research Center.
Of those surveyed in late 2010 through the center's Internet and American Life Project, 79 percent said they use the Internet and nearly half said they use at least one social networking site.
Many United Methodist churches are paying attention to that trend and using social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to reach new people. Now, some are adding Pinterest to the list.
"The whole clichÃ©, â€˜A picture is worth a thousand words,' ... that's how Pinterest is functioning," said the Rev. Janet Grissett, pastor at Melrose United Methodist Church in Lottsburg, Va.
MelroseÂ â€” which averages about 92 in worship and is located in a small, rural community â€” began using Pinterest as another tool to "spread the word about not only our church, but about what The United Methodist Church is doing," Grissett said.
"Right now, we're looking for mostly quotes or (images of) other United Methodist events or churches or charity organizations associated with The United Methodist Church â€” also the ministries we're doing as a church," she said. "We just look for images that might move somebody. ... And we put it up there."
How Pinterest works
"Putting it up there" means setting up a free account at www.pinterest.com and then pinning photos or images to virtual bulletin boards. Users pin their own images or ones taken from other sites, crediting the source, and create as many pinboards as they like. Each has a particular topic. Brief captions or explanations can include a link for more information. A main page lists all the boards created by a user and links to a user's website, Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Grisset's church has 13 boards. Topics include worship, thoughts on church and the Bible.
The goal is to have people follow the boards and re-pin images from them onto other sites, such as Facebook.
If followers "see something that moves them in a powerful way or a particular way, they can click on it and find out more," Grissett said.
Different from Facebook, Twitter
The Melrose church has Facebook and Twitter accounts, but Grissett says Pinterest's focus is different. "When you go to our board, you don't see words, you see images," she said. "We are looking for images that can draw someone's attention and perhaps speak to them in a way a Facebook status or Twitter status can't."
Jason McCranie, director of Internet technology at Dunwoody United Methodist Church, near Atlanta, Ga., notes other differences.
"Twitter is a very fast moving and this-is-what's-on-our-mind kind of thing. Pinterest is very visual. What you put out there kind of stays out there for a while," he said. "It's a lot like Facebook, but it's not as social, not a lot of one-on-one communication."
Dunwoody is using Pinterest to highlight its mission projects. It now has boards focusing on Scripture and its work with Habitat for Humanity. More boards will be added as mission events are completed.
The 4,000-member church already had Facebook and Twitter accounts, McCranie said. Staff members began using Pinterest several months ago because they noticed Facebook users using their accounts in tandem with Pinterest.
So far, he says, followers of his church's boards are other churches. "We're all trying to kind of feel each other out â€” what other churches are doing â€” to see if this is going to be effective for us."
Grissett is enthusiastic about Pinterest and social media.
"It just amazes me when I hear that large companies are hiring people to simply manage their social media networks," she said. "All these social networks are ministry tools. And anything that I can use to reach someone who might not be reached through conventional means, I'm all for it."
Tita Parham is a freelance writer, editor and communications consultant based in Apopka, Fla.
To learn more:
See the boards of United Methodist churches using Pinterest. Visit http://pinterest.com/search/people/?q=umc and click on the boards of specific churches.