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Facebook and church management systems can coexist

Churches use social media platforms to enhance communication among congregrants.

By Lauren Hunter

For Jim Gum, executive pastor at Heartland Community Church in Olathe, KS, just connecting with people and getting phone numbers was a challenge when he first joined the church. “We didn’t have an updated directory, and our office administrator had gone home for the night. I couldn’t get the phone number for a member I wanted to help in my ministry,” Gum says.

Today, Heartland has a thriving Facebook presence and relies on its “MyHeartland” branded church management system to keep valuable data at everyone’s fingertips and allow people within the church to connect with one another and the pastoral staff.

“Trying to find tools – whether through social media or church management systems – that support the way you ‘do church’ is related to how you improve the way your church stewards and disciples people,” Gum says. “Spending time and money on quality organizational tools actually translates into greater ministry impact.”

Where does it fit?
Almost everyone is having the conversation about how social media fits into the church communication and management landscape. How can a church’s management software, Facebook page, Twitter feed, Google group, and other points of contact all contribute and work cohesively to effectively communicate and draw people into the church fold?

While it seems that Internet applications, websites, and management tools are making the process more complicated, some solutions clarify and streamline. While many Christian remakes of Facebook-like applications are born each day, some church management systems are already filling the need of social media management within their existing software.

“We don’t feel there is a need to recreate a ‘church’ version of Facebook; Facebook already exists and works well,” says Steve Caton, vice president for Church Community Builder. “What churches need is a place to drive the conversation deeper, where they feel a sense of security. Most people are not going to engage in a deep spiritual conversation on Facebook or any other online community unless it is private and secure.”

The firm’s web-based church management system (ChMS) provides social media tools within its software platform to help people have in-depth and more private conversations than its Facebook counterpart.

“It’s a both/and, not either/or. The two – a church’s ChMS and Facebook page – can coexist to share brief updates, open event invitations, pictures and videos you don’t mind going public. But the intimate stuff – detailed prayer requests, questions about discipleship and real needs – should be discussed in a safe place,” he notes.

Think through the process
Church communicators certainly have their work cut out for them. It’s becoming increasingly important to think through the process to ensure your church body is cared for with discretion.

Cynthia Ware, executive director, Center for Church Communication, says: “Handshakes between Facebook and ChMS make sense because churches need access to data such as, attendance and giving records, addresses, phone numbers, birthdays and the like, but they also hope for cyberspaces where safe conversations can go deeper, create instant prayer requests and develop and foster relationships that provide a sense of value to members.”

For churches that use a private online community, one of the best ways to blend a congregations’ use of Facebook and their church-only network is to post hyperlinks on Facebook that lead deeper discussions over to the church’s private church management system group. For instance, if your women’s ministry group posts a question about struggles or Christian growth, they can simply insert the link on Facebook, and when members click the link, they login the church’s management system and continue the discussion there. It’s a simple solution to start the conversation in a public forum and drive people to a private group where they can share and connect more in depth.

Lauren Hunter is a church technology public relations consultant in Roseville, CA.
[ www.laurenhunter.net; www.churchtechtoday.com ]

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