Brian Baker, lead pastor at Big Timber Evangelical Church in Big Timber, Montana, uses social media in ministry. He says that online communication can be a useful tool for outreach—but the goal should be to promote face-to-face conversation, not replace it.
“Social media can help us become a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week presence in our community,” he says. “We can connect with people where they’re at, and encourage everyone we possibly can. Social media can’t be the only tool we use, but it’s one of the ways we can interact with people and affect lives for good.”
If you’ve been thinking about how to incorporate social media into your ministry, there are a number of factors to consider.
Decide which social media services to use. Choose one or two platforms. Facebook and Twitter are the most popular sites and can be used to share short updates, photos, and links to content stored on the church website.
Decide what to post. What are your goals? They may include motivating people to follow Christ, growing the size of the congregation, increasing attendance at ministry events, or promoting awareness of ministry programs. For example:
Assign a social media monitor. When posting on the ministry’s social media page, remember that the page is essentially an open forum for people within your ministry and those who have no connection to the ministry at all. Pick a few trusted people to monitor your content. Train them on what should and shouldn’t be shared online, and what counts as appropriate, relevant content. A monitor should:
If someone harasses others in a threatening way or repeatedly makes false accusations against the ministry, the social media team may block the user from posting on the ministry’s page. As a last resort, the ministry may even take legal action, such as obtaining a temporary restraining order or seeking damages for defamation.
Finally, strive to grow your social media audience so more people will receive the ministry’s posts. That could mean reminding the congregation to follow the ministry on social media by including an announcement on the overhead projector on Sunday mornings. It could mean church leaders inviting their personal social media contacts to follow the ministry.
While social media can be a valuable tool for ministry, it also comes with a variety of risks. A written social media policy can help guard against potential pitfalls. Consider addressing these matters in your policy:
Privacy. The church family may be a tight-knit community, but social media posts could be visible to the whole world. Avoid sharing sensitive information such as medical information or other personal matters, unless the person that the information concerns has given written consent to do so. Learn more about balancing prayer requests with personal privacy.
Copyright issues. Even in the social media world of “shares” and “retweets,” copyright infringement can cost thousands of dollars in fines. Get permission from the original source before posting photos or videos that aren’t the ministry’s original work. Learn more about copyright at church.
Inappropriate content. Define the type of content that the ministry will not tolerate on its page. Obscene, embarrassing, or abusive material, advertising, and spam will likely fall into this category. Also, outline the content that must be reported to law enforcement if discovered.
Monitoring guidelines. Discuss the responsibilities of social media team members when they moderate the page, as well as how often they should monitor. At least once a day is best. Train team members on how to respond if someone posts about a serious immediate crisis (such as thoughts of self-harm or threatening harm to others). Immediately report the situation to ministry leaders and police, if necessary.
As with any ministry policy, church leadership and the ministry attorney should review and approve the social media policy. After approval, conduct training sessions with employees, volunteers, and anyone else who has a role in the ministry’s social media efforts. See Brotherhood Mutual’s sample social media policy to help you get started when creating your policy.
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