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The social media imperative

The social media imperative

Off the Agenda, a blog devoted to building church leaders presents an interview with Margaret Feinberg on why it is imperative for churches to develop strong presences in social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter. A key excerpt:

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.

How is your church doing on the social media front?

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LKT

Here's the thing that drives me crazy about articles like this: we tell churches it is IMPERATIVE that they use social media. But we don't tell them how to use it. It gives the impression that we are advocating social media for social media's sake rather than being connected to the larger mission of the church.

I want to commend the ELCA for offering wonderful guidelines for churches to help them use social media, including what elements they need for an effective sm strategy. Whoever wrote that is clear that you don't start with social media; you start with a plan.

Social media is a tool. If I give someone a hammer and nails and say "It is imperative that you use these," that doesn't do much unless we can explain what to build and how to build it.

I think it's hard for those of us linked in to social media to understand that for people who aren't, it's not clear what they're good for. "You must use social media!" doesn't explain much to someone who doesn't know what social media is or does.

Laura Toepfer

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Sbjoelwatson

I remember when I called the Episcopal Church Center in NYC (when the term "webpage" was unknown and our little mission in the sticks of Oregon was the only church in Oregon with a website thanks to a creative and generous parishioner with forsight) with the offer to start such a "presence" for the The Episcopal Church on what would later be called the World Wide Web---gratis.... no one had really heard of such a thing, really couldn't see how helpful it would be, and so were really not very interested. Now we are being told how important it is by church "Leaders" who claim to be so "pro" small churches. O tempora, O mores! O Christ!

How long?

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Teressa Rooney

I'm Roman Catholic, but social media goes for all faiths I think. As a person who uses Facebook and Twitter all the time I think it is imperative for churches to use social media. This is especially true for connecting with younger people. I'm from New Zealand and our diocese had a massive earthquake and then, it happened again and then yes, again (over the space of several months). Both the Cathedrals, Catholic and Anglican, in Christchurch have been practically destroyed and will require rebuilding. Social media has meant that the news can get out to people. This has been vital, especially because you can't print a diocesan newsletter when all the printers are closed or reduced to rubble. As well as that because Christchurch kept getting massive destructive earthquakes the news changes so fast. It's also helped people who have lost their homes and been forced to move. Their postal address has changed but they still log into Facebook.

Of course Christchurch's example is rare, but the principles apply for communication in general.

We're really lucky that our Bishop is switched on to email. If you want to chat to him you just flick him an email and he will reply directly within a few hours. Another one of our kiwi Bishops does a podcast every week that's 15 minutes long. That's awesome too.

The other thing social media is great for is creating community. My parish is three hours drive away from Christchurch, so it's expensive and hard to get over the mountains to attend things there and sometimes in winter the roads are impassible. However I can catch up with people online. (The West Coast of the South Island is part of the Christchurch diocese.)

My advice for using social media is

- find someone, or a team of someones, who understands netiquette.

- Make sure there is someone taking photos and videos of things so that they can be posted online, it means people who can't attend an event get a real feel for what happened. This is especially precious for sick people who would love to attend but just can't, or mum's with young kids and no babysitter, etc.

- If you have a newsletter, then put up online as well.

- Ask youth in the church about what they would like to see online and what would be helpful for them.

If you want to check up your Anglican brethren in Christchurch and see what they have had to face check them out here:

http://www.chch.anglican.org.nz/

So many beautiful old churches have been destroyed, Anglican, Coptic, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist. It's heartbreaking.

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Meredith Gould

So glad you posted this and hope folks will click through to read the longer article.

Yes, I believe using social media wisely and well is imperative -- an important, valuable tool for ministry because, as I put forth in my book, The Word Made Fresh: Communicating Church and Faith Today, church communication(s) IS a ministry.

I had a very tough (read: impossible) time making that case three years ago.

Now I'm gratefully watching how, thanks in part to social media (as well as the swift decline of church populations), folks are becoming more willing to understand that this is an important ministry and that all valuable tools ought to be embraced.

Just last week, a group of us started a Twitter-based weekly chat for anyone interested in using social media to build church and faith. We're using the hashtag #chsocm. The chat is on Tuesday evenings (9pm ET) and all are welcome.

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Geoff

Amen. (Or you can follow @trinitylimerock on Twitter)

I am very, very glad to see this article.

Geoff Brown

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