Social Media Is Not Optional!
If you are connected to social media, you have probably seen plenty of buzz in the last week surrounding Google’s new “Facebook killer,” Google Plus. This entry into the already-crowded online social world presents church leaders with one more opportunity for connection and growth, if approached well. Social media is a huge topic in ministry — how can we best use it to reach and grow others? What problems does the medium present, and how can we best avoid them? Margaret Feinberg, a member of the BuildingChurchLeaders.com advisory panel, recently led a “Social Media Bootcamp” breakout panel at the Bayside Thrive conference. She spoke with Lauren Hunter of ChurchTechToday on how the church can better use social media:
1. How has social media technology affected your faith and profession as a Christian author?
I don’t think social media has affected my faith as much as it has opened up avenues for the way I express my faith and journey with Christ. Whether it’s trying to sum up a God-moment in 140 characters or less on Twitter (@mafeinberg) or engaging in a discussion on Facebook on how to handle the awkward silence that comes with leading and being in a small group, I’ve seen technology affecting the way we engage and discuss issues of faith. The potential reach as well as opportunities for cross-pollination of learning is mind-boggling.
2. What is the biggest stumbling block for church when it comes to using social media as a viable communication tool?
I think the biggest stumbling block is simply buying into the myth that engaging in social media is somehow optional for the church today. It’s a requirement. I have friends who I can call repeatedly without response, but when I message them on Facebook I receive a response in less than three minutes. The way people engage in conversations, commit to attend a gathering, and share their lives is changing — and the church must be at the forefront.
3. What are the top 3 suggestions you have for church communicators to get over this hurdle?
First, make sure the person who handles communication in your church loves social media. If the person you’re considering for the role hears the word “Mac” and thinks of a quarter pounder with fries, you’re not choosing wisely. Church communication is shifting from handouts and phone trees to online, and the person responsible for communicating what’s going on in your church needs to passionate about both — recognizing it’s not an either/or as much as a both/and.
Second, leverage social media to “shout out” what God is doing in your community. Instead of being frustrated or overwhelmed by online activity, choose to carve out a space to testify to the good things God is doing in the lives of those in your church. This can be as simple as grabbing quick videos of testimonies to post on You Tube or Vimeo or writing up a quick interview and posting it on Facebook or the church’s site/pastor’s blog. Begin intentionally contributing to all the “good” social media can do.
Third, recognize that the social media world is messy. You’re going to see people post ugly comments. You’re going to encounter images that make you blush. You’re going to find out that what happens in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas. But if we, as the church, as passionate followers of Jesus, aren’t intentional about engaging and shaping the conversation taking place in the online world, then someone else will. And I have a hunch you won’t like what they’re saying.
4. For churches who haven’t connected with their attendees through social media at all, what would you say to them?
Get an iPhone. That seems silly but it really puts the whole social media world at your finger tips. Then, find someone who is younger than you to coach you on the “unspoken” rules of social media (like the importance of mentioning someone’s name when you respond to them) and how to navigate the terrain. Start small with your own personal account before you launch something with the church’s name. Get to know how the medium works. Then you’ll be better equipped to help support whoever is handling the online communication for your church.
A popular speaker at churches and leading conferences such as Catalyst and Thrive, Margaret Feinberg was recently named one of the ’30 Emerging Voices’ who will help lead church media in the next decade by Charisma magazine.
This article “Social Media Is Not Optional!” by Margaret Feinberg was excerpted from: www.chrismamagazine.com web site. June 2011. It may be used for study & research purposes only.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”