I believe it was the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who was credited with saying, “There is nothing permanent except change,” and “Change alone is unchanging.”
You don’t have to be an old bearded sage to observe that the world around us is constantly evolving. And nowhere else is this more true than in the realm of technology. Let’s take that little computer in your pocket for example. By the time you’ve upgraded to the iPhone XR, the 11 and 11 Pro are already set to release. (I’m still bitter by the way.) After you purchase the latest, greatest laptop from Best Buy, your friend shows up at Starbucks with the new model you didn’t even know existed. And just when you think you’ve mastered the ins-and-outs of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, along comes a software update to all three and before you know it, you’re right back where you started, wondering what the heck you’re doing with these bizarre platforms everyone refers to as “social media.” The stupid photo upload button used to be right here, but now it’s over there. The mobile view used to look like this, but now it looks like this. And for the love of all that is holy, what the crap is a Watch Party and how did I accidentally start one?
It's ok. Breathe. You're not alone.
Anyway, I would venture to guess that some — perhaps many — of you probably wonder why you even bother with social media in the first place. It can be annoying, tedious, or just downright confusing. Nevertheless, it’s a part of our everyday lives and — here’s the point, pastors — it’s a part of your congregation’s lives too. If you’re a minister living in the year 2020, then you simply can’t ignore the reality that some, if not most, of your congregants are living large portions of their daily routines on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. They’re constantly and consistently reading statuses, scrolling newsfeeds, uploading photos, commenting on videos, and posting Kermit The Frog memes.
While it might all seem utterly pointless, silly, or trivial, don’t underestimate the communicative and relational powers of social media. Since the early days of MySpace (2003) and Friendster (2002), it’s been abundantly clear that mankind has entered a new phase of The Digital Age where friendships and relationships are being built online first and information and virtual content are being shared at breakneck speed. Here are a few reasons why your church should be present and active in the midst of that:
1. It shows your people — and the culture — that you care about their world.
Why do churches have community outreach events? Why do they have off-campus small groups? Why do pastors make hospital visits or have lunch with a congregant at his/her job site? Because we’re supposed to reach people where they are, rather than stay huddled up inside the walls of our building twice a week. With about one billion people active on Facebook and over 100 million folks using Instagram every month, it only makes sense for the Church to build community and relational efforts on and within these digital domains as well. Don’t just make it about marketing, advertising, and promotion — although those are important factors as well — but emphasize the relational aspect and engage with your community. Reply to comments. Respond to messages. They’ll appreciate your efforts and your church will be more Christlike than businesslike.
2. People use social media as search engines to find a church.
If I’ve just moved to a new city for work and want to find a Baptist church, all I have to do is type “Baptist church” into Facebook’s search bar and there will be a “Places” section displaying every Baptist church near my current location for several miles. I know, I know, Google is still a thing. But with the location settings and search bar features on Facebook, many folks (especially millennials) won’t even bother using Google when they’re more interested in whether or not the churches in their area have a social media presence to begin with. Don’t expect Google to cover your butt. You might not even have a great listing in their search engine optimization algorithm. Don’t be lazy. Invest time to create a social media presence where it counts.
3. Social media is great for marketing, advertising, and promotion.
Even if you’re a small church without a budget for things like Facebook ads, you can and should use social media to generate interest in who you are, what you offer, and what you’re doing. This means that the digital community — which is made up of flesh & blood people — should always be able to see and access basic things like your website and upcoming events. Fortunately, sites like Facebook allow you to create Events, invite your followers, and spread the word with features like sharing and tagging. Best of all, it won’t cost you a dime. And the great thing about Facebook Events is that people can invite their friends too, which furthers your audience reach. Your content will eventually show up in the newsfeeds of people who aren't yet following your Page. Use Instagram to share photos and videos from your successful events in order to attract the local community to your next one. You’d be surprised how much of a difference it can make when the public can see smiling, happy people from your church. This isn't rocket science.
4. Social media is a mission field.
Jesus commanded His disciples in Mark 16 to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel…” I doubt any of them were thinking that would one day include terrifying locations like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. But there may be no larger world-within-a-world full of unsaved people today than the world of social media. And your church should make it a priority to take the Gospel to that world however it can. It may take the form of graphics, sermon audio, video, photos, personal engagement, or all of the above. Regardless, we can’t afford to sit around and ignore the power we have to reach people where they are on the digital spectrum with the truth, love, grace, and salvation of Jesus.
Of course, there are about a million other reasons your church should be on social media, but these are a good start. What do you think I left out? Do you have additional thoughts? Let me know in the comment thread below.
Meanwhile, be sure to check out Rescuing Churches, the official podcast of 6.14 Ministries. Rescuing Churches is a weekly discussion on church revitalization and pastoral life with 6.14 Ministries Executive Director Stan Givens and is hosted by yours truly. Stay tuned for episode #7 when we’ll spin the tables around and I’ll take questions on Church Communications issues like social media and websites.
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