Using Facebook To Engage Your Church

by | Facebook, Social Media

Social media isn’t just Facebook but Facebook can be a good place to start.

But before you start, be sure you’re not jumping on the social media bandwagon just because “everyone else is doing it”. If you’re taking the plunge, make sure you understand what you’re getting into and why. You don’t need all the answers down pat, but you do need to have a fairly clear answer to this one question: “How does social media fit with the overall mission and vision of our church?”

Facebook, like all social media networks, is a tool. Like any tool it’s only as good or bad as those who use it.

Author and retired executive director of Eurovangelism C. John Murray notes, “Social media is neither good or bad by its existence. The whole essence of what it achieves hinges on the user.”

For a smaller church looking to get started with Facebook it is likely to feel a bit overwhelming. Particularly if you compare your church Facebook page to that of other churches with large numbers of fans, the name given to those who have ‘liked’ a page.

Obsessing about numbers can be tempting, particularly the number of people who have ‘liked’ your page or how many people are talking about or have visited your page. But obsessing about numbers is an unhealthy distraction.

Numbers should be used to help you get a sense of how people are responding to your page, not for comparing it to others. Each church is different and this will be reflected in your page and those who follow it. For almost all churches it takes time build a base of fans and engagement with those fans.

To get started, focus on building a page that engages your own congregation. When you successfully engage your own congregation you establish a base Facebook community that is more likely to grow beyond the walls of your church. This is because your congregation’s active interest in your page is more likely to cause their family and friends to notice and check out your page. When they check out your page, whether they are Christians or not, they’ll see what your fans are seeing. And what they see may get them thinking about faith in a new way and even profoundly change their life, or it can do nothing for them at all, or worst case turn them off church altogether.

But how do you foster this sense of community on Facebook, so that your congregation engages with your page and takes an active interest? Well first, it’s not easy!! It requires prayer, time, commitment, serious thought, strategy, perseverance, sensitivity and a love for people. A love for all kinds of people!

Engagement on Facebook is evidenced by people ‘liking’, ‘commenting’ and ‘sharing’ with others the content you share on your page. A high level of engaged fans will see those fans not only sharing content but also sending you content to share on your church page.

Engagement with your page helps foster a sense of community and makes it more likely that others will engage in a similar way. Think of a stone thrown into a pond, the ripple effect. Often one person liking or commenting on something on your page is like that; it encourages others to do similar and creates a ripple effect.

So for those of you who are just getting started, or restarted, with a Facebook page here are a few tips to getting off on the right foot:

1. Ensure your leadership team leads the way by supporting and being actively engaged on the page. If the leadership isn’t supportive of what is happening on your Facebook page it will be very difficult to engage the congregation.

2. Talk about why you’re setting up a page and how the congregation can be involved and be supportive. Cast the vision, talk about the opportunities that social media presents to help connect people more deeply to the church and the potential for reaching those outside of the church.

As Ingrid Janzen, Children & Women’s Ministries leader at Riverside Church in Port Coquitlam BC Canada shares,”I believe we have tremendous avenues available to us that ensure people are “in the flow” and feel connected to what is happening when we use all forms of social media.”

3. Recruit someone to manage your page. A staff or volunteer person who will run with the vision and be responsible for page oversight. The best person for the job is likely someone who is:

  • willing and eager to serve in this area
  • good with people and an encourager
  • a servant leader who is able to share power/involvement with others
  • willing to ask for input and help when needed
  • good with words
  • wise and not a perfectionist

4. Empower your page manager to run with the vision, to give leadership to the Facebook ministry area and encourage them to look for others to help with the work of the ministry. Essentially a Facebook page is an online ministry.

There are a number of other important steps to be taken when getting started with Facebook and, for the most part, Facebook will walk you through the steps when you sign up for a page.

But the one area that is most likely to make or break your page is what and how you post, and how engaged you are with your page fans.

As you’re getting your feet wet with Facebook think gracious, informational, inspirational, hopeful and helpful when you’re deciding on what to post. Use lots of photos – people tend to love these – and don’t be afraid to use quotes or scripture along with church event info and inspirational stories. Find out what other churches are doing on Facebook and learn from their experience.

Avid social media user, 25-year old Justin Lai a recent BBA Business Management graduate, shares, “Personally I use social media as a way to keep in touch with people and to connect with others.”

This is how most people view Facebook and it gives churches a distinct advantage over most businesses on Facebook. Because most churchgoers place their church in the family and friend category.

Think of your fans like you would your family and friends and you’ll be off to a good start with your Facebook page.