There is no doubt that social networking is an extremely valuable tool for churches. It offers the ability to reach a multitude of people through a medium that they’re likely already checking at least once a day. (Or in my case, about 97 times a day.) Facebook, being the #1 social network, is the perfect place to start if your ministry is interested in getting involved socially online. In fact, if you are starting fresh without even a website, I would recommend beginning with a Facebook. It meets people on their turf and is much simpler (and cheaper) than a website.
There are a few guidelines that you should stick to so that your ministry will get the most out of this platform. If there is one thing that drives this media-man crazy, it’s seeing a church on Facebook that has been set up as a person (profile). Instead, I would recommend using Facebook Pages for your church as a whole, and using Groups for your small groups, leadership teams, and music teams. Still lost? Here are the basics of each kind of FB presence.
These are meant to represent a single individual. For example, this is where Pastor John Doe can share pictures of his family or brag that his favorite sports team is undefeated. Organizations of any type are not permitted to maintain a profile and if reported, their account will be terminated immediately.
Pages are designed to enable businesses, organizations, brands, musical groups, or causes to create a public presence on Facebook. Unlike a profile, Facebook Pages are visible to everyone on the internet by default. (No need for friend requests here.) This is where churches—as a whole—belong on Facebook. They are a great place where you can share what’s going on in your ministry through text, photos, videos, and events. You can even grant multiple staff members or volunteers access to post under your organization’s name. Church members and those who want to find out more about your ministry can subscribe to your updates by “liking” your page. Because Facebook is a place of interaction, you’re likely to have subscribers commenting and asking questions right on your posts. This provides an incredible tool for building relationships with both regular attenders and new people. What’s really amazing is the exposure your church gets as your subscribers start reposting your updates for all of their friends to see. A great bonus feature of Pages is the ability to see detailed stats of how many people you’re actually reaching through your posts. Start a Page here.
Groups are the perfect place for small group communication and for people to share their common interests. They allow people to come together around a common cause, issue or activity to organize, express objectives, discuss issues, post photos and share related content. When you create a group, you can decide whether to make it publicly available for anyone to join, require administrator approval for members to join, or keep it private and invitation only. Like with Pages, new posts by a group are included in the News Feeds of its members and they can interact and share with one another from the group. I have found private groups to be perfect for small groups and Sunday School classes. I personally use it as a way to share prayer requests and announcements within our young adult group. (Which is good because it keeps sensitive matters from the public eye.) This can also work great for music teams to share music and set lists, or for leadership teams to discuss ideas throughout the week. Start a Group here.
Ultimately, you’re looking at three great tools for ministry and they’re all free with Facebook. In my opinion, there is simply no better way to connect with people online. It’s all about meeting people where they’re already at and in a way that is understandable to them.