If you're a living, breathing human being with a heartbeat, a pulse, and working set of lungs and are reading this post right now, I would wager that you — or someone you know — are active on social media. I mean, it's 2023. At any given time, there are almost 5 billion people buzzing around on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and the like. Even the senior citizen demographic continues to overwhelmingly invade and infiltrate, er grow, on Facebook (11.3 million users aged 65 and above.) I remember a time when most "old people" scoffed at the notion of scrolling mindlessly through a Newsfeed full of random content. Now, you have to shout grandma's name across the room three times because she's distracted by the comment that she's leaving on the photo of her high school bestie who she hasn't seen in 100 years.
Social media has evolved a lot over the last decade or so (groups, events, ads, etc.), and it's clear that it's quickly become one of the most powerful tools for the Local Church to utilize in staying connected to its community and taking the Gospel to that community. But, like any good tool, it has to be used correctly. Unfortunately, most churches create their social media platform(s), fill out a little info, and then just let the platforms float in the vastness of cyberspace.
This isn't exactly the most effective strategy. It's sort of like having a really expensive tool hanging inside your garage, but never putting it to good use, even when it's needed. Why would you do that? Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram won't cost you a penny to use. And there's an entire world of people (literally) on each one. How can you possibly ignore that?
Whether you're a new church plant, an ancient religious dynasty, a modern megachurch with all the latest tech and toys, or a small rural church in the country just trying to figure things out, social media has a lot to offer your ministry efforts. With all of this in mind, I thought it might be helpful to throw together some tips, pointers, and suggestions on how to use it more effectively:
#1. Choose Your Platforms Wisely.
As many of you know, I primarily work within the small church communications and revitalization space. Because of this, I talk to a lot of small church pastors (and small church comms volunteers) who feel like their church should be on "all the cool and popular" social media sites. No. Stop it. Don't inflict pressure on yourself to be everywhere. Also, don't be intimidated by that megachurch in your town. Remember, they've got the time, money, resources, management oversight, administration ingenuity, and people resources to assemble, pay, and supervise an entire team of digital media content creators and social media managers throughout the week. Your church might just be lucky to pay the light bill every month. Don't overcomplicate or overthink this. Digitally speaking, you don't have to be everywhere at once and you sure as heck don't have to — or need to — compete with the megachurch around the corner. Instead, pick one platform (I recommend Facebook) and manage it with excellence. Do that and let God handle the rest.
There's a reason that they call it "social" media. It's built for conversations and connectivity. In fact, it's literally the entire point. So make sure that your church's Page or account responds to people who leave comments or send direct messages. Respond just as often as you post content. Conversations don't work well when only one person is doing all of the talking. It sort of defeats the purpose. Even worse, the other person might get the idea that you don't care or that they are not important enough to be heard. You would hate for this to be the case when it comes to your church. Always be sure to respond to your followers when they leave comments on Facebook and Instagram or when they reply to a tweet over on Twitter. I can't stress the importance of this, particularly when it might be someone who is considering coming to your church in-person for the first time. They may be testing the waters to see if any of your social media platforms will respond and show a level of care and concern.
On the flip side, it's also up to you as the Page administrator or account manager to create and foster engagement. This means posting content that causes people to want to leave comments and have conversations in the first place. It could literally be something as simple as a Facebook post like, "What was your favorite part of the sermon today?" Or even, "What was your favorite song this morning? Drop a comment below!" Utilize Facebook's background color feature (and preferably select a color that matches your logo) in order to catch people's attention in the Newsfeed. This isn't rocket science. It's actually common sense when you think about it.
#3. Have Fun. Be Funny.
I can practically hear the gasps echoing through the computer screens now. Whoever said Christianity had to be boring? I believe Jesus has a great sense of humor. He probably messed with the disciples all the time. And then there's God the Father. How can you create something like a platypus, a blob fish, or a proboscis monkey and not laugh about it or at least crack a smile? Use tasteful humor on your church's social media platforms and I promise you'll see engagement. Don't be afraid to post a good Bible joke every once in a while, a biblical meme, a clip from a Christian comedian, or a funny graphic that ties into your pastor's last sermon. Heck, you might even make fun of your pastor if the opportunity presents itself. Have fun, but don't go too crazy. Take what you do seriously, but don't take yourself too seriously. And if you get fired, you've never heard of me.
#4. Be Cool.
This is different. What I mean here is simply, "Don't be overly cheesy." As much as it's important to have fun, it's also important that your content, engagement responses, graphic design, etc. all still be professional and remain in keeping with the latest trends and standards. Become a student of church communications and digital and social media management and you will excel at what you do. And, even more important, people will notice and they will continue to return to your platforms and interact with the content that you post.
#5. Stop Using Insider Code Words. Seriously. Just Knock It Off.
Hi, we would like to invite you all to our Small-Home-Life-Transformation Group this weekend where, Lord-willing, Pastor Bob will feel led by the Holy Spirit to bring an anointed Word of Truth centered on carrying your cross through the resurrection power of the Holy One of Israel, Son of El Shaddai, while avoiding the scoffers and mockers of the Last Days who follow their own evil lusts and cast their pearls before swine. See you there!
This happens all the time and, in case you can't tell, it really grinds my gears. (Translation: It annoys me.) There are a whole lot of "church idioms" and "church culture" phrases. Sadly, we throw them around constantly, even on our social media platforms, without giving them a second thought. I can be just as guilty. But, we have to remember that these things are not used in everyday conversation for the average church-seeker, potential visitor, and especially the nonbeliever. It can be easy as Christians to use these words and phrases because we understand the context behind them. However, this won't be the case for much of your community. Utilize and implement language that is inclusive, friendly, casual, warm, welcoming, and easy to understand.
#6. Maintain Attractive and Inviting Pages and Profiles.
I say it all the time, but it's true: We're living in the most visual generation in history. Also, people are visual before they are verbal. If you want them to engage with your church's Facebook Page, Twitter profile, or Instagram, you need to post well-designed, clean, neat, and professional content. This means having someone on staff or on your volunteer team who has an eye for graphic design. Ideally, this person should be the one generating the visual content. If you're a small church and this seems out of reach for you, consider bringing in an outsider to do some training and coaching. (Hint: This page might help you out.)
#7. Tell Stories and Be Authentic.
Stories are some of the best forms of content that you can post to your church's social media platforms. Video content has shown to be the most engaging, but even quality photography combined with text can do the trick. There's a reason that ancient parables, urban legends, and mythological folklore never cease to die. As human beings, we love to tell stories. We love to hear them and to hang onto the really good ones. It's in our nature. Anyone with a recent smartphone and solid writing skills can tackle this for church social media. Examples include personal testimonies from church members, ministry spotlights, mission trip highlights, local community involvement, staff or volunteer team features, etc. The possibilities are almost endless here. Be creative.
#8. Incorporate Prayer.
Technically this is a part of engagement, but I would be remiss if I didn't give "Social Media Prayer" its own category. You would be shocked at the level of responses and interaction you'll see on your church's platforms if you simply post the following question: "How can we be praying for you today?" People will leave sincere prayer requests and then it's up to you, as the page or account administrator, to respond to at least the first few. I strongly suggest and recommend that you take five or ten minutes and literally type out a prayer that is specific to each person's need or request. If all goes well, before you know it, you'll see people jumping into the the threads and praying for one another as well. You're literally ministering to and encouraging your church through and on social media. It's an incredible thing to behold and to be a part of when it happens.
The question today is not whether your church should be on social media. That's a no-brainer. The question is how well you will choose to manage it and how effective your platform(s) will be on a daily basis. Set goals, drive hard toward engagement, ministry, encouragement, and outreach, and Gospel-centeredness.
Do you have any church social media suggestions, tips, or strategies you would like to share? I've really only scratched the surface with these eight tips. We could easily go on all day. I'd love to hear from you! Drop a comment below!
About a month or so ago, I decided to sell one of my acoustic guitars. I won't go into the personal details of why, but suffice to say there were some memories associated with it that I no longer wanted to keep around. Honestly, I hadn't picked it up in ages. I love my two Yamaha grand concert, trans-acoustic guitars — one of which was a very meaningful gift from my parents. I lead worship twice a week at my church and occasionally at other local venues, rehabs, and ministries. Then there's the times I'm playing them at home, learning a song, practicing or whatnot. So you can imagine that my instruments get a fair and decent amount of use.
But this guitar that I sold was a Taylor. If you're a guitarist, then you know that letting go of a Taylor is sort of like selling your BMW, Rolls-Royce or Aston Martin. You don't really do it unless you have a darn good reason. To make a long story short: I was able to successfully sell it, got a crazy good price for it, but was left feeling very empty and nostalgic. Not because I wanted to return to some part of my young life or chase old memories, but because I knew how much I was going to miss the quality, craftsmanship, beauty, elegance, and amazing playing action of a Taylor guitar. So what did I do? You guessed it. I took the shockingly good money I made off of my old Taylor, spent time doing lots of research, making phone calls, asking questions, and bought a brand new, completely different make and model Taylor. It's made of different wood (dark Hawaiian Koa); it boasts Taylor's new and improved Expression System 2 electronics; it has a different gloss, finish, and a shaded edgeburst; it has a unique Spring Vine fingerboard inlay; even the bridge nut, saddle, and truss rod are completely different than my previous model. It's different in virtually every way. But, guess what? It's a Taylor guitar and it's uniquely mine this time.
How silly is all of this though? What happened inside of me emotionally and mentally? Are Taylor Guitars really the kings of the acoustic guitar world? Perhaps. I could easily make that argument based on an infinite number of factors. (The same goes for Apple products.) I could spend all day talking to you about their superior tonewoods, physical elegance, trademark electronics, and how they boast the most playable neck in the industry. And then there's the unparalleled photography and videography in their print and digital marketing, including their famous Wood & Steel magazine.
But, never mind about that. Here's what happened to me: I was clearly and deeply affected by Taylor's brand. My dad is a 62-year-old lead pastor and often reminds me that when he hears the word "brand," he just thinks of cows, cattle, and branding irons. Maybe you do too. Things have changed a little bit since the 1800s though. Branding is no longer limited to some sort of identifying logo, insignia, or trademark. It's not limited to your marketing or your catchy slogans. And — in this particular context — it has udderly nothing to do with horned bovines. (See what I did there?)
As the son of a pastor, I get that you might not be keen on this whole branding notion. It probably sounds like corporate business lingo and, in your mind, that's a whole separate world. Most pastors tend to get a little squirmy when you mention "marketing" and "church" in the same sentence or conversation. But whether you like it or not, your church already has a brand. You may not realize you have one. You may not refer to it as a "brand." But you do have one. And yes, even if you don't have a logo, you still have a brand. Your brand is simply that unique characteristic that makes you, you. It's that defining element that people in your community point to or remember about your church. It's the thing that first-time visitors remember when they leave.
Every church has one. You might be known as "that church with the giant cross." Maybe you're "that little brown church in the cornfield." Or perhaps it's something deeper like "the church that always feeds the local homeless on Sunday afternoons." You could be "the really friendly church where everyone is loved like family."
If you're a pastor/church leader who is regularly in tune with the heartbeat of your people, then odds are you know your church's exact brand. You probably just didn't ever think of it as "a brand." But the neat thing is this: You and your church have the power to influence and effect your brand in meaningful ways. [Or in detrimental ways if you're not careful.] You have the opportunity to utilize your brand in the local community.
Many of the churches I work with through revitalization are either in the process of building their brand completely from scratch, restoring a brand that fell from grace decades ago, or discovering the brand they've had all along. For any of these to work — and for it to affect this current generation in purposeful, significant, and substantial ways — you're going to have to tell your story. The truth is that your church, even if it is battling brokenness and pain, has a story to tell the world. And everyone loves a good story — millennials in particular. (Ever wonder why movies like Top Gun: Maverick are insanely successful?) On a side note: Remember that millennials have been oversaturated by the Internet and social media and are considered to be the most media-exposed generation in society. Because of this, they are often extremely difficult to impress, inspire, or influence. It makes sense, really. They have literally seen everything under the sun. If you forego originality and merely copy someone else's idea, they will smell your phoniness a mile away. They crave authenticity and a story that has a solid beginning, middle, and end — and preferably a happy ending.
If your church is thought of as "that place where former addicts find hope and healing," then that's a story that deserves to be told to your entire city. There's literally no reason to keep that brand a secret. Don't fall into the trap of thinking it's arrogant, cocky, or pompous for a church to brag. After all, you aren't bragging on yourself. You're bragging on God. Shout that sort of branding from the rooftops. Grab a megaphone and scream it from the hilltops.
Churches who want to reach and impact this current generation will be enthusiastic and passionate about how God chooses to use them.
These churches will become master storytellers. They will use digital and social media.
Our culture doesn't want another cheesy, stale, or fake marketing campaign. It doesn't want another boring story. It wants something genuine, real, and full of triumphant purpose.
The Local Church has exactly that. The Local Church has the Gospel — the greatest story in all of human history. Share it and your personal story with your community and they will want to be involved.
After all, it matters for the sake of Eternity.
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.
Five Innovative and Practical Ways You Can Encourage Your Social Media Audience
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.
Keeping Small Church Comms Simple
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.