This month at Insights, we’ve been offering thinking, wisdom and advice about Christian witness in our digital age. Click here to check it out. But then how do you go about applying what you’ve learned in your local Congregation and faith community context? Here are a dozen DIY tips that will help you make a start. Have a go… because there’s no way you will break the internet. Promise.
1. Have fun!
Yes, technology can be intimidating. The good news is that digital media companies know this and have invested in making social media and website development easy to create and engage with. Start by giving yourself small tasks to complete and practice on your personal accounts to get your message and tone right. Don’t engage in negative conversations and remember that digital ministry IS ministry, and you are using a digital tool to reach real people.
2. What’s your Story?
What’s your Congregation’s story? Perhaps it’s being an important part of your area’s community for decades, or maybe you offer a service nobody else is offering. Or perhaps your Congregation is dedicated to advocating for refugees, and runs information events for the general public to attend. Whatever makes you special, make sure everything you post can be linked back to this message.
3. Is your website engaging?
How does your Church’s website compare with other sites that you use and search for everyday? Is it easy to navigate? Are your photos engaging? Does it look a little like a church newsletter from the 1990s? There are plenty of no cost and low-cost solutions to help your create a more engaging and welcoming online presence.
4. It’s all about the hyperlinks
One of the important ways you can keep your website up to date (and, in turn, increase the likelihood of Google finding your site) is to regularly hyperlink to items of interest outside your webpage, even if it is just to your Facebook page. If you have a news section, consider adding linking to items or other blogs that you think people who search your site may be interested in.
5. Get blogging!
Reflection is good for the soul! Stats have shown that the majority of people enjoy reading content about a product or event they’re interested in. For you, this content should come from your Congregation’s members. You can make a blog using a platform such as WordPress.
6. Make sure your website is optimised for mobile devices
People are more mobile, and so are their devices. Google also favours websites tailored to mobile devices. If your Congregational website is not optimised for a mobile device, it will not be as highly ranked in searches. This means people may never be able to discover your website — no matter how much you update the information on it!
7. Choose the platform(s) that work for you
There are a lot of social media and digital platforms, but your Church doesn’t need to be on all of them. Determine what you like using, what seems to connect well with your audience, and go with that. Before creating a Church account, spend time on multiple media platforms and search out other faith communities. You can model your media behaviour on others that you admire!
8. Realise that you can’t reach all the people, all the time
Social media won’t magically make all of your parishioners actively involved in all of your programs. But don’t let that stop you updating them via social media. Households that you do reach might share your posts with others. And that’s a great thing because social media’s ability to spread information is fantastic.
9. Social media for community
Do you have a Facebook page? If not, why not? Millions of people share photos and items of interest on Facebook. Once you have a Facebook page, you can then encourage Church members to share their photos of events, or other information. All you need is an email address and you have the ability to set up a community!
10. Want to reach the youth?
Think of photo-sharing app Instagram as the stained-glass windows of your online cathedral. If any members are creative and into photography, then you should make use of this app to continue telling your story visually. You may also like to include infographics, promotions or Bible verses that illustrate your Church’s story.
11. Develop a social media code of ethics
Anyone who is on social media understands that conversations online can quickly plummet into unhelpful dialogue. Coming up with a social media code of conduct — particularly if you are running an active social media feed like Facebook — is imperative. As Christians, we do need to understand what constitutes helpful and unhelpful dialogue. The call for authenticity online as Christians is paramount.
12. How do we navigate the questions of internet access at church?
With people’s phones travelling with them at all times, there are ways internet access at church can enhance or hinder community. A lot of people have the Bible on their phone, so should we restrict them from using it in Church? Surely not, because such a ban on phones might destroy their value as an evangelism tool. Plus, if you allow people to “check in” on Facebook when they arrive at Church, all their friends will know where they are spending Sunday morning. This simple act is one of leading by example.
Grace Liley, Kyle Oliver and Adrian Drayton