Social Media, Happy Hours, and Simple Churches

How One Innovative Ministry is Bearing Kingdom Fruit

February 26, 2024

In 2023, approximately 8 billion people lived on planet earth, and 380 million lived in North America. The average American knows the names of 500 individuals, and the typical Facebook user has approximately 323 “friends.” 

That may sound like a lot of people, but I’m also mindful of the quote, “There are ‘friends.’ There is family. Then there are friends who become family.” 

Unfortunately, very few people have more than one or two friends who have become family, and a growing percentage of Americans live completely isolated lives. 

In 1950, the number of Americans who lived alone accounted for less than 10 percent of all households. Today, that number stands at 28 percent, and in cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, and Denver, the rate is nearly 40 percent. The two cities with the highest percentage of Americans living alone are Washington, DC, and Manhattan, New York, at a whopping 50 percent!

The emerging picture is a world of billions and billions of people living disconnected and isolated lives. 

Rick Warren once said, “People aren’t looking for a friendly church. They’re looking for friends.” 

Where do people turn to find community? It seems the first place they turn is not the church, but social media. 

Social Media

I need to be honest. I have a love-hate relationship with social media. 

I love the opportunity to connect with a growing network of people, but I hate the division, envy, and comparison it seems to create. Instead of building deeper relationships, social media often leaves people feeling more lonely and less connected. I’ll confess, there have been times when I’ve turned on a social media feed for connection and instead have turned off my computer with lower joy and higher blood pressure! 

The U.S. Surgeon General recently stated that the most significant challenge facing society is the epidemic of loneliness, which is translating into soaring rates of depression and suicide. 

Dr. Jean Twenge, a professor at San Diego State and a psychologist, wrote in a recent article that there is a direct correlation between the amount of time someone spends on social media and their likelihood of depression. 

The proliferation of social media reveals a longing in the human heart for community and, ultimately, for God. It turns out that making friends isn’t as easy as it might sound. And yet, building solid relationships is the primary vehicle for the transmission of the gospel and disciplemaking. 

I have long argued that the challenge and perhaps the reason we don’t see more disciplemaking movements in the West is the lack of these relational networks and friendships. Our isolated, individualistic, and consumer-oriented culture is far different than parts of Africa or South America, where community is more deeply ingrained in the fabric of society.  

Lonely in Denver, Colorado

Molly Soderstrom is the executive director of The Brook in Denver, Colorado, and is trying to deepen the relational fabric of her city. Her strategy is to form relationships through social media, deepen those friendships through Happy Hour events, and then connect those same people to simple churches across the city. 

In her own words, she shares the beginning of her calling. She writes, “While sitting at a trendy cafe, sipping on my latte, I observed a room full of people between the ages of 20 and 40, engrossed in their screens. I wondered, ‘What if we could reach these individuals online before ever meeting them in person? What if we could then foster those online connections and usher people into meaningful, in-person relationships? What if we could then lead people to embrace the things of God, transforming lives and empowering disciples to impact not only Denver, but the world?’”

Denver was recently named the third loneliest city in the United States, and it is a microcosm of the plague of loneliness impacting our society. 

Sitting around the kitchen table a few days later, she continued brainstorming and praying with her husband and a few friends and the vision of The Brook to come to life. In the same way that a brook trickles downstream to join rivers, lakes, and oceans, this new ministry would start small, but then ripple out to transform the world! God was calling their team to launch a young professional, disciple-making movement that uses digital outreach and in-person events to raise up faith leaders to have an impact in Denver and beyond.  

The Brook was born. 

If making disciples begins with building relationships, they saw social media as an entry point. Seeing that none of her team had a background in social media, the first person hired was a photographer and Instagram account manager. Through captivating lifestyle content that resonated with young professionals’ desire for friendship and community, they posted, “We are a collection of young professionals investigating how to have a great life, great relationships, and know God. Everyone posts a great highlight reel. We live it!” In two weeks, The Brook had more than 1,000 followers! 

Happy Hour 

But their vision didn’t stop by getting likes and followers. Instead, they used those connections to place hundreds of FaceTime calls encouraging people to attend in-person events to meet new people. Making friends can be challenging. They asked, “What type of event would people be comfortable to attend?” The answer was an easy one, “Happy hour!” Every young professional knows what a happy hour is, even if they have never been to one. It’s generally a familiar, disarming setting, and the team decided to take a risk.  

Molly writes, “We started to throw these events once a month to connect people offline and bring them into personal relationships and eventually into simple churches that would multiply in person. Our events began after COVID-19 restrictions had eased in 2021, and our Happy Hours continue to gain momentum, with an average of 200 people in attendance and 40 percent of people joining us for the first time.” 

Kiera’s story exemplifies the power of this approach. 

Kiera is a typical young professional who graduated from college a few years ago. She was living at home working a remote job from her parent’s basement when The Brook followed her on Instagram. Seeing the relatable content and upcoming events, she talked with one of the team via FaceTime and was invited to attend one of the monthly happy hours to meet a few new friends. While there, she was embraced by more than 150 other young professionals, forming bonds that would change her life forever. 

Molly had the privilege of meeting Kiera that night and shared the gospel after listening to her story. Kiera’s heart opened to the things of God, which led her to make the life-altering decision to follow Jesus. She was soon baptized, and Molly started teaching Kiera how to read the Bible, pray, and share her story in everyday conversations with friends. 

Kiera soon joined a volunteer team at The Brook and, at another event, met a girl named Madison, who also engaged with The Brook online. Kiera followed up with her in person and started sharing with Madison what Molly was teaching her. The two of them were then connected to a tight group of people called a simple church and were following Jesus together. 

Kingdom Fruit

It’s a simple strategy that is building solid friendships and then starting simple churches. First, they place a high priority on leveraging social media to connect with people. Second, they have an extensive follow-up process leveraging FaceTime calls and personally inviting people to social gatherings and events. Third, The Brook hosts Happy Hours and other targeted gatherings to strategically and intentionally connect people into life-giving relationships. Finally, as relationships are naturally formed, individuals are trained to form simple churches around the city.  

Molly and her team are then regularly trained by some of the leading practitioners in global disciplemaking movements around the world and are creatively combining social media, Happy Hours, and simple churches to reach young professionals in Denver, Colorado.

Molly writes, “I am learning that young professionals aren’t opposed to God, they just need ways to investigate faith in non-traditional ways. If we can meet their immediate need for community and friendship, doors to the gospel are opened, and barriers are broken. Jesus met people’s immediate needs, and at The Brook, we want to do the same.” 

Since its inception, The Brook has touched the lives of more than 6,300 young professionals online, engaged 2,600 individuals at in-person events, and witnessed 500 actively involved in our simple churches. To date, 60+ simple churches are meeting across the city. Perhaps there is hidden in this strategy a way to combine the power of social media with the connection of in-person events, sharing the gospel, and disciplemaking movements. 

Molly and her team were given a significant financial grant as one of the top three finalists at our annual Shark Tank event through NEXT Ventures. NEXT Ventures is a program of Exponential NEXT that seeks to foster innovation by making a significant kingdom investment in ministry practitioners committed to shaping what’s next for the future church.

To learn more about NEXT Ventures, head over to

Jon Wiest

Jon Wiest

Jon Wiest (“West”) is the Co-Founder of Mobilize the Church, a global ministry mobilizing a growing wave of disciple makers, pioneer leaders, and church planters. He previously planted churches in Dallas, TX and Des Moines, IA and is the author of Banding Together and Pioneers. Jon has degrees from Wheaton College, Wesley Seminary, and a D.Min. in Church Planting from Asbury Theological Seminary. He is a rabid San Francisco 49ers fan, loves traveling, sports, and history, and currently lives in the Indianapolis, IN area with his wife and four daughters.
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