Social Media and the Church
July 21, 2011 9 Comments
Social media is a big deal. In case you’ve been wandering in the Sinai Desert for forty years, you have probably heard of social media and probably have an account on at least one of the major social networking sites. Speaking of the Sinai Desert, imagine if the Israelites had Twitter accounts (“Still wandering in circles…getting tired of quail and manna. Wish there was a @TacoBell nearby… #ineedChacos) or, better yet, if Moses was on Foursquare (Moses just became the Mayor of Mount Sinai!).
Anyway, there are a vast multitude of applications for social media in almost every setting, even the local church. In fact, integrating social media into your church could be one of the smartest moves you make for spreading the Gospel, marketing the church, and promoting congregational growth and interaction. Though social media will never substitute for personal contact, discipleship, and evangelism, it is a very helpful tool in bolstering the effectiveness of the local church. It allows the church staff and members to extend the reach of the local body beyond the walls of the building (itself a tool in church ministry). Below are a few ways the different social networks can be used in the ministry of the local church, but first some recent statistics about the “Social Media Revolution:”
- Pages– If your church doesn’t have a Facebook Page yet, stop reading this post and make one now (with your pastor’s approval of course): it’s simple, easy, and looks good (ie: CrossChurch). Pages are a hub for your church’s members to learn about announcements, give feedback, contribute to discussions, etc. With email becoming a less-effective medium to reach membership, Facebook is currently the best way to create an online community for your members.
- Events– Have a hard time getting members to invite guests to church? Try creating a Facebook event. Since you can make an event public, your members can invite anyone that they are friends with on Facebook to come. Just make sure you include all of the relevant event info, so that when the guest does look at the event, they know what to expect.
- Other– Facebook’s general format gives your church and pastors a great new way to followup with people, ask for sermon feedback, share resources throughout the week, and a variety of other things.
- Sermon Tweets– One of the best ways to integrate Twitter into your church is to encourage members to tweet during the pastor’s sermon. While this may make some of the older people in your congregation cringe (“Why are those young whippersnappers playing on their phones during service… and what are tweeters and hashbrowns?”), it is a great way to make the sermon interactive. Not only will it keep you awake if you’re not a morning person, it will likely help you digest and remember the content better. When encouraging members to tweet during the sermon, suggest that they tweet quotes (and @ mention the pastor), thoughts, notes, and questions. Most importantly, come up with a hashtag for your church so that the pastor and other Twitter users can follow everyone’s tweets and interact with them (for example, the hashtag for the church I attend is #HABC).
- Share Wisdom– John Piper recently wrote a blog post about his views on Twitter. In the post, he says that “Tweeting is to preaching what the book of Proverbs is to the book of Romans.” Piper goes on to say that tweeting is a great way to develop thinking skills because one has to becapacious, concise, and compelling in order to communicate thoughts in 140 characters. The use of Twitter is a great way for your pastoral staff to share their expertise, wisdom, and Biblical insights with the whole world. While this may seem like it would distract them, they can do what Piper and I both do: take a small chunk of time each day to schedule tweets to be sent throughout the day (Piper uses HootSuite; I prefer CoTweet). Encourage them to “join the conversation.”
- Reward Visitors– Foursquare is a location-based check-in service that has some potential applications for a church setting. Foursquare allows a “Manager” of a venue (in this case your church) to setup and run “Specials” (Specials can be based on check-in frequency, mayorship, group size, first-time check-in, etc). For a church, I would recommend a Special for first time guests that would say something like: “Welcome to _____ Church! Show this Check-In Special to someone at the Welcome Desk to receive a free book/sermon CD/lunch with the pastor!” (Just be sure to inform the people at the Welcome Desk that this Special exists). Having Specials will not only make that first-time visit more memorable, it provides your church staff and volunteers a chance to interact with the person as well as create a buzz along the lines of “Have you been to _____ Church? If you check-in there on Foursquare, you get a free book/sermon CD/lunch! You should go.” (Additionally, your church will be listed inside the Foursquare app when people are looking for local places with Specials)
- Sermon Notes– Does your pastor blog? If not, you should encourage him to. Many of the free sites listed above are easy to setup and run (depending on the size of your church, you can get your webmaster to build one into the church’s existing website too). Blogs are a pretty simple way for your pastor to share his thoughts on certain topics in addition to his sermon notes. The blog posts are not only a great resource for church members (esp if they missed the sermon on Sunday), they can be easily shared with missionaries, friends, and family all over the world.
- Online Service– If your church is one of the many without the budget (or location) to have your services televised, you might look into getting a Ustream or Livestream account and stream your service online on Sundays. I don’t have any experience with this personally, but I know that it is a potential opportunity to expand your church’s reach.
Learn It. Love It. Live It.