Over the past few years I have become more and more convinced that if the church hopes to reach out to folks in meaningful and effective ways, we MUST embrace the power of social media.
Shocker I know 😉
It is pretty simple really, with more and more folks using the internet to find all of the things they need in life – doctors, pre-schools, support groups, social gatherings – shouldn't we, as the church, be there too? Of course, word of mouth and personal invitations will always have a place, but the ways in which the internet allows folks to do more research about all of life's needs, including a place of spiritual growth, must not be ignored.
We have found that most folks who visit MBCC already know far more about us than we know about them. They read our staff and members blogs, our Yelp Reviews, our website so they know far more than they could find out in one face-to-face visit. In fact, unless they contact us beforehand, they have ALL the power in the relationship because they have a disproportionate amount of information. How awesome and anxiety reducing is that? Visitors arrive and can immediately recognize people, the setting, and feel far more at home that if this were the first time they had any exposure to the community.
More importantly, an effective social media presence allows us to let folks know who we are – culturally, theologically, stylistically – and gives folks the chance to see if we are consistent in our message and if our beliefs play out in our actions. Nothing worse than getting tricked into visiting to church by a smooth online presence and then finding out the old bait-n-switch has been played on you. And since it is safe to assume folks do not choose a church for negative reasons, all the hopes and expectations turn out to be true.
So how do you test this?
- Ask folks how they found you and why they made their initial visit.
- Find out where people in your communities find other services and add your church.
- Ask people outside as well as regular participants to wander your online presence and give feedback about what you are communicated what visitors could expect from your church.
- Ask folks, if, on their first visit how they did or did not experience what they had expected.
Now of course, we can always go overboard and focus too much energy on marketing, but my guess is that most churches, rather than increase money and energy expended, we need to shift the where those resources are used. Rather than spend $100 – or much more – a month on the yellow pages, take a few of those hours and set up a blog, cleanup your website, hired a web 2.0 tutor, etc. Whatever we do, we cannot simply ignore the power that social media gives to the future health and growth of the church.