Earlier in the week, I wrote an article titled, “3 Ways Social Media Is Hurting Your Local Church.” In that particular article, I focused on the negative aspects of digital life that actually causes us to be less social than we realize. Today, I want to look at ways in which social media can help your local church. In order for a church to benefit from social media, the church must have a plan, a team, and everyone must know the difference between Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—and when it’s appropriate to use each specific platform. There are many aspects that are worthy of a conversation, but I want to focus on three main issues that are both practical and theological in nature. For starters, we must all recognize that social media is not all bad—in fact it can be quite profitable.
Information, Information, Information
What are the three main rules of real estate? You know the drill—right? When it comes to discipleship, much of our spiritual development centers upon getting the right information. First of all, the Word of God is central. A steady diet of God’s Word is necessary for spiritual growth. Beyond the Scriptures, we should be reading good material, good authors, good commentaries, and yes—good blogs. According to one source, “By 2017, there will be more internet traffic than all prior internet years combined.” At the mid-year mark of 2017, we can certainly see that online activity shows no sign of slowing down; if anything, it appears to be increasing.
The digital world is like a large bowl of spaghetti. Anyone can create a website, a Twitter handle, a Facebook page, an Instagram account, or a Pinterest board in just a matter of a few minutes. There is a basic need, from the beginning, to learn how to digitally organize your pixels and words into a usable form. When done properly, good information can be found at the tip of your fingers almost instantly. For instance, just tonight our media team ran our first Facebook Live of our mid-week Bible study. Within a few minutes, the video had been viewed over 500 times. Many of those people were friends of our members in the community. Yet, right there on their smart phone, a live session from our church appeared instantly on their screen offering immediate opportunities for discipleship.
Through social media, you can build good friends online, follow good accounts, and spend time reading good posts, updates, pages, articles, and books that you find linked from those particular sources. Today’s ebook world is filled with many opportunities to advance your spiritual progress. Just this morning I received a message from 9Marks about a free ebook offering. Following good accounts makes a difference.
Do you have an app on your smart phone for your Bible? Did you know that with the push of a button, you can post a helpful Bible verse to Facebook or Twitter? The very best method of evangelism is face-to-face over coffee or just sitting in a living room with an open Bible. However, one really good way that your local church can use social media is in the process of evangelism.
As a young adult, I was converted to Christianity while listening to a sermon online. Paul Washer has personally discussed with me testimonies received at HeartCry regarding countless people who have been converted by listening to his sermon “The Most Shocking Youth Sermon” online. The fact is, the vehicle of the internet is useful in delivering the gospel to large groups of people. Many of those people may live in the neighborhood around your church campus.
That being said, these connections with people don’t just happen. Aside from an intentional approach to social media—people will not see or interact with your church’s online material. Just because your church has a website and a Facebook page doesn’t mean anyone in your community knows about it. People in your church have to share content and invite people to like your church’s page before anyone will know it exists. Good content that’s well prepared, graphically appealing, and doesn’t appear as a manipulative scheme generally works best. How many people do you know who married someone they met online? That almost never happened at the beginning of the technology boom. Now, more than ever before, we are hearing statistics of people who have come to faith as a result of a sermon they heard online.
According to one study, “40% of global internet users, or more than 1 billion people, have bought products or goods online.” If that’s true of sales in general, imagine what the church search statistics look like. Where will you be on Saturday morning at 10:00am? Years ago, the most popular time for churches to go out into the community and engage people with the gospel and information about their church was by doing cold-door knocks in neighborhoods on Saturday morning. Although statistically speaking, we’re told that method doesn’t work today, I tend to believe that it works better than we think.
However, moving beyond what works to what’s most efficient—internet marketing on social media is very effective in getting information about your church before people’s eyes. With just a few dollars each week, you can place a really good advertisement before people directly in your community who may not have a local church they’re attending. This could be good for evangelism and for spreading the word about your church. The Millennial generation (born approximately 1980-1997) will hardly buy gas at a specific gas station unless they’ve visited their website first—much less attend a church before checking them out online. Your church’s social media presence really does matter.
You may not need a full-time staff person designated to managing your online presence, but it is something that a good volunteer team could oversee. Facebook now has over 1.94 billion monthly users, and most of your community is active on Facebook or another social media platform. Have a designated person who responds to messages and feedback given from the social media channels.
Don’t under-sell the value of social media for your local church. If you’re over 60, don’t talk down about the use of social media. Find value in it and explore opportunities to engage. If you’re under 40, don’t place too much emphasis on social media. Balance is the key with social media. Don’t allow it to control your life. Organize your time and tools. While we certainly shouldn’t go too far by expecting social media to do all of our discipleship, evangelism, and marketing—it can be harnessed to accomplish some of these important duties in a much more efficient manner. Last of all, consider sharing good content with others—especially information from your local church—especially the good news of Jesus. If your church has a poor online presence, consider volunteering your time and help your church reach more people in your community.
Two tools I use:
- Hootsuite — Organizing Twitter and Facebook
- Feedly — Reading good blogs and creating good blog lists