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I continue to be amazed at the exponential growth of social media as a key form of communication in our culture. Church leaders need to understand the importance of this medium as they attempt to contextualize and reach the culture in which their churches reside.

In fact, I am going to encourage churches take another big step in social media. I recommend that most churches need a social media director. For the majority of churches, this person will be an unpaid volunteer. I am familiar with a number of small churches that have found such a person in their congregation just by asking. I even see this position as a key ministry position in the church for years to come. Allow me to offer seven key reasons churches need one individual coordinating and leading social media for the congregation.

  1. Social media is fast becoming a preferred method of communication. It cannot and should not be ignored by church leaders. We miss opportunities to minister and share the gospel when we neglect social media. Just like any major ministry in the church, this ministry needs one person to lead and drive such efforts.
  2. Having one individual lead social media will avoid the pitfalls of mixed messages. Though this church may be an exception, I know one congregation that was sending out contradictory information from Twitter and Facebook. There were different persons handling each form of social media, and they were not communicating with each other. There are many different venues for social media. Congregations need one person to keep the messages consistent.
  3. A congregation’s social media expressions need a consistent voice. I am differentiating here between “message” and “voice.” A consistent voice has a consistent tone. The writing style is consistent. The level of responsiveness is consistent. The length of message is consistent (Yes, there are some verbose persons even on Twitter). Church members and potential members need to hear a consistent voice regardless of the social media platform they are engaging.
  4. A good social media director understands the language of the people. He or she can engage others on Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook, Instagram, and others. And the more he or she is involved, the more adept at the language that person becomes. The director can also coordinate with the pastor and other leaders if they happen to have blogs or podcasts. The social media director helps provide “translation” to get the message out to others engaged in social media.
  5. One person acting as social media director can help give priority to the different messages the church needs to send. Ideally, that person is in regular contact with the pastor and other church leaders about the ministry priorities in the congregation. Those priorities should then be communicated via social media. Undoubtedly, every church has members with different ideas about what is more important. A social media director, working with the leadership of the church, can make wise decisions about communication issues.
  6. A social media director can help find the church’s  “sweet spot” in social media. No one person, and not many organizations, can be active in every conceivable social media expression. So people and organizations begin to gravitate toward those areas where communication is most efficient and effective. In my world, for example, my blog and Twitter are the two media platforms in my sweet spot, though I am involved in other social media.
  7. Effective social media needs ongoing attention. When a church has one person leading, directing, and coordinating social media, that person has an important and busy ministry in the church. Constant attention is necessary to make the communication relevant and effective. The social media director is just the person to provide that attention.

As I have advocated in a previous blog post, churches must and should be involved in social media. It is now the language of the people much like a missionary discovers when he or she is in a new culture and new land. The social media director, whether paid or volunteer, is critical for the missional health of congregations. I see this ministry position becoming more and more common in churches around the world.

What do you think about having a social media director as a key ministry position in churches? What is your church doing in this area right now?


photo credit: Jason A. Howie via photopin cc

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Comments

  1. says

    We’ve had a communications director for five years, and we added a separate (volunteer) social media director this year. It helps, for all the reasons you’ve mentioned. Also … every staff member and volunteer should think of themselves as a content provider, feeding photos, videos, FB posts, etc., to the director. One person cannot gather all the information that even a mid-sized church wants to communicate.

    • Daniel says

      Lawrence as we’d say in Nigeria, “you are so on point” especially on the second part. As community manager in my church, its perhaps the biggest challenge I’ve encountered. It’s like since you have the title, you are expected to do all that it entails including gathering all the information the church needs to communicate.

  2. Mark Dance says

    For those who just flinched because you already have enough ministry we “should” be doing, and volunteers we “need” to recruit – I feel your Monday morning pain.

    Yet Dr Rainer’s bold challenge is a modern application of our marching orders to “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23). Not using the most time and cost efficient tools available to communicate to our members and prospects is, (brace for another flinch)… irresponsible. Every single reader can and “should” use whatever means we have at our disposal to “compel them to come in.” That is what missionaries do.

    Thank you for the nudge Dr Rainer!

  3. says

    Very good and insightful. I have thought this for some time now, but did not know how to articulate it accurately. I am passing along to my Pastor, but feel it will boomerang right back to me. Even so, it is the right thing to do for clear communication.

    Also understanding how to communicate on the different platforms is so critical. One message needs to be communicated very differently across the different social media platforms to be relevant and to speak to that audience.

    • Mark Dance says

      I wish I had more people like you in my church John. Leaders who not only are open to embrace innovative change, but own it. Many blessings with your boomerang!

  4. Gena says

    I agree wholeheartedly. But, should that position be administrated by a minister called by God? Also, how should the media posts be reviewed? In a case where there is doctrinal disagreement. Shouldn’t that be a staff decision? Also, should there be review prior to posting?
    Thank you, just some questions I’ve been pondering.

    • Mark Dance says

      That is a great question Gena. About six months ago we added “social media” to our weekly staff agenda. To borrow a metaphor from LifeWay’s church consulting guru Will Mancini, our staff wanted to plan more like a football team than a golf team. We have gone from random ministry posts & promos, to a much more focused churchwide communication plan.

      More specifically to your question, our social media team is comprised of a pastor, a ministry assistant and our media person. This trio serves as a quality-control group, yet the general direction goes through our pastoral staff. Hope this helps!

  5. says

    As churches move forward in these areas, many will find that there are those (like me) who are nerds called to ministry and finding their niche in these areas. I also think that consulting in these areas will grow; but the issue remains that those who are a part of ministry in this way need to have a solid conviction and love for the church body and communicating via these media for the sake of expanding the Gospel. Innovation is really a necessary expectation.

  6. Jonathon says

    Social media covers a huge range of forms of communication via the Internet, and its alternatives.
    A minimum of 100,000 sites.

    The director of social meda needs to keep up with the trends in using social networking sites by both current church members/attendees, and the socio-economic demographic that the congregation focuses on reaching.

    If the church target demographic is on Hi5, then the church needs a presence there. Cross, FaceBook, etc might be useful auxillaries, but they are not focal points of attention.

    A second point that is often missed is that the raw numbers mean nothing. The only thing that counts, is whether or not it generates the desired activity, in the expected/desired qantities.

    A failure mode I see congregations make, is dropping their website in favour of a Facebook, or other social media site only presence. That is a failure, because third parties control both your content, and its availability.

  7. says

    Or, if the title “director” is too much of a freak-out, at least have a coordinator who understands how to craft strategy; develop and manage an online community; and enroll volunteers. Actually, I agree (strongly) with Lawrence Wilson’s comment. Optimal situation: a director of communications who rocks at finding and enrolling volunteers with a passion for building church and deepening faith via social media.

    • Thom Rainer says

      I almost used “coordinator” instead of “director.” They do have slightly different nuances. Thanks Meredith.

  8. Kevin says

    This post pushed me over the edge… Thank you. We just brought on our Social Media Director. To many voices without consistency. Excellent point. We are focusing on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Those on Google Plus… There are other churches. ;)

  9. says

    Thom,

    While I almost always agree with you, and love your blogs (we have republished a couple, with permission, in my magazine The American Church Magazine), I think I have to disagree with this blog. I certainly agree that Social Media is important to our society. And I believe churches should have a Facebook page along with their website. However, I think the emphasis many seem to be taking is for churches to use Social Media as a way to mass communicate, connect, converse, market and brand and it simply doesn’t work. I am a magazine publishers, so I am long winded in making my points :), so I just sent out a special issue on Social Media to our publications. I would love for you to check it out and send me your comments. http://www.ccmag.com/specialissue/ccmagspecialissue.pdf

  10. says

    While I was in seminary (NOBTS) in the late 90’s, I BEGGED for a Church Media track in either the Bachelor’s or Master’s level courses. Part of why I was begging for this track is because of what I had already seen to be the seismic shift the internet would bring. As a student, I had already started blogging on MoveableType’s self-hosted blogging platform, then, TypePad, when they started charging for the self-hosted version. Then, started learning Mambo/Joomla Content Management System and WordPress… all before 2000.

    Experimenting with blogging, and then with the various social media (MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and others), as well as online videocasts and audio podcasting.

    There are many sharpened tools, ready to be used by churches across the nation and world to reach people across the nation and the world. Yet, while the opportunity for TRUE global missions is available for every church in the nation – we see churches who either shy away from the technology, or, at best, try to take it own without the assistance of people who understand the technology and the even fewer who understand the technology AND have a call to ministry!

    Our Seminaries have NOT, to my knowledge, taken on this mantle of teaching ministers how to use ALL of the media tools available, and made CONSIDERABLY cheaper than in the traditional media channels (TV, radio, newspaper, magazine) through the internet.

    It burdens me so very much.

    Thanks for pointing out the need. Maybe some churches will heed the call.

    Phillip Swindall
    Host, The DeKnumi Podcast
    http://www.deknumi.com

  11. says

    I agree.

    Whether the person be paid or volunteer, this is an often overlooked role that many churches would benefit in having filled.

    Great list — thank you!

  12. says

    Right on! Totally agree about the constant voice and the need to make sure that you KNOW the medium! What works on FB does not work on Twitter! Everyone who is doing this needs to read Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk and see how others have gotten social media right AND WRONG!

  13. says

    IT SEEMS THERE IS A SHARED TWEETING, FB POSTING, ETC AT MY CHURCH. I LIKE THE DIFFERENT VOICES AND TONES. ALTHOUGH IT IS SLOPPY AT TIMES. I’VE OFFERED TO BE THE SOCIAL MEDIA COORDINATOR AT MY CHURCH…I WILL BRING IT UP AGAIN, AND SHARE THIS ARTICLE. THANKS

  14. says

    My father has worked for an NFL team for a number of years, and he repeatedly has stated that he thinks our church should have more of a presence in social media. As he has put it, “If you are not out in social media, you are not going to ever be relevant, no matter what you do. Your business is effectively “dead” without it.” If you translate that to the church culture, if we aren’t out where the people are, we are dying. And the people we are attempting to reach, are mostly connected into some sort of social media in some manner.

  15. Josette Dingle says

    Excellent subject. I just became the default social media coordinator for my church. I focus our church on Facebook and Twitter. We have a blended congregation, so getting the seasoned saints to embrace the social media piece is slow, but moving forward. I believe this is an area most churches need to embrace more.

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