7 Reasons Why Churches Struggle with Social Media

social-media-peopleShould the Church engage online and in Social Media?


There is no question about it and, for the most part, everyone is in agreement with this.

But in terms of “Social Media Ministry” the Church apparently struggles.


Because the Church, generally speaking, still operates in a system that is defined by “traditional” media. Perhaps a change is in order?

Here are 7 reasons that I’ve identified that have caused more than just a light struggle in terms of Social Media Ministry:

1. Marketing

Some ministries still see the “web” and, as a result, social media as a marketing channel, or a place to promote their “services” (pun intended) and get more people in the door.

Social Media is far much more nuanced and is less about marketing than really anything else.

Creating conversations and dialogue and empowering the people within the space around you is what it’s all about.

2. The “Fit”

Ministries do not really understand where it “fits” in terms of the overall strategy of their particular ministry. Like the 1st point, is it in “marketing” or “branding”? Is it a “new” thing for our congregation? Is it for outsiders or insiders? Strategy…? What’s that?

3. Who

Ministries have no idea who should be “doing” it. Does the Pastor need to blog, or do we need ghost writers? Do we need volunteers or trained paid staff? Who the heck is going to run the campaign and initiatives? Who’s responsible?

4. Control

Social Media can’t really be controlled. That’s a terrifying fact for many of us, including ministries. Coming to terms with this idea can paralyze any initiative or ministry movement.

5. Long Term Perspective

Marketing typically is used for some short term initiative and demands results immediately. Social Media Ministry is not about marketing. But, since it’s been approached that way we think that the results should be instantaneous.


Like most investments it takes time. Ministries need a long term perspective and goal to provide true understanding of the value.

6. Expectations

Simply put, some ministries expect far too much from Social Media. It still requires a lot of hard work, strategy, and wise deployment. Just because you launched your blog doesn’t guarantee that it’ll bring people into your doors, or that anyone will necessarily read it.

7. Metrics

There’s almost no way to ‘tell’ if you’ve been “successful” or not at times in the Social Media Ministry space. Be at peace in that tension. There are ways to analyze and understand, but be ready to be wildly disappointed… or wildly surprised.

Ah… Humility.

But there is hope. There are a number of ministries that have “got” it. Perhaps one of the first steps is to reach out to those that have done it well and ask for help?

Ah, humility.


John Saddington

I am the CEO of 8BIT and a Full Time Entrepreneur/a>. I like what I do.

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  1. says

    Long Term Perspective. There is that patience thing again :-(
    I think I struggle seeing past the marketing benefits of Social Media when the Church gets involved in that space.
    But like you say it is more nuanced than that. It is able creating connections, engaging and maintaining a presence in the space of Social Media that bring Glory to God and hopefully (through that engagement) people to Christ.

  2. says

    I love it when churches get scared of something called "social" media / network. What is a church but a social network (ok ok, I know it is a lot more than that)? It is social, there are usually a lot of people there at the church itself (or at least more than at your own house)… and at times other than perhaps at the very second the pastor is preaching, aren't you networking?

    Networking doesn't have to mean "business", we network for the Body as a whole. Nice job on this one.

    • says

      yeah, I agree. What is that verse in the Bible about not neglecting to gather and encourage one another. Something like what happens in Social Networking except not in a physical sense, but definitely in a way that causes much more connection, interaction and engagement (for want of a better word).

  3. says

    Your point about marketing really sums things up and clarifies things for me. That's the mindset that is prevalent here in my neck of the woods. Most people here at our church still see anything on the internet as a one way communication… like traditional media that's just been moved online.

    That can be frustrating, but it can also be really exciting. There's an older woman in our church that has just in the past 2 years started using email and a pc. She told me a few weeks ago that she has been reading my blog and was really enjoying it. I acted suprised and said, "Really? You should comment and join in!" She said, "I can do that? I don't want to intrude."

    Seriously. That's what she said. I explained to her how a blog works and she got excited. She went home and made a comment (a VERY deliberate and thought out comment…). Now she's a commenting FREAK. She's totally liberated.

    By "liberated" I mean that the traditional, and false, lines between "laity" and "clergy" have gotten thinner for her. She feels more connected to her pastor and her friends because of that little change in her mindset. This is what gets me excited about social media (beyond the nerd factor).

    Now to figure out a way to evangelize twitter…

  4. says

    Great post. This actually helped answer a lot of questions I recently emailed "an expert" about. Thanks for the comment about being patient. Many times we think things pop up "overnight" but they dont.

  5. says

    I would suggest that the tyranny of the moment is part of what prevents widespread adoption. With the economy in the toilet, unemployment rising, and depression always knocking at the door; who has time for social media?

    That being said, the web is rebuilding our social fabric in certain respects and the church should respond to this. While it is a definite concern that we may not be interacting with our neighbors as much as we should, we are interacting with other people which previous generations never had the chance to interact with due to time, distance and a variety of other factors. In some ways the societal understanding of neighbor is getting redefined.

    So yes, I would have agree long term perspective is important and it goes hand in hand with education. There is always a lag time in communities, for some its a matter of weeks and the early adopters and those that follow are in the same place. With countries (and Global Christianity), values change over decades and centuries.

    The question comes down to what concrete steps can each of us make now with the resources we have, to further the kingdom of God?

  6. says

    Well written…and succinctly. Since social media is not going away, churches need to experiment and accept the reality that it takes time and is hard to measure. Digging in and working with it now is much better than doing nothing. Let's keep encouraging churches to press on in social media!

  7. says

    This post is well said or shall i say well written. Since social media is almost everywhere no wonder that even churches joins this craze. But while they struggle, eventually they will work it out. Experimenting, time, understanding and other possible effort to engage in social media should be expected. But for churches, don't lose hope.. and i think you have the faith to overcome struggles and engage in social media.

  8. Steve Fandel says

    LOL I’m on Facebook!

    That’s right. This technologically-challenged 50 year old has discovered the joys of networking via FB. I’ll be honest, I initially thought Facebook was something only the younger generation was into or could truly appreciate. And there probably are legions of college sons and daughters who loathe the day their parent or parents discovered this electronic social network. But I admit it, I’m hooked.

    My wife is not a fan. She says after spending eight hours a day in front of a computer screen at work, the last thing she wants to do is spend more time there at home.

    My interest in photography was one of the things I initially enjoyed about FB. You can post albums of photos and enjoy the pictures taken by friends and family.

    Facebook is an interesting study in psychology and social interaction also. For those not familiar, you first set up your Facebook profile page. Things like family, career and education are outlined as you wish.

    FB keeps a running inventory of your “friends”. You can visit someone else’s Facebook page, provided you are friends. To become friends, you send a “friend request” which they can either “confirm” or “ignore”. And that’s where some of the psychology/social studies comes into play.

    You’re reading friends’ updates on Facebook one evening and suddenly there it is: A friend request from an old flame. Or your boss. Or your mother in law. Or that certain someone you don’t particularly care for. There they are, just a click away. “Confirm” them as friends and your FB world is then just a mouse click away for them to peruse. Click on “Ignore” and you’ve just delivered the equivalent of an on-line slap in the face.

    For the competitive, Facebook also keeps a numeric total of your friends. The neurotic participants can spend time worrying that so-and-so’s friend’s list is twice as long as their own.

    FB also has an interesting cross reference web that actually “suggests” friends you may be interested in requesting. It will tell you about “mutual friends” you have with other members and ask you to suggest friends for others.

    The seemingly non-personal nature of the Internet is suddenly quite the social butterfly. I was surprised and pleased at the numbers of old friends I’ve been able to connect with on Facebook. Old buddies from high school, former colleagues I worked with in radio, long lost relatives I haven’t spoken with in years. That to me is among the greatest benefits of this electronic family and friends enabler.

    For instance, I sent messages to my uncle, the retired history professor in Pennsylvania, asking him for his thoughts about the stimulus plan. I chatted with my aunt who’s been enjoying some vacation time in Arizona. I re-connected with an old pal who hosts a radio talk show in Dallas and writes a column for the “Dallas Morning News”.

    So, what in the world does Facebook have to do with spiritual matters?

    More than you might imagine.

    Part of the Facebook ritual is updating your “status”. You can do this as often as you wish. Steve is… looking forward to the weekend or grilling steaks tonight or getting ready for a kayak adventure. You get the idea.

    The Facebook world provides an amazing opportunity to witness about your Christian walk and to share the walks of others. You’d be amazed at the daily comments or references that speak to a person’s walk with Christ.

    I have an old high school friend who was very much “the brain”. I admired his achievements in the classroom, but more than that I admired his strong faith and close walk with Jesus. I wasn’t surprised to find his FB comments talking about church services, mission trips and the like. He even wrote a personal treatise dealing with the fundamentals of Christianity. This was deep. And I found myself admiring him again, because he’d written this for the benefit of his children. But he didn’t simply want them to read it and accept a duplicate faith from their Dad. He wanted to challenge them to ask questions and dig into the scripture for further meaning. Impressive. And it was on his Facebook for countless others to read and be challenged by.

    This week, I wrote that I was excited our praise band is singing the Casting Crowns song, “Voice of Truth” this Sunday. I had several comments about that. One former friend from high school said that song was the ring tone on her cell phone. She said it always seemed to ground her in the midst of a busy or troubling day. Another friend remarked that her praise band had enjoyed singing another Casting Crowns song.

    God does indeed work in mysterious ways.

    I’m not sure he would appreciate the OMG’s, but I trust He would approve of the vast number of spiritual connections, words of encouragement, and messages of comfort His children are nowadays sharing via Facebook.

    -Steve Fandel

  9. says

    Another big issue is that many traditional, mainline churches are full of people who barely know how to turn a computer or cell phone on…let alone visit or use social networking sites!


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