Social media is all the rage in the church world. Everyone is tweeting, updating their Facebook pages, statuses and groups—but is there a point or a strategy to any of it? Over the past year, a group of tweeters have come together who see the church’s great need for a strategic approach to social media.
Meredith Gould started the #chsocm chat (church social media, pronounced “ch-sock-em”) just over a year ago after talking with people who noticed the same thing: the church isn’t using social media—especially not strategically. So the @chsocm account was born and they’ve been having weekly Twitter chats ever since. Meredith is a delightfully feisty woman who, along with a select few, moderates the chats via Twitter every Tuesday evening at 9 p.m. ET to discuss three topics every week. Each chat begins and ends with a prayer asking God to unite them as a community, giving thanks for every opportunity to reveal his presence and asking for guidance in their discussion.
It’s Not About Numbers
It’s clear the key participants of #chsocm are incredibly passionate about seeing social media used strategically and not with a ‘gluttonous’ mindset.
“It’s not a numbers game,” Meredith said. “We’re not necessarily interested in how many followers you accumulate. I see social media as a powerful way to fulfill the great commission. These tools allow us to communicate with one another in radical and revolutionary ways.”
We need to develop what Meredith calls “brand ambassadors.” Pastors need to understand that there’s far greater value in encouraging congregants to be involved with social media, talking about their church and faith as individuals than there is in simply posting sermons and then re-tweeting links to them.
While pastors and lay leaders need help getting up to speed, Meredith notes an alarming number of people peddling their services to churches desperate for help with communications. “The church is playing catch-up,” she says. “Churches are losing members and panicking. They see people using social media but don’t know how to evaluate what to do.”Having worked with many churches, she readily talks about being appalled to hear what some people charge churches to do minimal social media training. “I’m all for right livelihood, but I also think we need to understand that church communications is also a ministry,” she says.
Fortunately that is just what the #chsocm chat aims to remedy. Each week, tweeters meet up to discuss whatever topics are on the agenda and dive into the discussion. Topics range from social media tools, QR codes, Pinterest, Facebook, community building, worship, social media policies and much, much more. Meredith says she’s been delighted to see some of what has unfolded through the #chsocm chat. “You’d never get the mix of people face-to-face that we have online. It’s been great seeing everyone’s generosity and good humor.”
If there is one thing I walked away with from my conversation with Meredith, it’s the assurance that the church’s use of social media must be strategic. If we want to accomplish something, and we, the church, do, then we must be intentional and strategic. Meredith has gone so far as to tell some churches to stop using all social media channels until they can develop an integrated social media strategy (or a communications strategy as a whole).
Meredith still believes the greatest barrier most churches are facing is the ‘we’ll-get-to-it-someday’ website.
“Cleaning up your church’s website is priority #1,” Meredith says. “Think of it as a portal. It should be welcoming, but ultimately point visitors somewhere else, like a Facebook group.”
Next she encourages churches to update their Facebook pages. “It’s the historical record of your church,” Meredith says. “Have someone clean out a closet and scan all those old pictures and put them on your Facebook timeline.” This would allow people easy access to the wonderful history of your church from anywhere.
Finally, direct people to more specific outlets like a Facebook group or a private blog where people can be heard and really nurtured.
Check Out #chsocm
#chsocm is the hashtag used to identify content and conversation about church social media. The weekly #chsocm chat provides a forum to exchange ideas about using social media to advance God’s work. Join the chat every Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET and check out their site for transcripts of previous chats.