Saturday, April 28, 2012

Social Media Thoughts - Part 5: Intentionality

Strategy: a simple little word that so many in our congregations use daily in their secular employment. Yet when it comes to communicating our vision, direction, and even recent events in the life of our churches there seems to be a lack of strategy. I submit to you that Christ has a strategy in communicating with the world. Through the incarnation, He spoke to man in a language we could understand. I don’t just mean the spoken word but also through the sharing of the human experience! There is certain what Christ said but also what he did and how he related to the people around him.

This leads me to my next point: having a strategy explicitly demonstrates intentionality to the approach to our outreach efforts. Make no mistake about it; utilizing the internet is a facet of the outreach effort of the local church! If you don’t care of the use of the term strategy, use intentionality instead. The point? The church plans our order of worship each week, the music that will be used and the pastor spends many hours in prayer and study preparing the message our Lord would have us hear each week.

On a more extended level, each ministry area in the church makes plans each year, many pastors plan sermons weeks or months in advance, even building plans that will not come to fruition for years are all planned. We see in Exodus 4-6 that God had plans for Israel that included Moses as their leader. We see in Joshua 1-3 that God’s plan for Israel would be fulfilled even after the death of Moses. Before this we see God had already planned on Joshua becoming the leader of Israel (Num. 27:18; Deut. 34:9) upon Moses’ death.

God clearly has plans and most churches do a good job planning yet the way these things will be communicated to the congregation and the community at large is given little thought in many instances. In short, we lack a plan when it comes to how we want to communicate. Being intentional about how the local church wants to communicate about their ministries, upcoming events, etc. is only one aspect of this though.

There is also the matter of which tools we want to use. So we have made the commitment to maintain a well laid out website with current content. Next, do we want to use Facebook, Twitter, and/or other online platforms to connect with each other and our community? If a Facebook page/s are to be used, how open will it be? Will commenting be allowed? Who will moderate those comments? The same holds true of a blog if one is started? There are obviously a lot of questions to be asked and answered!

Barry Dollar, the Creative Web Strategist for the Georgia Baptist Convention has a great website ( I highly recommend churches considering exploring a greater online presence check out. He even encourages people to e-mail or call him with questions. Though I have no personal connection, I thank God for Barry’s ministry. If you are just beginning this conversation in your church, this is a good palce to start.

Here’s the bottom line I will close with: whether a local church has a communication strategy/intentional online outreach plan, each already has an online presence. Don’t believe me? Google a local church in your area! Go ahead, open another tab in your browser and check right now and see if I’m right. There will almost always be at a minimum the name of the church, address and telephone number, and driving directions. In other instances, there will be more information available. Our churches already have property on the internet. If you don’t claim it and use it to define who you are and what your mission is, others are already doing it for you!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Social Media Thoughts - Part 4: Church Use of Social Media

As I stated in a previous post, I have become a fan of social media. I believe that churches should have some sort of online presence in the form of a well maintained website since the vast majority of people seeking a local church find it on the Internet. For those churches who have elaborate websites and do a good job of maintaining them, bravo! However, my thinking about websites has shifted since I served as webmaster for a church where my family and I were long-time members. That was before social media had become what we know it to be today. Websites can be an awesome introduction to our churches but there is so much more to each local congregation!

First of all, I want to give a clear reason for why I have come to believe in the power of social media and why the church should use it. The mission of the church is far different than that of a secular business. Rather than seeking to sell product at a profit, the church seeks to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And to do that, we need to love them enough to meet them where they are. And believe me, many of our friends, neighbors, and people we seek to reach with the Gospel are using social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Many churches have been cautious in their approach to these new media. It is wise to resist the urge to jump at every new piece of technology that comes to market![1]

Since I have been referencing Facebook and Twitter, it is appropriate to distinguish between them. Whereas Facebook is a robust application where individuals and organizations can create an interactive online profile, Twitter is a microblogging service allowing short posts of 140 characters with each post called “tweets”.

For getting information to our people fast or letting our communities know about events in real time, Twitter is my preferred tool. For more detail about what’s going on, Facebook is where I prefer to post. For communications that are planned in advance, such as this series, I prefer to use my blog. For the church, I am thinking tweets should be several times a day, Facebook should be several times a week, and a blog should at least be several times a month.

A little something about blogging; every church I have been fortunate enough to be a part of wants to hear from their ministers more! A blog is a great way to speak into the lives of the congregation on a regular basis outside of normal activities in the church. Offering a biblical perspective on issues of particular interest such as the church’s outreach efforts, various ministries, and even the recent huge Mega Millions multistate lottery might be topics of discussion. The point is this: people want to hear from their pastors! Enough said.

So what’s a church to do with all of these tools? In my next post, I will briefly discuss the need for our churches to have a communication strategy. If that phrase kind of turns you off, consider this substitute: every church needs to be intentional in their outreach efforts. Better?

[1] Schraeder, Tim, and Kevin D. Hendricks. Outspoken: Conversations on Church Communication. (Los Angeles: Center for Church Communication, 2001), p. 29.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Social Media Thoughts - Part 3: Church Websites

We are well into the 21st century and believe it or not there are still churches out there that have no presence on the Internet. That simple reality in and of itself could be the basis of an entire series of blogs. Suffice to say I am a firm believer of the need of churches to have some sort of presence on the Internet. Now, just how much should a local church be online is my purpose with this blog.

Even the smallest of congregations can have an online presence at little or even no expense to their church. At a minimum, a single page with the physical address, telephone number, times of service/s, and the name of the current pastor of the church is a must. This should be considered like a listing in the telephone book (remember those!). A larger congregation will want to include information about their various ministries and even schedules.

Some churches get rather elaborate with their website (nothing wrong with that) but all too often fall into the same trap: out of date content. I can’t tell you how many church websites have information posted from two years ago! Don’t believe me? Pull up the websites of some of the churches in your area. Most likely it will only take a few short minutes to find several churches (some of them rather prominent) with content that is out of date.

Now to be fair, I am not talking about an event that took place last week. I am talking about content that is months or even years out of date. Bottom line on church websites: if the congregation decides to have website (large or small), it needs to be maintained. 85% of people find their church home using the Internet![1] More and more in our connected society people find local churches AND gain a first impression of that church based on their visit to the website.[2] There is so much more to a discussion such as this but I think my view is clear.

The next post in the series will focus on the use of social media such as Twitter and Facebook, why it matters, and what the response of the local church should be.

[1] MediaOutreach. MediaOutreach - the intersection of faith, culture, and technology. May 20, 2009. (accessed April 7, 2011).

[2] Steinbrueck, Paul. Church Marketing Online: Get your site fishing with "the net". February 17, 2011. (accessed April 7, 2012).

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Social Media Thoughts - Part 2: A Short Clip from Congress

Interesting that the GOP-controlled House of Representatives declined to protect users of social media. More on this in subsequent posts in this series.