Today’s post is the first of a new format, in which instead of just sharing my own opinion, I’ve asked several leaders in the field of church communications and social media to share their answers to a question about church social media challenges. These are some of the people who have inspired me to find my voice online and who continue to educate me on what’s possible in online ministry. I hope you also find their thoughts helpful!
Here’s the question I asked:
What is the biggest social media challenge you see churches facing?
Setting a Strategy
Call me crazy but I think we’re finally past the “should we use” and into the “why and when should we use” conversation about social media. I want to believe that even those who do not feel personally comfy using digital platforms recognize their value; that social media is a must have and must do.
We now face this big challenge: developing strategy and crafting tactics before choosing tools. If social media “doesn’t work” for your church, it’s probably because you don’t know your audience, haven’t defined goals, and aren’t creating actionable messages. Strategy and tactics, friends. Do this first!
- Meredith Gould is the founder of the #chsocm church social media chat and author of The Social Media Gospel: Sharing the Good News in New Ways. Follow her at @meredithgould.
Learning How To Stand Out
In regards to social media, churches face the same challenge that businesses encounter online: how can my updates float to the top of the flood of information that threatens to drown us all on a daily basis? The answer lies in knowing both who you are and what your mission is, then crafting resonant stories around that identity such that your online followers want to engage with your content. A church shouldn’t just add to the flood; it should be throwing out life preservers.
- Blake Atwood is an editor at Faith Village, and recently published The Gospel According to Breaking Bad. Follow him at @FVmomentum.
In one word, “sustainability.” Many pastors, church leaders, and congregation members realize that social media is not just a fad. It is a new way to publicly and privately converse with people well outside the walls of the church. However, much like creating and maintaining a website, social media is a journey, not a destination. As your presence grows, it requires daily, if not hourly moderation. The problem for smaller venues is finding volunteers and leadership that are willing to monitor and respond to these requests on a daily, if not hourly basis. Just like having a phone line requires a secretary (or at least an answering machine), your online communication channels require the same love and attention.
- Stephen Morrissey blogs about online ministry at Church Web Strategies and is the author of The Rookie Year: Church Web Strategies. Follow him at @churchwebstrats.
Focusing on the People
The biggest challenge for churches is to understand that social media is not about the technologies, it’s all about people. When churches and church leaders realize that using social media is best way to exponentially increase the outreach and impact of Gospel ministry beyond the weekly worship service. The quality content that churches produce and publish online through social media will have much longer-lasting and far-reaching impact than the words spoken inside the church walls.
- DJ Chuang blogs at djchuang.com and hosts the Social Media Church podcast. Follow him at @djchuang.
Lack of Resources
The main issue that plagues churches today when it comes to social media is the lack of resources, and I am not talking about money. The first resource lack is in expertise on the impact and understanding of social media. There isn’t anyone on staff who truly gets it (social media, scheduling software, analytics, connecting) and if they do, then many times the leaders who don’t get it overrule them. The next resource lack is content to distribute. Social media needs a consistent flow of content from the ministry and many churches don’t realize how important it is to develop a content strategy before you sign up for any social network. Finally, the last resource lack is in people and time to get it all done, staffing resources are thin and time to focus on social media is limited.
- Jason Caston is the creator of the iChurch Method and recently published The iChurch Method: Changing The World When You Login. Follow him at @jasoncaston.
Knowing Your Goals and Identity
Making the Time
In my opinion the biggest social media challenge that churches face is investing enough time to use it effectively. With it being “free” it often gets our leftover time which is generally minimal at best. Social Media requires creative thought in content creation, consistent engagement in responding to interactions, and ongoing adjustments as it is always changing. Social media is not free as it requires a great investment in our time, but I believe that you will find a greater Return On Investment that you could possibly imagine.
- Nils Smith is the Innovation Pastor at Community Bible Church in San Antonio and the author of Social Media Guide for Ministry. Follow him at @NilsSmith.
I hope these thoughts on the social media challenges that churches face are helpful to you in your ministry. I’ve never done a post like this before, and I’d never talked to most of those who contributed before this, so a big thank you to everyone who was willing to share their thoughts!
What challenges have you run into in your churches and ministries? Share below in the comments!