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If you do not already get emails from The Barna Group, I would highly suggest it.  About once a month they publish research relevant to the Christian community.  This week they posted on “The Rise of the @Pastor.”  You can find the complete article here.

This article talks about the rise of religious content on social media, and also the rise of churches and pastors on social media, specifically Twitter and Facebook.  In the article, they state that “the Christian community’s voice has become a substantial one in the social, digital space.”  I find that Christian influencers are becoming more and more accessible to people through the use of social media.

Twitter is gradually becoming the dominant social media.  Church leaders included are jumping on the Twitter bandwagon.  I found this statistic very interesting:  In the last 24 months, the number of “church-based” users on Twitter has increased by 77%.  Wow.

Check out this infographic from Barna to see the rise in social media.

Social media helps pastors and churches to interact with people where they are.  This used to be in the coffee shops and out in the town, but now it is on the computer.  Churches and pastors need to be where the people are and where the important conversations are happening.  A majority of these conversations are now happening over social media.

If your church does not have a presence on social media, what are you waiting for?

I have been talking a lot about social media in the church and its importance, but we also need to remember that social media is never a substitute for authentic Christian community.

With all the social media sites that you can connect with people these days (some pictured to the left), you have to be very intentional about not letting that be your only form of communication.  I recently read a blog post on this subject and I wanted to share some of the things that I took away from it.  If you would like to read the blog post, you can find it here.

The authors, Eric Geiger, Matt Chandler, and Josh Patterson start of the post by saying that our faith cannot be private.  They stated that while our faith and relationship with Christ is very personal, that does not make it private.  They go on to say that we have been “individually saved by Christ, but you are not the only individual saved.”  We were made to be in community with other Christians, to support each other, to share our highs and lows.  Geiger, Chandler, and Patterson say that “connectivity does not equate to community,” which is something we must always keep as our focused.  Just because we are connected with someone on social media does not necessarily mean that we are in community with them or have a relationship.

One of my best friends, Lauren, also writes a blog.  I can read her blog posts as soon as she publishes them, but it is not the same as hearing it from her.  It is very hard to have a strong relationship completely across the computer.  If the only communication that my husband and I had was across Twitter or Facebook, we would not have the same relationship that we have face to face.

We need to remember to be intentional in creating community with other believers.  We need to seek them out and set aside time to engage with them, face to face.  Christianity is not a journey that anyone can easily take alone.  Our communications as churches to our congregations cannot all be over social media.

The blog post closes with this thought:  “So although we are more connected then we have ever been, we also feel more alone and unknown then at any other time in human history.”  And I completely agree with this.  Communities are so much stronger when they are face to face, intentional and mutually investing in each other.

Don’t forget about creating relationships and community because Christianity is all about relationships, not just connectivity.

Here are my 8 Tips for the Social Church.  I hope that you find them helpful.

1.  Have a Voice
Even if there is a team of people putting out your social media content, you need to have a unified voice or else it will seem that your church does not know what it wants to be.  In your next social media strategy meeting, and yes, you should be having those, discuss your voice if you have not done so already.

2. Be Authentic
People can tell when you are putting on a show.  You have to be real with your followers.  One way to do this is by sharing things you and your church are passionate about.

3. Be Intentional
You need to have a plan or a strategy or else you are not going anywhere.  You need to have realistic, attainable, measurable goals for yourselves in order to see where you have been and to better focus on where you want to be going.

4. Use Visuals
We are visual people.  Photos catch our attention more than words.  And oftentimes photos communicate and touch us more than words ever could.  We respond to photos.  Photos evoke emotion, which leads to number 5.

5. Be Emotional
In the book Contagious, Jonah Berger says, “When you care, you share.”  Make your followers feel something and they will be more likely to share that post than one that did not make them feel anything.

6. Find your Magic Number
Many churches are trying to find their magic number for how many times they should be posting each week or even each day.  You do not want to post too often because then you will oversaturate your social media and people will start to tune you out.  On the other hand you cannot post too little because your followers will forget about you.  The number of times you should be posting is magic because it will differ for every church and every audience.  You need to practice and see how your audience responds.  Find what is best for you.

7. Engage
Answer questions.  Comment on and share other people’s posts.  Respond to comments.  Build a strong community and create a relationship.  Relationships are power for any company, but for churches in particular.

8. Do Not Delete
If someone says something negative about you, respond to it and try to fix it.  Never just delete it.  People want to be a part of the conversation.  They want to be heard.  If you delete a negative post without addressing it, you have lost an opportunity to reach out to that person and fix the problem.  If you make a mistake in social media, do not delete it.  Apologize, correct it and make it right.  And remember, if you delete, it’s never really gone.  Someone will find it, and covering something up usually makes it worse.

 

What would you add to this list of tips?