Saturday, July 23, 2011

Social Media and the Episcopal Church

With all of the social media out there (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the new Google+), the Church is advised to get out there to reach the 70 to 80% of the online church-going public. A white paper just published by the Office of Communication (copy available here) provides a guideline for churches to follow. In brief, they advise:

1. Know thyself - Make a list of the top five programs that make your congregation unique (e.g., your church’s MOPs group, pre-school, or mission trip team). Create Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for each program, and delegate responsibility for each account to a member of your community who is active in that particular area.

2. Make your website the crown jewel of your communications strategy — and keep it fresh with constant updates: Your website should definitely include such things as service schedules, directions to the church, bios of church leaders, and other basic “about us” information. But you should also include transcripts of sermons, articles written by staffers as well as members of the congregation, blogs, news feeds, videos of events, status updates of church fundraising projects, and any other information that might be of interest to future or current parishioners.

3. Make it a two-way conversation - Provide e-mail addresses of church administrators, leaders, and authors of articles posted on the church website or Facebook page. Enable feedback forms so people can type in their reactions to what they’ve just seen or read.

4. Put someone in charge of your online strategy - Treat your online
communications as an essential part of your church’s operations. Write a job description—even if the “job” is a volunteer position—that specifies precisely how often the website will be updated, how many Facebook updates will be posted every week and how many Tweets will be sent out a day.

5. Don't be too controlling - Establish guidelines, but don’t be overly strict. Provide people with the opportunity to express their opinions. Insist on good manners and polite discourse by all means, but don’t censor messages that simply express disagreement with prevailing congregational attitudes.

6. Don't reinvent the wheel - Always research what products and services already exist in the market before attempting to build anything yourself. It is very likely that someone has already created what you need.

As you can see from the above, we've done part of what's recommended. I definitely don't update often enough, but I'm working on changing that. People who know me from social media sites have requested a link to this page at times, but they don't tend to be here in town. In a little tiny town where our average attendance is under ten, in ages that range from 46 to 105, there's not a lot of online chat going on between church members. But for a tiny little church, we've got a huge heart, great community spirit and volunteer our hearts out to try to send love to everyone who comes in contact with us.

But in the meantime, we'll try their suggestions. :) And if *you* have any suggestions, please feel free to share them with us. We would like the opportunity to make you feel welcome.

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