A pastor from Alabama reached out to me a few months ago with a dilemma. He said his church had a killer social media strategy and a great tech person heading up the team. Yet their social media ministry was producing no fruit at all.
I took a look at their social media platforms and can say I was honestly impressed. For a relatively small church (a congregation of about 150 members), they really did go all out on their social media strategy.
They had a great Twitter account that was updated at least once a day. Their Facebook page looked great as did their website. Especially well done was how the church effectively branded itself across all its platforms.
They even had Google+, Instagram and Pinterest accounts.
Yet One Thing Was Missing
The problem was, despite having a nice looking social media presence, nobody seemed to notice. Facebook posts received no likes or comments (and certainly no shares). Their tweets echoed in the silent chambers of distant and hollow corridor, and the same was true across their other platforms.
After a careful examination of their social media presence I believed I had found the problem and arranged to meet with the pastor over Skype.
What I discovered was that, despite an active social media presence, there was one thing sorely lacking: humans.
Every article shared from the website, every post, every status update, every tweet, every gram came straight from the faceless branding of the church.
Community Over Brand
Now that works in some cases. People will follow Apple on Twitter or their favourite baseball team on Facebook. In fact, it’s not at all uncommon for people to follow, engage and share posts from their favourite brands.
But the Kingdom of God is not just a “brand.” And neither is your church. The intent of God calling a people to be his own was to unite them in community. To grow and laugh and love and connect as a family. And in today’s world where people are more “connected” than ever, yet also lonelier, people are looking for real lives – not just brands – to connect with.
A church’s social media strategy, no matter how great, will remain ineffective as long as “the church,” and not the people in the church, head it up.
This means on social media a church needs to get personal and expose itself. A faith community needs to get “scary close” (to borrow Donald Miller’s book title).
Here’s some examples:
- “Hey, this is pastor Steven. A crazy thing happened to me today…”
- “Tim here, your resident children’s church director. I bought some balloons for the upcoming event and one popped right in my ear causing me to losing my hearing for twenty minutes, and my kids thought it was hilarious! Here’s the picture…”
- “Hi folks, this is Julie, the worship leader. I saw this new worship song on YouTube and was thinking of doing it this Sunday, have a listen and tell me what you think… [link to song].”
- “Hi all, this is John. It is with great sadness that I’m informing you our dear sister and powerful prayer warrior Shirley Sue passed away this morning. We love her and miss you. Details to follow…”
- “Lisa here, in prep for our monthly food bank fundraiser I found this hilarious video on YouTube, check it out! … [link to video]”
Rather than just sharing content “from the church” on social media, get personal. Have fun with it. Be present. I mean really be present.
After I shared my thoughts with this pastor, he got his team together and they began to get personal and put their faces on the forefront of their social media platforms. And just the other day I received an encourage email from him. Here’s a portion of what it said:
“… thanks for sharing your thoughts. The past three months we’ve seen a great growth. People are actually engaging with our online presence and are even initiating conversations and sharing stuff to our wall! It’s fun and it really feels like we’re getting a handle on extending our community online.
I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I will say that we’ve even seen a few unfamiliar faces come to our church (and stay!) thanks to our Facebook page!”
Social media can truly impact God’s Kingdom through your ministry. Having an amazing social media strategy is an important part of making it a success. But I can’t stress enough how important it is for your church’s strategy to include real life, up close, personal and ever-present community.
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