From Faith To Facebook With Nona Jones
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Nona Jones is recognized as one of the world’s foremost experts on leveraging social technology for ministry. She leads Global Faith-Based Partnerships at Facebook and also owns eChurch Partners, a social ministry firm helping churches launch, lead and grow online church campuses.
Speaking to the sought-after speaker, preacher and author, our exclusive interview with the wife, mother and woman of God is here to inspire you into greater!
2BReal: How did you get your current job?
Nona Jones: My path to Facebook had nothing to do with me and everything to do with God. In April of 2017, I found myself four years into a job I loved and had planned to retire from at the Chief Executive level of a large nonprofit. The culture of the executive team had become increasingly toxic and unhealthy, so I prayed to God and asked for direction.
He spoke four words clearly in response; “this assignment is over.” I was caught completely off guard by that because I had never once considered leaving. I prayed again and asked him what to do next and he told me to resign at the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2017. For two months I went back and forth about it, hoping something would change, but when the day came, I met with my then boss at 1pm and gave my letter of resignation. I finished meeting with her at 1:40pm and climbed in my car to drive home. At 2:05pm my cell phone rang from an unfamiliar area code. I assumed it was a telemarketer and didn’t plan to answer but the spirit led me to answer it.
On the other end of the line was Facebook, calling to offer me the role I have now. I’ve never worked in technology or social media never applied for the job and lived in Florida, the complete other side of the country from California. God is the reason I’m there.
2BReal: Tell us a bit about yourself as we are aware that you have also been in ministry forever 18 years. Where did it all start?
Nona Jones: I was born in the summer of 1982 to a father who had been given six months to live and a mother that didn’t want a child. I had a very traumatic childhood, surviving physical, emotional and sexual abuse by nothing but the grace of God. My mother was an abuser and she allowed her boyfriend to abuse me, too.
I attempted suicide twice by the time I was 11. I felt unwanted, unloved and unimportant. That all changed in the 6th grade. I had never heard of church until a classmate invited me to go with her. The very first sermon I ever heard was about God being a father to the fatherless. I was fatherless so I wanted to know more about God. I began to read the Bible and learned how to pray.
At the age of twelve, I submitted my life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. My mom didn’t believe in church, so I went by myself throughout my youth. The first time she came to church was the day I was licensed into the gospel ministry at the age of seventeen. I’ve been in ministry since then. More than 18 years.
2BReal: You are also married to a pastor and lead Open Door Ministries in Gainesville, FL. How do you balance pastoral cares and personal downtime to your husband?
Nona Jones: Ministry is intertwined into every part of our lives. We have an incredible team of leaders who serve alongside us to care for the community God has assigned to us to shepherd. We try to get away for a recharge a couple times a year, both, as husband and wife and with our two boys who are five and eight. Thanks to our leadership team we can take the time we need without worrying about things while away.
The challenge for me is actually not balancing pastoral care and downtime. The challenge for me is the unconventional role I play. Most First Ladies/Pastor Wives I know either don’t work or work at their church. I have a major role at a global company as well as my own companies and a demanding speaking schedule. In most cases people expect their First Lady/Pastor’s Wife to be accessible at all times, but I’m often not in town and have to delegate things to our leaders.
2BReal: What has the ministry to the church and to your family taught you most about life?
Nona Jones: Ministry teaches me every day to be grateful. Behind the allure of the platform is a deep sense of responsibility to the people. Many people go into ministry for the wrong reasons; they want a title or attention. Ministry is about meeting people’s needs at their lowest points. It’s being there for someone in the middle of the night when they’re thinking about taking their life. Or dropping everything to go care for the small children of a member who just found their mother dead.
These things really happened and they’re not unusual. Ministry teaches me to be grateful because I have a front row seat to the real pain and suffering we cover up in suits and dresses as we file into the church building each Sunday. I am always mindful that someone has it far worse than me.
2BReal: OK now back to your current position at Facebook. Was the position of Global Faith-Based Partnerships Leader something that you was looking for?
Nona Jones: Not at all. I never imagined I would work for a tech company and certainly not Facebook. I never applied for my role and it didn’t exist before me. God created it out of thin air and I’m deeply grateful for what He allows me to do every day.
2BReal: What does your position at Facebook entail?
Nona Jones: I get the privilege of working with pastors and church leaders around the world to build their church community on our platform. I help them go beyond sharing content on their Page to launching a real online campus through Facebook Groups. My personal mission is to shift churches from social media to social ministry; enabling local churches and Christ-centered organizations to build God’s Kingdom through social technology.
As I travel the country and abroad speaking about my approach to social ministry, a lot of leaders have voiced an interest to make the shift, but a lack of expertise, capacity and content. I built my company, eChurch Partners, to help churches and leaders around the world to do this. It’s an exciting time.
2BReal: Now more than ever, social media has changed the way we interact with people, brands and churches. What is your insight into the future developments of social media becoming more integrated into peoples lives, and are there any challenges we should be prepared for?
Nona Jones: Studies have shown that people now go to Facebook first to find out information about organizations, even more so than their website. Despite this, I still talk with Pastors who aren’t on Facebook for various reasons. In the UK, I’ve seen statistics that show 79% of the population is on Facebook. That’s almost 8 out of every 10 people. How can we fulfil The Great Commission if we refuse to go where 80% of the people are?
Social media is deeply ingrained into the way we live, work and communicate and most companies are gosling on keeping people on their platform as long as possible. This means future developments will be focused on meeting more and more of your off-platform needs on-platform; whether Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram or others.
The challenge is always going to be personally balancing the time you spend on social media with the time you spend socializing in real-life.
2BReal: How has your new role alongside your ministerial duties positioned you digitally in how you impact and connect with your audience?
Nona Jones: When God told me to resign from my former job, He didn’t tell me what was next, but I prayed that, whatever it was, I wanted it to be in ministry. I had no idea what he had in store for me. I just assumed I would work at our church full-time. Since God has given me this incredible platform, I lay it at the foot of the cross daily in asking God how I can honour Him through it. I’ve never been one to take influence for granted and that holds true especially now when a lot of people are following me on Instagram and Facebook to gain insight into ministry from the world I now occupy.
2BReal: For some who may be wanting to break into the digital media industry, what would be your advice for them in starting out?
Nona Jones: Leadership is essential. One of the first things I counsel my eChuch Partner Churches to do when we start working together to launch their online church campus is to identify a campus pastor; someone who has a heart for people and a willingness to learn how to do ministry in a social technology context. Many churches think they can launch an online campus with a social media manager, but the question I always ask is, would you launch a new physical location with a social media manager? Of course not. You would launch it with a pastor.
An online campus is as real as an offline campus because it’s filled with real people who have real needs for ministry and discipleship. The tools are different and it isn’t constrained by time and space, so you can actually do ministry in ways that are more impactful. We have 168 hours in a week. The entirety of ministry shouldn’t be what happens for 1 or 2 of those hours on a weekend.
2BReal: As a woman of God, what is your favourite scripture that gives you comfort, confidence and composure?
Nona Jones: I have so many, but one that I often go to in times of stress is Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”