Church Communications resources and tips from Justin Dean

What Your Community Wants to Read

Social mediums like Twitter and Facebook have been around for a while, but many churches are still struggling with how to use them well. There may be a few churches who excel in this area, but most have yet to really engage online with their congregation and community in a meaningful way.

The purpose of most church communication, at its most basic level, is to get the word out. But social media like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even blogs are different. Of course they are great for promotion, but they are best used to connect people and?facilitate conversation. If you can find a way to create ongoing dialog and interaction among your followers or readers, that’s the win.

The challenge is to find the most effective way. And what’s effective can best be determined if you’ve set measurable goals.

What social media outlets should our church use?

Strategy comes first ? always. Whether you’re just getting into Twitter, or completely re-thinking your whole social media process, start with a plan. This will help you set the goals so everyone involved knows what you’re working toward. If you’ve been around your church long enough, you probably have a good idea of where people are engaging online. Go to where your community is already interacting rather than trying to get in on everything.[quote]Go to where your community is already interacting rather than trying to get in on everything.[/quote] If the majority of your church is on Facebook, but not really into Twitter, it’s okay to focus the majority of your efforts on Facebook.

Determine what value social media adds to your community. The key to being effective is to think about it from the perspective of a typical member of your community or congregation. Step into their shoes and see what their needs are. Will it be worth their time and effort to pay attention to what your church is doing online?

What should our church write about on social media?

What do people in your community actually want to read from your pastor or church? Good question. Your use of social media should be more than a recap of what’s on your church website.[quote]Your use of social media should be more than a recap of what’s on your church website.[/quote]?Let the website and the weekly bulletin be the one-sided dispersal of information. Save social media for more personal interaction. Consider posing questions to your followers, or doing a special Facebook-only devotional. Retweet one of your followers if they post something relevant to the church, or just stop by someone’s Facebook wall to give some encouragement. If your pastor maintains an online presence, this is a great way to continue the conversation during the week started by the message on the weekend.

I recently saw a great use of Facebook by a local church. A member of the congregation had posted her thoughts about a comment the pastor made during the weekend sermon ? something she respectfully disagreed with. Within a few hours, the pastor himself responded to her concern, thanked her for voicing her thoughts, and explained his point of view more in-depth. There was a healthy dialog happening, also including other members of the congregation ? digging deeper into a biblical truth. This kind of conversation may not be possible for all churches, but if it is, it’s a great way to build community online.

Sharing digital media online is another effective way to engage people. Photos and video bring to life what’s happening at your church. Use these tools to share events in progress, mission trips or outreaches, and even to show the outcomes of things your congregation has prayed for.

How transparent should my church be on social media?

[quote]Above all else, those in your community that interact with your church are looking for authenticity.[/quote]Above all else, those in your community that interact with your church are looking for authenticity. They need to know that what’s happening online is real and worth engaging with. Your value and influence as a church or pastor is not determined by the number of followers you have on Twitter, or the number of comments on your blog. Focusing your efforts on increasing Twitter followers or Facebook friends is not the same as earning real followers. When you begin creating conversations that have your community eager to participate with you and with others, then you’ve gained real influence.

If your pastors and staff choose to have an online presence, it’s vital that they own the responsibility of engaging as themselves. This is especially important for senior pastors. If a church member reads a blog post written by the senior pastor, it should actually be written by the senior pastor. In his book, Platform, well-known author and leadership expert, Michael Hyatt, has this warning about using ghost writers: “In the end, you will do irreparable damage to your personal brand.” People are looking to hear from the heart and mind of their pastor, not someone who’s paid to write for them. And they can tell the difference.

Social media is a great tool to help engage your church and community at a deeper level. With just a little planning, it can go a long way toward connecting people and getting your community excited about what’s happening at your church.

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