I love to travel. I love learning about new cultures and foreign countries. The best way to do that, is to experience the culture and interact with the people. I can get information about Spain by watching a show on the Travel channel, but I won’t really understand the country until I’ve been there, met some Spaniards, tasted the food, and lived in their rhythms.
Churches have been using social media to expand their reach and promote their various agendas for years. Online communication can be effective when looking to expand your audience. But what makes social media unique is its ability to foster two-way dialogue, rather than just one-way announcements; to create an interactive experience, rather than a lopsided viewpoint.
When people can connect and be part of a conversation, it provides the opportunity to develop a culture, in addition to a message.
A church’s culture is comprised of the attributes of its people. Only when others know who you are and what you’re all about will they be able to understand your culture. A key component to extending your church culture is creating individual profiles that share not only what you believe or think, but who you are.
There are a number of ways to accomplish this. Many church management software solutions have built-in social networks that allow people to connect in deeper and more private ways than typical social media channels. Those private profiles and conversations can also be extended to popular social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. All of these online solutions are areas where church members, and churches themselves, should be creating and maintaining online profiles that allow people to get to know them.
Let’s face it, Sunday mornings can be a bit hectic and it’s hard to connect with everyone you’d like to. Social media and online networks are a great way to keep in touch with people in the church who you might only get to see once a week. What you don’t want to happen is for people to see your online profile and notice a big disparity between who you are in real life, and what they see on social media.
Here a few tips to make the most out of your online profiles:
- Be honest – nobody likes a liar and when you aren’t honest about your interests or lifestyle on social media, you might just get called out. For example, don’t say you like to hike when you really don’t, or you might end up on the top of a mountain with a friend who invited you on Facebook.
- Divulge your activities – let people know what you love to do. People connect over similar interests and activities, developing deeper relationships. What you like tells people what you’re like, so don’t be afraid to share stories, photos, and descriptions of all your favorite things.
- Be open to new experiences – don’t hide behind the wall of social media. If someone reaches out, engage them in a conversation. If you feel like you can trust them, meet up for some coffee. Or better yet, do something with them that they like to do. It won’t hurt you to try something new.
- Be polite – you might be surprised by what other “like-minded” people in your church are into or who they’re voting for. Don’t let differences become divisions. And that goes both ways. Don’t be discouraged if people unnecessarily criticize you for what you’ve shared in good faith.
- Encourage each other – one of the best things about being part of a healthy church culture is being “built up to love and good works”. You’ll make a lot of friends by stepping outside yourself to brighten someone else’s day with an encouraging word.
While it’s important for the individuals who comprise a church to share the culture on social media, it’s equally as important for the church to set the tone with its own profiles. Consider creating a Facebook page, Twitter account, or private social network through your ChMS so people can get to know what your church is all about. Share your beliefs, share your values, share your culture.
In all of it, it’s important to remember that your online profiles shouldn’t represent what you’d like to be, but who you really are. After all, what’s the point of having a relationship or experiencing a culture if it’s not authentic.