Imagine Jesus delivering the Beatitudes through Twitter: eight blessings given in 140-character tweets instead of in the Sermon on the Mount. How much traction do you think he would get? Would you retweet the iconic words, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth?”
Online communication for ministry can be intimidating, and, at times, I’ve felt like I’ve been screaming into the digital void. Yet, in our digital age, churches are called to step up to the keyboard and share their mission and ministries with the world. Here are some tips and anecdotes to help connect with people and movements online.
Goal & Target Audience
I know that, as Episcopalians, we may be tempted to say, “Target audience?? All are welcome!” To which I would say that I’ve learned: everyone is not your audience. I know it sounds counterintuitive when we want to share the Good News with all of God’s children, but it actually hinders our impact and reach if we don’t get specific about who we’re talking to.
I would recommend looking at the small groups, ministries, and aspects of worship at your church and asking:
- Who is likely to come to this?
- Who already participates?
- What service is provided, topics explored, and what is the focus?
- Who would benefit from this?
Example: Church of St. Matthew & St. Timothy, New York
A small group practicing evangelism begins a project where they invite local houses of worship and individuals to meet bi-monthly to begin interfaith dialogue with the goal of putting together an online panel discussion for the larger community.
Who might benefit from these meetings and the final event?
- People questioning their faith or who say they are spiritual but not religious
- Folks from multiple faith backgrounds, specifically those represented on the panel
- People who don’t know what evangelism is or have heard negative things about evangelism
- Descendents of the BIPOC Diaspora whose Ancestors practiced religions that had to be syncretized with and absorbed by Christianity for their protection and preservation
Consistency & Collaboration
Social media wants . . . no, NEEDS . . . people to stay on the platform. The algorithm favors accounts that are consistently posting and interacting with the app. Whether it’s posting once a day (with content like archived photos, architecture, art, volunteers, memes, videos of the choir) or interacting with other people’s content, it’s helpful to dedicate time throughout the week to attend to your page. Think of it like a Tamagotchi; you have to feed your digital friend if you want them to grow!
Collaboration is vital and underrated. If you connect with another church or organization in person, why not connect online? You can expand your reach by coordinating a time when both pages post content highlighting a joint ministry or announcements which connect separate audiences.
It’s a Full-Time Job
And it’s an important one. If you have it in the budget, consider hiring someone who can focus on specific and tangible digital communications work for a few hours a week. If not, encourage a few folks good with a phone camera to take pictures during worship or events and create a database of postable photos/videos that can be scheduled to post on Instagram and connected to Facebook in one click. Remember, this work takes patience, persistence, and perspiration. A hundred likes or followers isn’t a one-day goal. It’s a process that needs planning, experimentation, and a team.
Three Final Tips
- Upgrade your photo game with www.unsplash.com! Unsplash offers photos you can use in flyers or to make your website pop with beautiful, safe to use, and easily downloadable images by professional photographers. Remember, no matter what, always credit the artist!
- Hashing it out with hashtags: Let’s say I’m sharing a flyer online for the interfaith panel discussion. I would add hashtags like #interfaith #multifaith #episcopalchurch #BIPOC #NYC #spirituality #christianity #jewish #muslim #africantraditionalreligion #zoom
Note: Include hashtags that are true to who’s represented. If you don’t mention Islam or invite a Muslim panelist, don’t include #muslim. Also, be aware of bots who spam in the comments.
- To meme or not to meme? A meme is an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) that is spread widely online, especially through social media (Merriam Webster). Memes are digestible and relatable, and they spread like wildfire! Note: While memes can be inappropriate, there is a whole world of memes to love. Click here to check out some Christian memes (please exercise discretion in engaging these memes as well; some may not fit or reflect the values of your faith community). Create your own by searching popular meme templates!
Note from Editors: After publication we received feedback from readers on the inclusion of the link to “Top 30 wholesome Christian memes to share with your friends.” We recognize that some types of humor don’t work in all ministry contexts. We’ve updated this article to remove the word “wholesome” and to include a note about exercising discretion in engaging memes. (September 13, 2022)