the shape of leadership

Social Media Best Practices in a Time of Social Distancing — and Beyond

People are starving for connections, community and relationships — especially now

Ryan Wakefield on April 27, 2020

As the Church, we have a message of hope to share with a frightened and uncertain world. Now is not the season for churches to shrink back from outreach. This is a time to proclaim the gospel, especially using tools like social media.

Here are seven points to keep in mind when ministering through social media:

1. Remember it’s not about you. Many pastors I visit with are quick to confess they don’t love social media. They are not interested in becoming a social sensation or influencer, so they opt out of engaging. However, the mission is not about us or our preferences. The mission is to help people find and follow Jesus, and social media can be a powerful way to share the good news with our communities.

2. Start with a social mindset. During a typical American in-person service, we lead people in group worship in an auditorium. We can’t just move that approach to a digital platform. It’s not designed for social media. We need to adapt worship and discipleship to digital communication channels. We must find new ways to draw people in, inviting them not only to watch, but to participate — right where they are.

3. Keep ministry flowing out of relationships. When it comes to livestreaming and digital ministry, success doesn’t depend on having all the latest gadgets or using a specific platform. It’s all about relationships. The goal is providing a meaningful digital ministry rather than getting “likes” or subscribers. Make it about your church getting to know people in your community, not the other way around.

Social media can be a powerful way to share the good news with our communities.

4. Be consistent. The point of digital ministry is showing up, not showing off. Don’t feel pressure to put on a big production or produce polished graphics. Those rarely work on social media anyway. Instead, ask yourself, How can we show up consistently?

At the end of the day, people don’t need or want more content. They don’t want to watch another show. People are starving for connections, community and relationships — especially now. And God uniquely built the local church to provide that.

5. Cultivate engagement. This may sound complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. It essentially comes down to this: People will engage with you if you engage with them. Sow generously into engagement with others. One simple way is to create a conversation out of every comment. As you invite and encourage reactions from your audience, don’t just respond to their questions; build relationships. Train your digital volunteers to start a conversation from every comment.

If someone asks what time service starts, don’t just respond with, “Our next service begins at 10 a.m. on Sunday.” Be conversational. Say, “Hi, Zack. Service will kick off at 10 a.m. this Sunday. Will you be able to jump on and join us?”

Then carry on the conversation from there.

6. Create thoughtful content. This starts with an audience-first mindset. Be willing to tweak or change things to serve needs more effectively. Consider these questions: What do people in your community need right now? How can your content add value to their lives? How can you make the content more engaging?

7. Seek God’s guidance. As you ramp up your digital ministry, take time to pray. Ask God for wisdom in how to connect with people in your community and point them to Jesus. Now is the time for churches to take digital missions seriously and share our eternal hope with a world in need.

This article is part of a special COVID-19 supplement appearing in the May/June 2020 edition of Influence magazine.
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