The Grants Pass Seventh-day Adventist Church in Oregon operates their media ministry with 10 elected members and volunteers, including one person who coordinates their social media ministry and two leaders who coordinate their Internet ministry. Pastor Christian Martin explains that the dedication to social media and the church Web site is vital. “It’s the face of our church, both locally and globally. It’s what makes first impressions,” he says. “It leads to conclusions that people will make in their minds about who we are in the community and ultimately who are Seventh-day Adventists in general, and [how our faith] is represented in the local church.”
The Toledo First Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ohio with about 10-12 volunteers and Pastor Mike Fortune, split their time between writing stories for publication in both secular and church organizations, taking photos, working on the church newsletter, streaming the church service, and keeping their social media and Web site current. Success, says Fortune, comes from using multiple mediums and repetition. “We use e-mail, phone, bulletin, newsletter, church Web site, Wi-Fi-enabled digital church sign, church Facebook page, pastor Facebook page, and personal invitations to share our message and ministry,” Fortune says.
He remembers a man who told him that he got baptized and joined a church in Idaho after watching Toledo First’s content online. Another woman watched services for months online before visiting in person. She is currently attending church. “Timely posting early mornings and after supper work for us. . . . The yellow pages are dead. People find, visit, and connect with our church via media.”
Most churches in North America, regardless of size, now have some presence on social media—usually it is Facebook, with Twitter and Instagram a distant second and third. Some churches have one person dedicated to social media, but many have a team with a coordinator. Sometimes this is the church pastor; sometimes it is an associate pastor, an elder, deacon, or a member who is able to share the church’s vision and message consistently and attractively on social media.
It’s no longer if a church uses social media, but rather how well they use it.
According to Pro Church Tools, social media for churches, especially smaller churches, serves two purposes: it engages your congregation; and it reaches out to new people.[i] It is important to understand that your church isn’t on social media to blast your message across the world.
Social media is a place, first and foremost, for your members to connect and cultivate relationships—to be excited about what the church is doing, and to share that information. Pro Church Tools says that social media is “all about trust, so start with your congregation first. Engage them. Post things that are relevant to their everyday lives. . . . One of the coolest parts of social media is that people give you explicit permission into their lives. Now use that permission to show that you value them.”
But don’t try to do everything all at once! If you’re just starting with social media, go with Facebook first. And marry your online persona with what visitors will encounter if/when they visit your church.
Not only will church members connect and engage more with the church through social media, but once they trust that their church is posting accurate and honest content, they will share the posted material with friends and family. They will interact, which is the most important role of social media.
And for that interaction to draw people to a church and its message and programming, the church must listen—and consistently respond. It may be overwhelming to think about answering each comment, but just as you wouldn’t ignore someone talking to you in person, you shouldn’t ignore your social media audience. It may be that all you are able to say is “Thanks for your comment,” offer to pray, or just click “like.” Do it!
It is a good idea for churches to post often and at consistent times. Learn, through the analytics available to you through social media platforms, when posts get the most interest through shares, likes, and comments. Work up to about five posts per week on Facebook and Instagram; and between three to five tweets per day, depending on your church’s social media plan and optimal posting times. And remember to post at least four helpful things for every one post advertising yourself.
Stories should be shared on social media. These can be in the form of actual stories (300 words or less), photos with captions, and videos. Social media works well integrated with all media ministry.
Claudia Allen, main writer at Miracle City, says that the church’s ministry is essential to everything they do. “Our media ministry does not simply share what happens at Miracle; they are the very ministers that help shape it. More specifically, our audiovisual ministers determine how people experience worship at Miracle City,” says Allen.
And that goes for social media, too. “They distribute that worship experience on a variety of sharing platforms to hundreds of our online members, some local and others long-distance.”
[i] “The Ultimate Social Media Strategy for Smaller Churches,” Feb. 11, 2013; https://prochurchtools.com/ultimate-social-media-strategy/