Alright, we need to have us a little chat. No, no, I'm not mad. I just think a little clarification and general housekeeping are in order. Let me explain. The more I spend time with church communicators, pastors, and many other small church leaders in general, the more I'm noticing a disturbing trend. Ok, so maybe it's just more annoying than it is disturbing. Either way, it's really not good and it should be addressed before it becomes a bigger issue, particularly since it prevents a lot of small churches from ministering to their communities to the fullest extent. Let's call it a matter of "digital definitions," shall we?
See, here's the deal, folks: A Facebook Page is not the same thing as a website. Let me say that one more time: A Facebook Page is NOT the same thing as a website.
Yes, Facebook itself is a website. (You know, facebook.com.) Simply put, it's a site on the web — one of about two billion in case you're counting. But, it's not just any website. It's a particular kind of website known as a social networking site (SNS). By definition, it's "an online platform that allows users to create a public profile and interact with other users." Furthermore, it's a business. Facebook is free for its users, but it has to make money somehow. META, the company that owns Facebook, primarily draws in revenue by selling advertising space on the various SNS platforms that it owns. META also owns Instagram, WhatsApp, and a few other tech companies. This places META in the Big Tech top five, along with other giants like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. (All of whom will probably one day usher in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but that's a discussion for another time.)
Now, you might be wondering what the heck any of this has to do with anything. And you're really wondering what it has to do with you and your church. Well, the reality is that a lot of pastors, church leaders, and even comms volunteers — particularly those in the small church space — are operating under the mindset that having a Facebook Page is the exact same thing as having a website. Many of them do not even know that there is a difference between the two. Believe it or not, I've been to churches where I've asked, "So do you guys have a website?" and someone will reply, "Yeah! It's facebook.com/churchname."
I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but if your church is only on Facebook, then it does not have a website. It has a Page that exists within Facebook's platform and is therefore subject to the rules, definitions, and realities of that platform. The fact that you had to name a public company (Facebook) before saying, "backslash" and then giving me the name of your church, followed by .com, should have all been indicators that something was amiss. This is not a website where you have primary control over your content. This is a public profile on someone else's website and THAT WEBSITE happens to be Facebook. So, in the bigger picture, Facebook (or, really, META) has the right to exercise authority over your content. Here's an easier way to think of it: Your church is ON a website, but it doesn't HAVE a website.
With that established, let's talk about why you need your OWN website in addition to a Facebook Page and/or expanded social media presence.
#1. It's Affordable.
The number one hesitation and argument I hear — especially from small church leaders — is: "We don't have the money for a nice website." While it might be true that you don't have the budget or financial resources for a $1,000 website, I would be willing to bet that you could afford a Wordpress, Squarespace, or Wix site. The most popular plan over at Squarespace is their "Business" plan and it rings in at a whopping $23/month. (You can see all their plans and features here.) That includes everything from your free custom domain, SSL security, unlimited bandwidth, plenty of nice templates, mobile device optimization, 24/7 customer support, and more. And if we're being honest, your church probably spends more than that on monthly printing costs alone. Personally, you probably spend more than that in one family outing to Chick-fil-A. There's undoubtedly something you can cut out in order to invest in an affordable, professional website. And the benefits far exceed the cost. This website will become the face of your church to the local community (not to mention the world), your primary platform for discoverability and first impressions, and an indispensable tool for ministry, outreach, and evangelism. (Side note: I'm a big advocate of CloverSites and personally use their platform for my church and for 6.14 Ministries. I've also built and designed websites for other churches from this platform.)
#2. You're the boss of your site, content, and audience reach.
Facebook, like any other SNS, is run by CEOs, presidents, vice presidents, officers, staff members, committees, and a vast array of department heads. In this case, Mark Zuckerberg and his crew wear the pants. They make the decisions about the platform. They have board meetings and don't bother inviting me or you. They implement the algorithms that determine what people see in the Newsfeed and WHEN they see it. They control everything. For better or for worse, your church Page — which is technically classified as a business Page by Meta — and its audience reach are completely and utterly at the mercy of ole Zuck and his gang of techies as they occasionally change these algorithms. Not too long ago, Facebook shifted its Page algorithms in a way that made person-to-person engagement far more visible in the Newsfeed than brands, businesses, media outlets, etc. Churches took a hit when this happened. (It's why many churches are placing a higher focus and emphasis on their groups now in addition to their Page.)
With a website, you've paid for the space. You own the domain. You might even buy the site template. So even though you're going through a "company" like Wordpress, Squarespace, or Wix, you have 100% control over the content and the audience reach. There isn't going to be a middleman interfering with anything. If they were to mess with your stuff, they would lose your business, and they don't want that to happen.
#3. People find churches on the Internet. Period.
It's 2022. When John and Susie Q pick up their three kids and four cats and move to a new town because of John's job transfer, they don't grab the local Yellow Pages in an attempt to find a new church. They don't bake an apple pie for the next door neighbors and ask them where the best Baptist church is located. And they certainly don't pick up their rotary phone and ask for the operator (whose name is probably Sarah.) Those days have long since passed. John will whip out his iPhone or Android and Google "churches near me." Within milliseconds, he'll have a slew of options to choose from and — if these churches have set up their websites properly — he'll be able to use his Google Maps app to navigate to the church of his choosing. On a side note: A church website, particularly one that is SEO-friendly [Search Engine Optimization], is far more likely to be ranked higher in the Google results than a church Facebook Page. In other words, an SEO-friendly church website will be seen first and probably clicked on first. So while it's great to have a Facebook Page for your church — and you absolutely, 100-percent should have one — a website is still a must if you want to be seeker-friendly. After all, your website is where folks are going to get to know you before deciding whether or not to darken the doors of your physical building. It's where they're going to check out your beliefs, meet your staff, listen to the pastor's sermons, and take a look at the various ministries that you offer.
Social Media Purpose vs. Website Purpose
If you've read this far, then let me first of all applaud your attention span. Some of you might be thinking, "Ok, I get the technical difference between the two. I just don't see a point in having both. They basically do the same thing."
So before we leave this conversation, we need to further clarify and differentiate between the primary purpose of a Facebook Page and a website. One is for engagement, conversation, and community [Facebook]. The other is for discoverability and access to information [website]. Think of them like two different, but slightly similar tools with varying functions. Yes, your church Facebook Page should be informational. Yes, your church website should be engaging and community-oriented. But SNS sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are where your church will thrive in building, connecting to, and engaging/conversing with the local community in the digital sphere. (Which will then lead to in-person connections.) It's called social media for a reason. It's designed to cater to interactivity. Hence all of the comment threads, likes, reactions, GIFs, emojis, advertisements, videos, etc. And don't forget Facebook Groups, which is huge in terms of digital community. People hang out on social media around the clock, 24/7, 365 days a year.
Your website, even with its ability to receive and send direct messages, is not the most optimal platform for engagement. And people certainly aren't "hanging out" there and having regular conversations with one another. I realize that many small churches may be intimidated and overwhelmed by the idea of consistently managing one to three social media platforms on a daily basis, much less posting content to them. But if you're going to serve, help, and influence others, you need to be where they are. And the reality is that there's roughly 2.96 billion monthly active users on Facebook alone. That's a lot of folks. A little handful of them are in your community. And as a church — as The Local Church At Large — we simply can't ignore that.
In terms of the specifics on how to utilize Facebook vs. how to use your church website, here are some general thoughts and accompanying examples to help you get started:
There's no need to post every single one of your regular weekly small groups, Bible studies, or Sunday school classes to your Facebook Page on a recurring basis. Not only does it clutter up your Page, but it can be a little annoying for your followers. And certainly don't schedule these as weekly Facebook Events either. These things can go on the monthly calendar on your church website (which you should have.) The monthly view of your calendar allows longtime members and first-time seekers to get a bigger picture view of everything happening at the church. As far as the Events tab on your Facebook Page, let it be mostly reserved for special events that you plan to notify people of several weeks or months in advance and invite them to via the "Invite" feature. (Note: If it's a Facebook Event, it should naturally be on your website calendar as well.)
That summer women's conference? Facebook Event and website calendar.
Chili cook-off fundraiser for youth group? Facebook Event and website calendar.
Wednesday Midweek? Website calendar. Facebook post if you like. Not Facebook Event.
Men's Sunday school class? Website calendar.
Weekly college, youth, A.W.A.N.A., or kid's groups? Website calendar.
Random pizza party for youth? Facebook Event and website calendar.
Weekly Celebrate Recovery? Website calendar. Occasional Facebook Post if you like. Not Facebook Event.
Rule of thumb: If it's a weekly occurrence at your church that people expect to happen, then it probably doesn't need to be a Facebook Event. Create an Event when you want to get their attention both in the Newsfeed and by sending them a personalized invite to that Event. (Note: They'll need to be on your friends list for you to send an invite.) It's all about balance.
Normally, I don't recommend cluttering your website with an over abundance of photos and photo galleries. Put your Facebook Page's photo albums feature to good use so that you can keep everything neat, clean, categorized, and organized. Side note: Be sure to label your Facebook photo albums and add the correct dates.
Personal Contact Information
Believe it or not, I've worked with churches who were uploading .PDF versions of their member directory to their website. Um, this is a no-no. First of all, unless you've password-protected that specific page, you're giving everyone's personal contact information over to the entire world and, by default, opening yourself up to the possibility of future lawsuits. Bad idea. Secondly, no one really utilizes church directories all that much anymore. But, if your church does, then leave it as a print item only and an in-house item only. Don't put it on the World Wide Web for everyone to see and access or potentially hack.
If you're streaming live every Sunday and/or Wednesday to your Facebook Page, then you don't necessarily have to post the URL link to your website's sermon audio page every week as well. The majority of your Facebook followers are going to watch/listen to the Livestream. However, you can and should occasionally promote the fact that you have a sermon audio page, particularly if those sermon audio files are downloadable (and they should be) and if your sermon audio is available across multiple podcasting apps (and it should be.) Your Facebook followers need to be aware that there are several ways to watch, listen to, and download the pastor's sermon content.
I believe one of the best things about social media for the Local Church At Large is found in its ability to help us better tell the personal stories of God's redemptive grace, love, and mercy. Sure, you can do this on your website via videos and your pastor's sermon audio. And that's great! But, again, people aren't hanging out on your website to the degree that they're hanging out on Facebook. Moreover, they can't interact with the content in the same way that they can on Facebook. So post video and/or photo content to your Facebook Page and tell stories of how God is working in and through your church and in the local community as a whole. When people leave comments, reply back to those comments. This goes a long way in not only encouraging your followers and spreading the hope of the Gospel, but also boosts audience reach, increases engagement, creates conversation, sparks additional comments, etc. And that's the whole point.
Specific example: Check out any of the Elevator Testimony photos over on my church's Facebook Page and you'll see what I mean. Here's a direct link to our Page: facebook.com/northsidemobile. Our followers enjoy commenting on, reacting to, and sharing these stories and photos. Your church may have different types of stories. But, no matter what they are, I'm sure they're worth sharing so that your church can talk about them and engage with them, your local community can see them, and the world can know about them.
Facebook is here to stay, my friends. So are websites. Know the differences and utilize them accordingly. As ministers of the Gospel, small church pastors, church communicators, and missionaries to the ends of the earth, let's make good use of our digital resources, tools, and platforms.
A lot of churches utilize the digital and social media landscape to keep their followers informed and updated. You know what I'm talking about: upcoming events, volunteer requests, prayer needs, and the like. And let's be sure to give a shoutout to all the churches who turn their Facebook pages into the digital lost & found bins of the Internet. Sorry, but if grandma hasn't found the family heirloom crockpot that she lost back at the 1963 church homecoming, then it probably ain't gonna happen.
While there's certainly nothing wrong with the megaphone approach to social media, I tend to caution this strategy for churches and even for faith-based nonprofit organizations. There's a much better use of our digital space. Ponder the following with me: How could we better represent Christ in this arena? If Jesus were on social media, how would He react and respond to things? Is it really as simple as What would Jesus do?
These are interesting questions. I'm sure we could sit here all day theorizing. And the idea of Jesus Himself being on social media is certainly an interesting, if not entertaining, one. (Where are all my Church Comms buddies?) Regardless, the Local Church — His Bride — is there now. I believe we have a responsibility to, at the very least, encourage people in the midst of a world that is often plagued by bad news, stress, anxiety, uncertainty, chaos, fear, worry, doubt, and disillusionment.
Here are some creative and practical ways you can do that on your church's social media platforms:
#1. Design and post encouraging Scripture images.
Remember that people are visual before they are verbal. They retain information better when they can tie it to a visual image. And not just any image — a well-designed image that is appealing to the eye. Ever wonder why those Bible verse social media graphics from the YouVersion Bible app are shared at viral levels? It's due in large part to two things: 1) the inspirational encouragement and power of the Word of God and 2) the well-designed nature of the graphic itself. People want to share those images with their friends and family and then they want to pass the encouragement onto the next person.
Pro tip: If you're not designing your own original graphics, there are plenty of free and inexpensive resources for churches on a budget.
#2. Elevator Testimony photos and/or videos.
These are so easy and, if your digital audience is anything like the ones I've worked with, they will eat them up. Find someone in your church who will volunteer to give you an Elevator Testimony. Take a hi-resolution photo of that person and make sure they're smiling really big. You can also shoot a short video. If you're unfamiliar with an Elevator Testimony, here's how it's formatted:
Before I met Jesus I was [adjective 1] [adjective 2] [adjective 3].
I met Jesus in [One sentence description of how and when they came to Christ.]
Now I am [adjective 1] [adjective 2] [adjective 3].
Here's the most recent one I posted for Northside Bible Church in Mobile, AL where I serve as Communications Director:
Your church may not have those kind of testimonies, or it might, but either way, everyone has a story to tell. And stories are powerful, especially the encouraging ones. Make use of them on your social media platforms. I guarantee you'll get some engagement and responses.
#3. Celebrate success stories in your church when they happen.
This could be anything from a baptism, a salvation, or even a drug/alcohol-free anniversary. It might even be a Christian businessman or woman with an incredible story to tell. It could be that prodigal who finally left his pig pen to come home. Let those moments shine. Take photos. Shoot video. Post them to your social platforms and let your followers in the digital sphere see what God is doing. He gets the glory every time.
#4. Post encouraging quotes from the sermon throughout the week.
This is especially great for your church's Twitter feed if you have one, but it works just as well for Facebook too. Extract four or five encouraging and uplifting quotes (keep them short) from your pastor's latest sermon. Space them out over a few days and post one per day in-between your other regular content (verses, testimonies, graphics, photos, events, etc.) Your followers will enjoy sharing and retweeting these. They're sort of like little "encouragement snacks" that you can scatter across the trail as they circle back around to the following Sunday. You don't have to design graphics to make these quotes stand out, especially if they're short. Just type them right out into the status box and post it.
#5. Post links to encouraging content, material, and resources.
Did one of your small group leaders reference a devotional or a book? Did your pastor happen to mention a YouVersion reading plan on grace somewhere in the middle of his current series on grace? These links can be encouraging, beneficial, and helpful for your audience. They should ring out in your ears like little sirens when you hear them during the Sunday message. Make a note and be sure to post them to your church's social media platform(s) that day. Not only will you likely provide your pastor the time and work of posting that content to his personal social media accounts, you'll be sharing the content with a wider audience since your page is public and therefore accessible by the entire world.
What do you think?
Social media — and the digital sphere as a whole — is full of incredible ways that we can encourage, inspire, comfort, and love people as the Local Church. I believe it's what we're called to do there as we reach them with the hope of the Gospel. If social media is a cultural battlefield — as some have called it — then may encouragement, grace, and the love of Jesus be our battlecries.
Alright. Before I even start writing the meat of this post, let's just pause for a moment to face the cold, hard truth: We all have a tendency to overcomplicate things from time to time. I know I do. Whether it's in our ministry lives, our personal lives, our relationships, our churches, our businesses, our careers, or some combination of all the aforementioned, it can be terrifyingly easy to convolute things that are actually, at the end of the day, quite simple. Heck, I even overcomplicate my food and my coffee. (Starbucks-only Venti vanilla latte hot with an extra pump of vanilla, anyone?)
Believe it or not, there's a psychological term for this. (Isn't there always?) It's called complexity bias. Our brains and emotions are naturally hardwired to make some situations and circumstances far more complex than they were ever intended or designed to be in the first place. Oftentimes we do this for one core reason: We're battling with our own insecurities and shortcomings, which typically leads to blaming another person or set of circumstances — rather than accepting our own responsibility — which then only serves to deepen our misperceptions about reality.
Those of us who serve in ministry see this happen all the time. And sometimes we ourselves are guilty of tumbling headfirst into the trap of over-complication. I would argue it's not so much a trap as it is a snare set by the Enemy, but we can have that theological debate over a cup of complicated coffee some other time. (Your treat.)
For now, let's refine this to the specific ministry niche of small church communications and take a look at how and why simplification is, in all actuality, a good thing.
#1. Simplifying Small Church Comms Increases Engagement. Complexity Repels It.
You want people to interact with your church on social media. You want them to leave comments, encourage one another, and speak truth. You want them to fill out the prayer request submission form on your website. And you'd really love to see someone subscribe to your pastor's darn YouTube channel. But if you're a small church with too many digital platforms and channels operating at once, many folks in your congregation are probably going to feel overwhelmed. When this happens, they will be far less likely to engage with any of your digital and social media at all. Or they'll just pick one (usually your Facebook Page) and stick to that.
Scale back where you can and don't clutter your social media channels or your website with unnecessary posts and content. Don't put your church on platforms you don't need yet. People do not want to have to sift through that. There's a delicate balancing act to social media management and — despite what you might read — there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Post the type of content and the amount of content that is appropriate for your specific audience. What works for you will be different than what works for the church across town. And speaking of that other church...
#2. You Don't Have To Be On Every Platform. Seriously.
Oftentimes the small church feels that they must be everywhere, do everything, and have all of the cool toys because the neighboring church down the street seems to have it all figured out. They see that church's website, Facebook Page, Instagram account, Twitter profile, YouTube channel, and sermon podcasts and think they need the same. Oh and don't forget the senior pastor's TikTok account. It's like, totally lit, bro.
The assumption tends to be: "Wow, that church is really knocking it out of the park." And, in all honesty, they might be.
But, in the small church world, in a smaller community or town, a well-designed, functioning website and a strong Facebook presence can make a tremendous impact for the Kingdom and the advancement of the Gospel. Those two things alone can allow your church's message to resonate far and wide. Instagram and Twitter are often unnecessary for many small churches, particularly if you don't have the time, skills, or the manpower to keep up with them. Start with the core fundamentals and the basics and then worry about the rest later.
#3. Complex Websites Are Not Seeker-Friendly.
Your website is usually the front door of your church. It's what people see before they see you. (Sometimes it's your Facebook Page.) People who are interested in attending your church need to be able to locate basic, essential information before they ever visit your physical building. Ask yourself: Can online seekers easily locate my church's street address? Staff page? Service times? Ministries? Parking information? If these items are buried under mounds of complex menus and dozens of unnecessary pages, seekers will give up and move on to the next church in the area. Why would they bother visiting your church or learning more about it if they can't even figure out how to get there in the first place?
#4. Simplifying Small Church Comms Allows for More and Better Ministry. Complexity Inhibits It.
At the end of the day, everything that falls under the umbrella of Church Communications — from digital and social media to print materials — should be pointing people toward Jesus and encouraging them to follow Him. Your platforms should literally become places where ministry occurs, truth is spoken, and real life transformation happens. That happens best when things are simple to understand, utilize, and apply. Inundating those platforms with an array of overly-complex elements will only serve to dampen, and eventually eradicate, your ability to reach — much less minister to — your audience altogether.
Remember: Jesus didn't complicate His ministry. Neither should we. Let's keep it simple.
If there's one truth about the role of the pastor and that of the Church Communicator, it's that we're both on the same team. Moreover, we both long to see our people worship God, learn from His Word, and apply the principles of Scripture to their lives as they become disciples and disciple-makers. So what is it that occasionally causes tension or friction between pastors and techies? Why is it often so hard for us to understand, encourage, honor, and value one another? Why do some of us butt heads like big horn sheep?
Let's be honest here: There are moments where the connection between pastors and Church Communicators is incredibly tense, awkward, and uneasy to say the least. Sometimes it's downright unhealthy. This is rarely ever intentional on the part of either person, and yet, nevertheless, the problems can still arise. Sometimes it's just a matter of the techie wishing the pastor better understood certain aspects about the role of the techie within the church and within ministry. This is sometimes our own fault for not communicating what we need — which is ironic considering that we are Church Communicators. Sometimes it's a matter of the pastor not understanding technology, which can lead to being intimidated by it. That isn't necessarily his fault and, to be candid, most pastors don't want to have their hands in the tech anyway.
Ultimately, both people need one another in order to have a strong and fruitful ministry that makes a difference in the local community. No matter which position you're in — pastor or Church Communicator — there are some things that you can do to alleviate potential issues and strive for an awesome partnership as you serve the church and advance the Kingdom of God together.
Here are a few ideas:
#1. Go to lunch or coffee together. Get to know each others' hearts.
A lot of miscommunication, tension, and frustration between individuals in ministry stems from a lack of understanding, empathy, and deeper connection. So much of this could be avoided if those who work together would just take the time to get to know one another first. Have fun, laugh, and tell stories. Discover the other person's vision, goals, and drive for ministry. Ask questions about their ministry history. Have an open mind and listen to their ideas. Who knows? You might even learn a thing or two from the other person. What's more, you might even become friends. *gasp*
#2. Affirm and thank each other.
It may sound like a cheesy cliché, but everyone needs to feel needed. We all appreciate feeling appreciated. To my fellow techies: Thank your pastor every so often for delivering an encouraging or challenging sermon. To all the pastors reading this: Thank and compliment your Comms Directors for their hard work and long hours at the screens throughout the week. This will serve to strengthen ties and bond everyone together all the more.
#3. Ask questions and seek to genuinely learn.
If there's something you need to know or want to learn about the role and territory of the other person, just ask. We can serve better, more effectively and more efficiently when we understand the functionality of each position and develop a respect for it.
#4. Admit when you're at fault.
Just do it. No Excuses.
#5. Remember that no one is perfect.
Even Jesus had trouble with His "staff." The disciples were not flawless (by any stretch of the imagination) and Christ was continually calling them to a life of holiness while simultaneously lavishing grace upon them as well. We should do the same for one another. God doesn't call us because we're perfect. He perfects us as we are called. He doesn't make choices and ministry appointments based on who people are, but rather on who they will eventually become. We should remember this as we work together with one another in the ministry environment.
#6. Build a team atmosphere together and then be an integral part of that team.
Nothing encourages unity more than bringing people together through fun activities like staff retreats, Escape Rooms, bowling nights, or hiking trips. Incorporate some creative leadership training activities into these outings and aim for trust-building, personal connection, and lots of laughs.
#7. Always have regular staff meetings.
These sessions allow for pastors and Church Comms Directors to voice things in the company of other staff members that may be easier said in a group setting or might have been forgotten in earlier one-on-one conversations. As a leader and core staff member in your church, you should be developing those under you and checking off on areas like progress, struggles, questions, and any decisions they might need you to make. Pastors and Comms Directors will work better together when they see how things are going within staff meeting settings and can make adjustments together as needed.
#8. Pray together and for one another.
Every church leader — pastors, elders, worship leaders, Comms Directors, children's ministers, etc. — all shoulder enormous weights and responsibilities every week while simultaneously juggling the burdens and duties of their personal lives. Ministry means hard days. Ministry means long hours. We need one another and we need prayer support from those on our team.
For services to run smoothly and digital media to operate efficiently and effectively, pastors and Church Communicators need to work in tandem and do all that they can to bring honor and glory to God together. We should remember that we're working for the same cause and that the strength of our relationship is the bedrock of other parts of the staff and ministry.
If you've ever met and/or worked with me in-person, then you know I'm incredibly passionate about the Local Church using digital and social media to spread the Gospel. It's probably my favorite thing to help pastors and church leaders implement and my favorite subject to speak about at summits and conferences. I wouldn't be surprised if I eventually wind up writing a book on the subject.
This week, I wanted to jot down a few tips, musings, and suggestions on church social media management, as well as some of the lessons I've learnt from my 20-plus years in this ministry niche.
#1. Keep your social media pages and profiles clean and professional.
First impressions are critical in Church Comms and when it comes to social media, an unprofessional, poorly designed, or cluttered page can be an instant turn-off for a potential visitor. This is especially true for the Gen Zers and millennials. (You may find this annoying, but that doesn't change the reality.) If there's one thing psychology has repeatedly told us about the human brain, it's that we make concrete decisions based on first impressions. These decisions are often difficult to change. Think about the time you resolved you would never return to that one restaurant or movie theatre because of the terrible experience you had. We've all been there.
Remember: Your church's social media presence communicates volumes about your church and, unlike your physical building, it's viewable and accessible by the entire world (and all before they ever decide to attend.)
To make an outstanding first impression, you need to have the right social media tools, design programs, strategies, posting methodologies, and a game plan for engagement. You need to have a professionally managed page with well-designed content and well-worded posts. People can tell when you're being lazy and just phoning it in. Don't do it.
#2. Highlight your volunteers.
Use video or photo mediums to shoutout your volunteers on your church's Facebook and Instagram pages. This is a great way to let your followers meet new faces or get to know longtime volunteers even better. It also adds an element of authenticity to your page (more on that later), something which is desperately needed within digital marketing these days, and particularly within the Local Church.
#3. Use recurring posts.
Did you know it's ok to post the same content more than once? In fact, it's a good thing. Your entire audience isn't online at the same time. They have different lives and their schedules will vary dramatically. Reposting important content will give them the chance to see it in the feed again later, especially with the way all of the crazy Facebook algorithms are working these days.
#4. Always engage. Always.
I mentioned earlier that I've been doing this Church Comms thing for quite a while now. There may be nothing that grinds my gears worse than a church page moderated by folks who never reply to comments or direct messages. The Local Church is called to be relational. Social media is exactly that: It's SOCIAL. Ask questions and respond to your people when they leave comments. Make them feel included in the online community.
Also, if we're going to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the digital sphere, we must reply to comments and messages, particularly from visitors and seekers. If we ignore them, they will move on.
#5. Don't compare yourself to or be intimidated by 'the competition.'
Although there are several basic rules of professionalism, neatness, and orderliness you should undoubtedly follow, you shouldn't become so immersed in this way of thinking that you start copying or mirroring successful churches. Maintain your own special digital identity on social media and be unique in your posts. You have no need to be better than or similar to another church on social media. You can always learn from them and adapt their successful formulas to your own strategies.
#6. Be Authentic.
This tip piggybacks off of number five. People are drawn to truth, credibility, and honesty. In a world full of lies, scandals, and cover-ups, we've grown to deeply appreciate people who are real, genuine, and authentic. Posting deeply personal testimonies and stories of spiritual victories to your page is a great way to maintain authenticity. (Everyone loves a great story.) You never want your church to be perceived as fake or full of goody-goodies.
#7. Utilize humor.
Far too many Christian social media pages and church pages exude a deeply theological or profound tone of voice. In other words, everything they write sounds super serious. There's nothing wrong with this for posts about Scripture or sermon content. But your page should be posting engagement posts as well and some of those should be lighthearted and fun. If you can make your audience laugh and smile, they will continue to return to your page and will be more inclined to share your content.
#8. Brevity is [usually] your friend.
In the world of social media, you have two seconds or less to capture someone's attention in the Newsfeed. They will typically not read a paragraph-long post, much less a multi-paragraph post. Just because it's called "Facebook" doesn't mean you need to write a book. Also, video content is more engaging and can stop the scroll. People love watching videos, especially short ones. If your pastor is posting daily devotional videos, be sure to share them every once in a while to the main church page. Keep things simple, short, and to the point.
#9. You can't and don't have to be everywhere at once on social media.
This is especially true for a lot of the small churches I have worked with where limited staff and lack of volunteers is an issue. If you're a lead, assistant, or worship pastor trying to juggle your regular responsibilities with managing the church's social media accounts, my guess is that you're feeling overwhelmed. The truth is that you don't need to feel the pressure to be everywhere and on every platform. Facebook is an excellent start and from there you can move on to Instagram and Twitter if/when you're able to handle it. It's far better to devote your time and attention to having a high-quality presence on one singular platform, rather than attempting to be everywhere at the same time and ultimately wind up accomplishing nothing in terms of digital ministry.
#10. Become a masterful storyteller.
I've discussed the importance of storytelling in a previous post and in a podcast episode of Rescuing Churches, so I won't belabor this point, but it really does matter. Storytelling is literally one of the most powerful and effective ways in which human beings communicate with one another. There's a reason that myths, folklore, legends, ancient fables, and centuries-old parables have always spread throughout the world over the course of global history and continue to resonate. As a broadcast journalism major in college, storytelling was a big part of my education. Even if you don't consider yourself to be strong in this area, I would challenge you to become a student of quality storytelling. Read books and blogs on the subject. Have coffee with people who excel at it. Then, strive to weave intriguing narratives through some of the posts on your church's social media platforms. Your content will resound more powerfully if a memorable story is attached.
Ok, I'm stopping here at 10 because, well, I have to be up early in the morning and there's almost an infinite number of tips and strategies for social media. What did I leave out? Are there some tips that have been helpful for you? Did you find my list to be beneficial? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below or shoot me an e-mail!