A Social Media Strategy for Church Growth

church social mediaJeremy Edsall of Virginia Beach, Virginia recently sent me a message:

Interested in knowing if you have any strategies for using social media for church growth. We have a new pastor… He’s incorporated prayer request “tweets” as part of Sunday morning worship but you and I know there are some awesome opportunities for reaching people in a positive ways around the globe with social networking.

Great question Jeremy! Glad to see you, your pastor and your church looking to reach out to people through social media.

An important principle of social media is: people connect with people, not organizations.

A church is not going to reach nearly as many people as the people who make up that church can.

My approach would be to gather together 5-10 people who are a part of the church and active in social media and create a Virtual Street Team. Ask them, “What could the church do in social media that you personally would interact with and share?”

If many of the people on your virtual street team are on Twitter and would retweet video of the Sunday message then tweet that. If they’d retweet a link to a daily devotional, then tweet that. If they don’t even use Twitter or wouldn’t retweet church content, then it’s probably not worth the pastor’s time (or whoever is tweeting for the church) to tweet.

There’s no one strategy that fits all churches, and there’s no site that every church has to use.

Be where your people are.

Share what your people will share.

What do you think of this strategy? What advice would you give Jeremy?

photo by: wiselywoven

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

13 Responses to “A Social Media Strategy for Church Growth”

  1. Hey Paul! In 5 years, I could totally see us using this kind of methodology for our church with Facebook! Right now, our church has a terrible view on Facebook because of past experiences that you and I have discussed before in some of your former articles. Next year, I'm hoping to implement a few things that I've been reading and working through to better change this mentality and use Facebook as a tool (since around here not many people use Twitter) instead of Facebook making you a tool. I think social media can be a phenomenal vessel for love, hope, faith, and community! So good on these people retweeting prayers and connecting using these methods!

    • PaulSteinbrueck Feb 12, 2013 at 1:53 pm

      Hey Terry, I remember our discussion about Facebook last year. It sounded like you had turned the corner and people in the church were becoming more engaged with you on Facebook. Seemed like you were building some momentum. Did something change?

      Glad to see your persistence and continued optimism concerning social media and the church.

  2. It's not that things have changed so much as they have not spread throughout our church. So right now, the usage of our Facebook Page for our church is under someone else's control and it doesn't cover the entirety of our church just yet. That will probably change in a few months.

    As for now, my own personal Facebook page has been a place of encouragement, prayer, growth, and engagement. It's taken some "I'm sorry" and deletion of some posts, but people have been gracious in remembering that we're all individual human beings on Facebook, not invisible faces. It's come through very clear and slowly, I've been posting things, engaging others, connecting, etc…

    So momentum is continuing, but for the entirety of our church there's still a lot of challenges that they're facing in terms of overcoming that hurdle. Now I think I need to have this discussion with some of our young adults to make sure they're on the same page as well with Social Media. It's ongoing, but is going MUCH better!

    • PaulSteinbrueck Feb 13, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      Thanks for the update Terry. Sounds like you're making progress, slowly but surely. Keep it up!

  3. I totally agree that people identify with people, not organizations, and I like the idea of a "street team" – I hadn't thought of intentionally asking people to share content. Do you think the church should have an account to tweet from that then members retweet, or is it better for the pastor to make the initial post as from a personal account? A pastor is more personal, but if the pastor leaves the church, then church is left back at square one. Thoughts?

    • PaulSteinbrueck Feb 13, 2013 at 12:19 pm

      I recommend the church have its own profiles on the social media platforms it chooses to engage in. That way the pastor can delegate the use of that account to one or more other people. Members of the church – including the pastor – can follow the church's account and engage with it – reply, retweet, etc.

  4. I think the street team is good. I would also suggest finding ways to interact. If all the street team does is pass along church content, sure it will get the information out to more people, but it's not really people connecting with people. Look for ways to interact with people: ask questions, request comments, ask members to submit their own content, etc.

    Another idea that's starting to form in my head (though not completely worked out) is trying to find a way to help and encourage members to be open about their faith online in a natural and authentic way. We tend to have 2 ways Christians speak about God, 1. Many Christians only talk about God in Christian company and they censor themselves in public and 2. A Christian does talk/post about God, but it's either overtly evangelistic ("you need to convert") or it's in your face ("you sinners!!"). I think helping people to be able to live and speak their faith authentically and naturally would be good.

    It's not a forced thing or even something that has a specific end goal. It's just that God works in our lives all the time, so why wouldn't we talk about it. I'm not sure how, as a church, this is done, but I think it would be the most effective way for the "church" (the members) to use social media to grow the church.

    • PaulSteinbrueck Feb 13, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      Good points Kurt! I've heard a few pastors say they actually do some sermon prep through social media. They'll ask a question that leads into the topic and then share some of the responses (usually without names) in the message.

      One way a church can help its members talk about faith online is by sharing links to blog posts or news stories related to faith with a question above it. Or even just simple questions like… Where did you see God at work today?

      Another thing I didn't go into at all in this post is that a church can play a significant role in helping church members get connected with each other on social media, thus strengthening relationships.

  5. Hi Paul,
    Good point about people connecting with people. We have just started our Facebook page (although we have had several others try before so now we have multiple FB pages that we are trying to eliminate) and are working on our strategy for how, when, what we post. Once that's going we plan to start Twitter and Pinterest.

    We have a unique situation. Our church is small and in a small town (4,000), but we have many visitors from all over the world who stop in to see the church while in Carmel, CA. More than 4 million visitors come to our area each year. We want to reach out to everyone with our message of love and wholeness for the world, so we are looking for suggestions for providing meaningful content, both for our locals and for an international audience.

    Perhaps you could provide some suggestions to engage this wide audience.

    • PaulSteinbrueck Feb 20, 2013 at 11:55 am

      That's awesome Heather! I love that you realize the unique situation you're in and view it as an opportunity. A couple of suggestions come to mind…

      1) Look at what keywords people are using to find your site. (If you don't already have Google Analytics integrated with your website, do that so you can get this info.) This will help you understand what people are looking for. Based on that you can create content (web pages, blog posts or even videos) that address the things people are looking for.

      2) Imagine you are visiting (or going to visit) Carmel, CA. What info would you find helpful? Maybe some sort of visitors guide? Info about the area? Maybe a page that goes like this would help… "Planning a visit to Carmel, CA? Looking for some rest and renewal? Below we've included links to places that provide physical renewal, but what about your spiritual renewal? The people of (your church) invite you to join us for worship. We're here serve you whether you're visiting from across the state, across the country or across the globe…"

      3) With social media, perhaps you could ask other orgs in your community to like your FB page – the chamber of commerce, visitors bureau. Before that, perhaps you like their pages & occasionally share local news and info

      4) I'm not quite sure how to do this because the word "Carmel" is used in so many other contexts, but look for ways to "listen" in social media for people who are talking about Carmel, CA. Here's a Twitter search: https://twitter.com/search?q=carmel%2C%20CA&s… Maybe there would be ways to respond to some tweets.

  6. Brethren, Things may differ from one area to another. It is a fact that people learn from others. You may have experience that someone else can learn. Keep posting your experience and testimony as well and one or two of members would gain from them

  7. Sharing opportunity is some thing we need not to forget