Engage Your Community with Social MediaBy Chris Martin
July 22, 2021
The internet has revolutionized local church ministry in a myriad of ways. Perhaps the most prominent of those ways is the ability that local churches have to stream their Sunday services live on any number of platforms so that home-bound members or others in the community can virtually “attend” church and participate in the worship service in a somewhat imperfect, but nonetheless real way. This feature was especially vital during the height of the coronavirus pandemic throughout 2020.
In what other ways might the internet have serious implications for local church ministry? One way is at the intersection of social media and community outreach. Many churches serve their church members well but struggle to know how to best serve the people in their communities and reach out to them. Social media provides some opportunities about which church leaders should be aware. Here is one caution and two practical ways to use social media to reach out to your community as a local church.
1. Resist the temptation to cater to everyone.
Before you embark on implementing any sort of social media strategy for your church, it is important that you do not try to “be all things to all people.” If your church is located in the northern suburbs of Indianapolis, IN, your social media efforts should really only be focused on reaching out to Fishers, Noblesville, or any of the other adjacent communities in your area. If your church is located in the heart of Chicago, there really isn’t any reason for you to be attempting to engage social media users in Portland, OR.
As you create and execute a social media strategy, focus on engaging with people within a 50-mile-radius (or so) of your church(es). Don’t try to reach the world.
This may sound like an absurdly obvious piece of advice, but I can’t tell you the number of times I have churches in one part of the United States running hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of Facebook ads in communities around the U.S. either by mistake or in an attempt to grow their influence beyond the communities to which God has called them to serve.
Pastors, church leaders, and churches in general are wise to resist the temptation to fleeting, fickle fame that social media offers. Your best use of time, energy, and cash on social media is to build bridges within your community, not around the world.
2. Create Facebook events for your church’s programs.
On a practical level, this is one of the most important ways your church can use social media to do community outreach. Facebook is, at least right now, the most popular social media platform in the world. For all of its privacy violations and quirks, it is likely where the majority of your church members and community neighbors spend their social media time. This makes it, with some exceptions, the most important social media platform in your church’s social media strategy.
But what should your church even do on Facebook? There are endless things your church could do, but creating Facebook Events for your church programming, especially any events that are designed to engage unchurched people in your communities, is one of the best uses of your time on Facebook as a church.
The reason it’s valuable to create formal Facebook Events for your church’s events is not because you expect people to RSVP on Facebook—most people aren’t formally RSVPing to events on Facebook today. The reason is because by creating the event and having your church members share in on Facebook, you’re able to promote the event in a much more effective way than just posting a link to your website. Then, if people actually do RSVP, you can reach out to them personally on Facebook and tell them how excited you are to meet them and host them at your church’s event.
The Facebook Events feature is a handy way to make sure your outreach events are accessible and sharable among your church members so that others in your community may become aware of them and attend. Still, the most important facet of any community outreach strategy on Facebook is the final one.
3. Run ads and target people who live near your church.
It’s a sad reality, but it is a reality: spending money on Facebook ads is the most effective way to reach out to people in your community on social media. Because of the obscene amounts of data people input into Facebook every day, the platform has a good idea of where most of its users live. This allows advertisers like your church to promote content (like the Facebook Events we explored above) to people who live within a certain number of miles of your church.
Probably the best “play” your church can run on social media in order to do some community outreach would be to create a Facebook Event for your big summer party or harvest festival and spend a couple of hundred dollars promoting that event to Facebook users who live within a certain number of miles of your church, say 30 or 50.
This strategy allows you to get your outreach event and its relevant details in front of the eyes of thousands of people who live within a reasonable driving distance of your church and could actually show up. Spending money in this way has proven, for many churches, more valuable than radio ads, post cards, or other forms of event promotion from yesteryear.
The most important posture to have as your church tries to use social media for community outreach is one of intentionality. No one accidentally uses social media for constructive purposes. Why? Because we are sinful and because the platforms are made by sinful people. As your church endeavors to use social media for good and to reach out to others who live nearby, be intentional every step of the way.