Why Congregations Simply
MUST Embrace Social Media
Why use Social Media to further the work of the church?
The answer is easy.
Congregations that ignore the internet will soon be out of business. They may linger for a few years, growing less effective and more frustrated. They will wonder what they are doing wrong. It will be a painful process of attrition.
Many churches will never again be able to minister the way they once did.
The Old Evangelism
Old evangelism techniques center on creating an entry point. This becomes more challenging as congregations work to bolster their self-image.
Old Evangelism relies on seekers walking through the church doors. The sanctuary is like a big mouse trap. Lure people in. Close the door. Snap ’em with the Word.
Often, there is no plan beyond creating an entry opportunity.
These are the five most popular entry strategies.
- Preschool programs.
- Family ministry.
- Music ministry.
- A culture centered on a charismatic pastor.
- A ministry centered on a popular social concern.
Church schools today tend to attract only the very young. By the time children are 10 years old, churches don’t know what to do with them. Volunteers who are comfortable working with older children are harder to find. Churches that have a pre-school program often see little benefit. They can’t afford the next step—family ministry.
Congregations hire professionals to lead a family-oriented ministry. Typically churches with family ministries hire a Christian education director, a youth leader, a music leader, and accompanists to work with several choirs or bands. This means doubling or tripling the annual budget and is financially impossible for many congregations.
Consequently, the pre-school fills a fleeting family need. If there is no place for them to grow as needs change, they move on. In urban areas, families tend to relocate when their oldest children reach the age of five. Family ministries are often seen in the suburbs.
Music ministries are also expensive and are growing less effective with the segmentation of society. It is a daunting task to provide the breadth of music that will appeal to an entire community with ever-changing demographics.
Many churches advertise “contemporary” worship. What does that mean? There are dozens of contemporary styles of music.
The talent needed for an effective music ministry may be more expensive than hiring clergy. (We can’t have that!)
That brings us to the charismatic pastor—a growing rarity. The average age of seminarians is on the rise. People are entering ministry as a second or third career. There is no time to hone the social skills and demonstrate the commitment to community required if congregations hope to center evangelism efforts on the likability and long-term service of a pastor.
Part of the overlooked demographics of church life is the aging of clergy. Second career clergy have different needs. Their families are settled. They are less flexible. They may be planning only 15 years of service! This often results in commuter and part-time pastors who are never active in the community they visit on Sunday mornings.
Congregations cannot count on pastors as evangelists. The pool of candidates with these skills is very shallow.
Ministries that Focus on Social Concern
Ministries centering on social concerns require visionary leadership. Hard to come by. Hard to sustain.
They may attract the passionate. They may also turn off those who disagree with the cause. This type of ministry has its place but is risky. It takes time to nurture the atmosphere that allows for success.
Make Room for New Evangelism
The old evangelism methods which center on getting people to walk through your door are going the way of door-to-door sales.
But don’t hand out the tissues just yet.
Social Media opens new doors. A congregation can reach people 24/7 and address a multitude of spiritual concerns without hiring a staff to oversee the effort and without sending the sexton to unlock the doors.
2×2 Marks Three Years in Social Media Ministry
2×2, an outreach ministry of Redeemer Lutheran Church, launched on February 2, 2011. Groundhog’s Day.
2×2 is Redeemer’s response to hierarchy determining for us that we had no ability to be a church anymore. SEPA Synod locked us out of our building in 2009.
Redeemer responded by pioneering modern evangelism techniques. We used the name 2×2 because we wanted our ministry to grow beyond our community presence.
Jesus sent the disciples out 2×2. Perfect.
We had no pastor, no Christian education director, no music professionals. Our property, which included our school, was taken from us. Many of our growing membership were frightened by the law suits and rightfully so. It has been vicious! We still had the passion of about a dozen members. That was good enough for Jesus!
As part of our ministry we visit other churches in our region. What an eye-opener!
Many churches are struggling to solve the same problems. We hear talk of innovation. We see very little change. Old evangelism techniques are employed with fewer and fewer people to implement them. Failure is almost expected.
We read dozens of church websites. Most are nothing but online bulletin boards for people who are already familiar with the church. Few church websites are used for evangelism or education.
Redeemer’s online ministry is, by necessity, different. We had no place to invite anyone to come.
Our physical doors are locked 24/7.
Our online doors are open 24/7 to anyone anywhere in the world. Read about our worldwide ministry.
It took a while to gain traction. See for yourself. We could have quit after the first four months. Four months and only 106 readers! That’s only six in attendance every week! Hurry! Close that failing church! Seize those assets! Do everyone a favor. Force them out!
We stuck with it.
Our ministry has tripled in size every year. This month, January 2014, we will have reached more than 6000 new readers with 2×2’s blog. (Still two days to go in January!) About 100 more subscribe to our blog through Facebook, LinkedIn and other channels. That adds another 3000 per month.
There are anywhere from 10-50 people reading our website at any given hour.
We are on track to reach 100,000 readers this year. That’s only the first tier of our social reach. The resources people are downloading will reach thousands more.
We used no ads, no Facebook Like campaigns, no contests or gimmicks to build readership. We simply post quality, thought-provoking, and useful content several times each week—not just on Sundays.
We now reach more people than any other church in the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod. Our reach is probably wider than any other church in the ELCA (which refuses to recognize us).
An overlooked benefit of using Social Media is that it will direct ministry. The data collected highlights needs and opportunities that otherwise leave congregational leaders guessing.
Missing from our experiment is how we might be using our reach to influence our local community and how we might be teaching other churches what we have learned.