I’ve found the interest in my posts on why churches and businesses differ on social media and what using social media says about your church encouraging, so I thought I would write a post that continues that conversation, but in a specific direction. It’s true that some churches do truly recognize the value of social media, and have rushed to embrace it, while others lag behind. I want to explore what I see as the 3 main responses churches have to using social media as a part of their life and ministry.
Also, this post is in some ways a response and continuation to a really interesting conversation taking place on Twitter surrounding church social media use. If you’re on Twitter, the hashtag is #chsocm, and whenever you post a tweet or share a link related to church social media, it’s a great idea to use that tag. While this conversation takes place using that tag 24/7, there’s a “tweetchat” organized by Meredith Gould, an author and advocate of social media in the church, on Tuesday nights from 9-10. I really would encourage you to check out that conversation if you’re at all interested in these topics.
So, here’s how I would categorize the 3 main responses churches have to social media.
WE LOVE SOCIAL MEDIA – It’s a vital part of our ministry
The churches that fall into this category could be megachurch non-denominational or churches in rural parts of the world that don’t even have reliable and widespread internet access. It’s been interesting to hear from pastors who absolutely love using social media for a wide variety of church applications and ministry practices. The churches and pastors who fall into this category might receive support on the denominational level, but many just use social media because they understand its basic value, already are using it in their personal lives, and see it as a natural extension of their ability to reach people where they are with the tools people use most.
Through trial and error, they’ve learned what works best for them, which social media channels to use most heavily for the best results, and see a good deal of response from those in their congregation and others who are interested in their ministry. These churches see no need for independent consultants outside their church or denomination because they see themselves as experts in their own right. To some extent, that’s true in the sense that they know their community better than anyone else. However, their knowledge and expertise on social media best practices might be limited to what they have discovered through trial and error, and might make mistakes before they learn what’s best.
WE WANT TO LOVE SOCIAL MEDIA – Want to start or can’t gain momentum with social media
These churches and pastors understand the value and basic potential of social media use in their church, but either don’t know how to get started or have started using it but don’t really see any results. For the ones who want to get started but just haven’t, it’s interesting to think about why they haven’t. It might come down to knowledge and expertise. Pastors who are “old school” (of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with being old school!) but know how important it is for their church to use social media might be struggling with finding resources, in terms of both info, money, and the right people, to get started. They know that if they are going to use social media, they want to do it right and make sure that enough people in the church will be interested in it before they spend any time or money on it. These pastors might need a push from their governing board, or they might be the ones pushing the governing board. An intervention from the denominational level might mean all the difference in actually getting started.
The churches that have started using social media but aren’t really seeing much benefit or interest from the congregation are an interesting case. It’s very difficult to say on a general level that a particular use of social media is better or more effective for an individual church, but it could be that the process of trial and error just hasn’t finished its work, and that church hasn’t landed on the best way to engage people through social media. These churches might especially benefit from an outside consultant, who isn’t enmeshed in the particular politics and relational dynamics of a particular church, so they might give the most helpful objective advice possible in that situation. It’s hard to know what’s best when you’re worried about how your decision, as a pastor let’s say, to use social media might affect the way people view you, either positively or negatively.
WE DON’T CARE ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA – And we’re okay with that.
Of course, these categories are broad strokes as all categories are, but it really does seem like there are churches that just really don’t care about using social media. They don’t see how it’s relevant to their church communications and outreach. And you know what? That’s totally fine. There’s a certain value in knowing at a core level what works and what doesn’t at your church. Maybe no one at your church uses Facebook and Twitter. It seems impossible to technophiles like me, but of course it’s a reality. Why get caught up in the frenzy when it’s not applicable to your particular situation? Other churches in this category might be waiting to see how church social media use develops and evolves over time. They might be waiting for it to become standardized to the point where the uncertainty and fear of posting a career ending tweet is minimized.
However, if churches are in this category simply due to a lack of information about the possibilities of social media, then there exists a huge opportunity for training and education, which an outside consultant might best handle due to their extensive knowledge and practice using and teaching social media communication strategy.
Where does your church fall?
Think about how your church fits into the above categories, or whether you’re somewhere in between. Readers, do you think this is a fair categorization, or would there be a better way to describe the situation? Would be glad to hear from you in the comments below. Thanks!