Incorporating changes from the culture at large is a balancing act for churches. Adopt every fad, and you risk losing sight of what’s really important. Ignore changes in style or improvements in technology and you risk appearing irrelevant or out of touch. When considering any change (whether it is incorporating a new style of music, upgrading a sound system or simply changing a logo) it is important to ask whether it will really help reach unbelievers and/or if it will edify and uplift the current church body.
The rise of social media has been one of the biggest recent changes in our culture at large and many churches have been understandably wary of embracing this change; however, it has reached a point where churches need to not only acknowledge the unique power of social media but to take steps to utilize that power. If utilized well, social media has the ability to reach unbelievers while also ministering to the church body. Moreover, social media opens doors to minister globally, not just locally: its reach is longer than that of a bulletin or billboard.
Here are a few ways that social media can help serve the church:
Broadcast Church News
This might be a basic need for any church, but it is a crucial one. There is always something of note going on in a church, whether it’s fundraising for a mission trip, introducing new fellowship opportunities, implementing a new discipleship program or simply spreading awareness about a maintenance project. In a world that’s getting more and more paperless by the day, many people aren’t looking to their bulletin to find out what’s going on.
Social media can serve as a dynamic method to supplement the reach of your bulletin. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram all offer unique avenues for disseminating information. Create a Facebook event for the summer potluck. Have the youth group get creative and film a short video to raise awareness for their mission trip. Use Instagram to drum up interest in a new small group with eye-catching pictures related to the content. Social and creative content will help catch members’ attention in ways that a traditional bulletin cannot.
Promote Discussion and Interaction
The beauty of social media is that it is interactive. People are more engaged when there is a way for them to participate and be heard. Don’t just use your accounts to make announcements, use them to ask questions, prompt discussions, and provide space for feedback.
Allow members to comment on the church’s Facebook page. Make sure you moderate it, but keep it open. Follow other church members on Twitter and retweet thoughtful posts. Make sure your pastors regularly reach out through at least one channel, whether it’s Twitter or a personal blog. Link to content by Christian artists, speakers and leaders and invite discussion on the content. Don’t just promote your own church, spread helpful articles like blog posts about emotional abuse, meditation, or inspirational quotes. You never know when you’ll share something that hits home to someone. Remember that it’s socialmedia, so learn how to effectively socialize and interact with your followers.
Bring in New Members
Confession time: after we moved, my spouse and I relied heavily on church websites to determine which congregations we would visit. If the website wasn’t well maintained, if it wasn’t easy to navigate, or if it looked like one of these, we didn’t visit those churches. While it may seem like a superficial method, the fact remains that poor or nonexistent websites send a clear message. Right or wrong, it implies a certain irrelevance and lack of hospitality.
A simple church website is an easy way to make your church more accessible to visitors. Include items like a calendar of upcoming events, contact information, a belief statement, pastor bios and a brief FAQ section to touch on childcare, worship style, dress and other common concerns. You don’t have to have a dedicated media team to have an appealing, function website; there are many services designed to help with website creation.
Some Real Examples
Need some more proof that your church should be using social media? Check out these churches who are doing an awesome job with it:
Celebration Church in Jacksonville, FL has an interactive following on Facebook.
Park Church in Chicago, IL sent a special Mother’s Day message on Twitter.
Second Baptist Church in Houston, TX created a nice Social Media Policy.
Central Presbyterian Church in Chambersburg, PA posts their sermons on Facebook.
First Baptist Church in Clinton, IA posts video blogs on Pinterest.
Social media can be a powerful tool for churches, but only if it is used consistently and effectively. Don’t let the plethora of platforms intimidate you. You don’t have to hire an entire social media team or spend hours every day on various sites. Determine which platforms will best suit your needs, make use of apps designed to help manage multiple accounts, and do a little research on the best social media practices. Before long, you’ll have a dynamic online presence capable not only of engaging your members, but also reaching the lost.