By Deborah Hertle
A failure is in designing for the convenience of the organization and not for the person using it.
When my church first attempted to use Facebook to create a sense of community among our congregants, it failed! No one was using it except to post announcements. Our people were not interacting with one another, and the silence was awkward. As a church staff, we started to investigate how other churches were using Facebook to see what we could do differently.
“Your communication efforts should be designed around what is best for your audience. If they don’t read it, don’t find it easy, convenient and fits into how they want communication to them – you’ve failed,” advises Mark Simmons, business manager at Christ Community Church of Milpitas, CA.
“I see this as a common failure in communication. It is designed for the convenience and desires of the person or organization providing the information as opposed to being designed for the people you are trying to reach,” he adds.
Our staff realized that we were using Facebook like the church webpage with a one-way preaching form of communication of “we’ll tell you what we want you to know.” Whereas social media uses the Web and mobile-based technologies to facilitate dialog between organizations, communities and individuals.
Groups vs Pages
One difference we found was that some churches use Facebook’s Groups instead of Pages. “A Page is for organizations and businesses and is public and generally open to anyone on Facebook” whereas “a Group is a closed space for small groups of people to communicate about shared interests,” states Facebook’s Helps. A Group is personal with “friends” where a Page is a business one can “like.”
Muldoon Community Assembly in Anchorage, AK, uses both Facebook Pages and Groups effectively. On their Facebook Page, one can learn more about the church through announcements, events and general information. Lead pastor Kent Redfearn uses a personal Facebook Group to maintain relationships with his large congregation.
Redfearn honors members who serve, highlights guest speakers, celebrates events, shares prayer requests and includes members in his everyday life. He takes pictures with his cellphone during services, events or personal meetings to post on his Facebook Group. Whether one is a member, prospective member or friend, they will find his Facebook Group engaging.
Bethel Church, Redding, CA, demonstrates impressive ways of communicating with a congregation through Facebook Pages using invitational and celebratory methods with lots of inspirational pictures. Jana-Marie Kroeker, member of the Bethel Media Team explains, “We have a select few staff members of Bethel Media that help manage the page, monitor postings by others and respond to Facebook messages.”
Our church did not have a savvy media relations team. What were we to do? We realized that in order to use this tool to build community, we needed to change our approach.
Staff and members began regularly posting pictures, devotionals, Christian world news, missionary updates, church events, daily scriptures, prayer requests, personal needs or celebrations, and resources to get members interacting with each other. One staff member champions this resource, responds to requests and monitors the results with Hootsuite.
Reaching for the relational
Invitations and communications then became relational. We encouraged ministry teams to start conversations about upcoming events. In order to get congregants interested in an upcoming barn dance, we started discussions about what we were going to wear along with humorous pictures on appropriate outfits. After the event, pictures and stories showed how much fun attendees had.
On a recent medical mission trip to Haiti, the team posted daily videos, prayer requests and updates while members and family at home posted prayers, devotionals and words of encouragement. We invite speakers to post on Facebook and include links to books, websites or other information that may get members interested in attending and inviting others.
Communicating with congregations is always challenging but now with social media we can build community with a larger network of people. It can be more successful in communicating to your congregation and connecting them with other members than any other form of communication.
Deborah Hertle is director of Mobilization 4 Ministry at Grace Church of Fredericksburg, VA. [firstname.lastname@example.org, gcofonline.org]
Resources you can use:
- Hootsuite.com, a tool to manage multiple multimedia pages.
- Socialmedia.policytool.net, a tool for creating your social media policy.
- Churchm.ag/facebook-pages-vs-groups explains the benefits of Pages versus Groups.
- Facebook for Pastors by Chris Forbes, a PDF booklet.
- Internettoolboxforchurches.com. Insightful articles on managing your Facebook Page.
- HowChurchMediaWorks.com, tutorial on how to create your Facebook account.
- Newsle.com, follows Facebook friends or congregants in the news.
- UStream or LiveStream for streaming your services live. ustream.tv/new; livestream.com