I’ve heard writers say that the most challenging thing they deal with is a blank page. A page is waiting for it to be filled with words that will tell stories and engage minds. The blank page can be intimidating, begging you to write, putting pressure on you to come up with an idea.
Sometimes, I look at social media the same way. I see a blank status update window from Twitter asking me, “What’s happening?” I know that I’m not going to write something on the level of Tolstoy, but I’m also not going to update you on the excellent ham sandwich that I just ate.
Creating social media for your church can evoke the same feelings. Often, you feel the pressure to create a whole social media campaign all by yourself. This can include the graphics, the wording, the scheduling, tracking of metrics, and engagement. It can be exhausting.
However, you don’t need to pressure yourself to create social media and maintain it as a one-person show. Instead, you have an army of people out there waiting to help you out. Best of all, they’ll do it for free because they believe in what you’re doing. Who are these people? Your congregation.
Never forget, the people in the pew have the power to help you accomplish your social media goals. The problem is that too many of us see them as our audience and not active partners in social media. We view our congregation as passive viewers of our content who can only view, share, and like.
Today, we’re going to talk about three secrets of unleashing the power of your congregation to help you achieve your social media goals. These three secrets are proven methods to engage your church while equipping them to be your social media ambassadors.
Hold a Social Media Tutorial
One of the assumptions I made when I joined a church staff was that every church member knew about Facebook. Well, I was wrong. I was surprised to learn that many of my church members had never tried Facebook.
More specifically, I was surprised to learn that many of these people were our senior adults. I assumed that since most of them probably had grandkids who had photos on Facebook, they would be as well.
I knew that we had to get our senior adults involved. These senior adults are some of our most active church members. They gave on Sunday, helped out in the preschool area, and sang in the choir. These are our core members.
So what did I do? Well, we decided to hold a brief tutorial on how to use Facebook. I did it right before a senior adult dinner meeting (to ensure maximum attendance). I didn’t get into too many details, but I covered how to sign up and like a page. Granted, I could have gone deeper, but I wanted to take some baby steps.
This is the first step of many that we’re going to take to engage our senior adults. Why am I focusing on our senior adults? First, they’re incredibly passionate about the church, and second, they love to share our content, which makes promotion for us that much easier.
If you want to grow your social media engagement, you need to focus on senior adults. Despite the prevailing myth that social media is just for young adults, senior adults are becoming increasingly active on social media. These passionate people would love to engage and share your church’s content.
Publicly Praise Your Congregation
Everybody loves encouragement, and social media is the perfect medium to make that happen. If there’s any institution that should thrive on encouraging others, it should be the church.
Here’s an example of why this is important. When you publicly highlight and encourage your church volunteers, you’re doing two things. First, you’re showing everyone the kind of leadership that your church wants everyone to model. Second, you’re giving your audience permission to encourage others as well.
One of the other factors of why publicly praising your congregation is important is that you’re also making your church feel smaller. No matter what size your church is, everyone wants a small church feel. They want to know people, and they want to be known. You can do this by publicly highlighting people on your social media.
Again, this unleashes your congregation by making them feel like they are a part of your social media. It helps them feel connected to the church and other people as well. The more they feel connected, the more likely they are to engage with your church’s content.
Give Your Congregation Room to Respond
Despite our best intentions, a lot of our social media can be a one-way conversation. We want to have active engagement but instead end up giving our audience more commands (click here, share this, etc.) than we should. The result is a social media presence that seems one-sided and locks our congregation out from being active partners.
To break this cycle, we started asking our congregation a straightforward question on social media: “How can we pray for you?” Now that question may seem insignificant, but the responses we received argued otherwise.
By asking a simple question, we empowered our audience to respond to us. This question allowed us to get great feedback and reinforce that we’re a church that prays for each other. (It also helps the church feel smaller.)
The more we can get our audience to respond, the more it will become natural to have a conversation with us online. These conversations eventually will spill out beyond just our Facebook page and hopefully into people’s news feeds, which want those conversations to happen.
Sometimes you have to give your audience permission to respond to your social media. You would think that people would instinctively know this, but you would be surprised that it takes a little prompting to get the conversation going.
Bonus Idea: Let Your Congregation Become Co-Creators
This next idea is a bit scary. I’ll admit as someone who likes to have control over the smallest detail; I’m not a big fan of losing control (especially when it comes to design). But I do know that if you let your audience co-create with you, you end up with something more valuable to everyone in the long run.
Let me give you a specific example. Let’s say for this Christmas that instead of using stock art to create your sermon artwork, you hold a contest on Instagram. You would announce to the congregation that you’re looking for the best artwork to use this Christmas and that anyone can submit designs on Instagram with the hashtag #churchchristmasdesign (or something better than that). Then whichever design received the most likes would become the artwork for Christmas.
Now is there a chance that artwork could be ugly? Possibly. Could it have imperfections? More than likely. However, your audience will feel like they were co-creators in creating and choosing the artwork for Christmas. This type of empowerment is one that not only reinforces that your church cares what its members think, it also supports that they’re active members of the church.
(Note: I’m not saying that you should do this for everything and not hire a professional designer for, i.e., large-scale projects like branding, etc. Please, designer friends, don’t send me hate mail.)
Now It’s Your Turn…
How do you engage your congregation? What secrets have you learned to keep your congregation involved with your social media? Share in the comments section below?
Posted on May 20, 2021
Darrel Girardier serves as the Communications Director at Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tennessee where he oversees the digital, design and video production teams. Previously, he was a Creative Director at LifeWay Christian Resources.
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