Remember Back To The Future 2? By 2015, Marty McFly’s small town had flying cars and hover skateboards.
If you work in or drive through the small towns I do, that is sooooo far away. We may not be three years away from flying cars, but I believe technology is still alive and very well, even in small rural towns.
In fact, I pastored in one.
Moving from one of the biggest cities in the USA to a town as big as my high school, provided many assumptions. I assumed that Internet in a small town would be non-existent or slow and that no one would know what social media is, let alone have a profile. I was actually wrong about that. Sorry. What I found is there were actually many people on social media, mostly Facebook. This included all ages from students, to young adults, to senior adults. It was simply that the church was not on Facebook, nor had any social media strategy.
That’s where I came in.
I did my best to bring the small church in a small rural town, closer to the 21st century – even if flying cars are not in the near future. I signed our church up on Facebook (Twitter also, but really did not take off at the time) and learned a lot. I did make some mistakes. For the rest of this post I have some suggestions for those of you who might find yourselves in a pastoring situation where social media has not been used.
Here we go:
1. Manage information wisely
What I wanted to do with Facebook in the church is manage information. What I failed to overlook is how information is managed in a small church and small community setting. In this setting, church members would usually call a sweet, little old lady, with information who in turn would call other people and chat about it most of the day. When you introduce an information outlet like Facebook, you can easily and quickly take that away from them. I would suggest caution in this area. Ease into it. For instance, you might make a call to this person first before posting it to Facebook. Just be aware of the feelings of these people. Then, as the Facebook page increases in popularity and engagement, you can begin to change how information is managed in the church.
2. Post about all ministries
As a young pastor, I was busy trying to meet the needs of young adults. I spent some considerable time building relationships. Make sure that you do not post about just what you may be doing. Post about children’s ministry events, student ministry, adult ministry, senior adults ministry, music ministry, etc. Make sure the people who like your Facebook page get a complete picture of what your church is about, not what you want them to think your church is about.
3. Use plenty of pics
Post pictures. Post pics of worship services, student activities, VBS, Bible studies, etc. As a small church pastor, you probably attend just about everything. While you are there, snap some pics! Even if you do not manage the Facebook page, email them to someone who does. You may snap some great candid shots!
4. Don’t make your wife, or family member, an admin
I never made my wife an administrator for the church Facebook page. She led a mom’s ministry and had her own Facebook page and oversaw that, plus she had access to our Sunday School class page. I did not want her to have access purely because I did not want to give people a right to be upset with her. I did not want disgruntled people to blame her for only posting certain ministries, or people, etc. This just takes it out of her hands. Trust me, I’m not paranoid about this stuff, I just did not want to even give people a reason to start rumors. I figured they could start them about me. We had three admins to our page: me, the youth minister, and the church secretary.
5. Decide how you want to use Facebook before you start
In a small town and a small church, people care about different information. Some want to know who is in the hospital and what is the menu for the Wednesday night dinner. Here is where you need to know how you want to use the information in your posts. If you want to post that info, great, but know that you will have to keep it up. Also, people may begin calling the church to “suggest” information you need to put on the church Facebook timeline. Before you get the ball rolling, you might need to think through some quick policies and share them with all the admins.
I knew things had changed when I met some church members at a funeral. I overheard several talking in front of me, telling the others they only knew about the funeral because it was posted on our Facebook page. I knew we were making a breakthrough at that point. In my opinion, that was a big deal in a small town.
Do you have anything you would add to help manage social media in a small church setting?