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.