Sometimes people just don’t know where to start with digital or online ministry. The mistake I see most often is that they post live streams of their service on YouTube and start posting announcements on Facebook… maybe even some Christian education courses on Zoom. Churches need more than a few social media pages and channels and some Christian education courses being broadcast online.

Why that’s a problem

I’m not going to say that you can’t do those things, sure, you may have great reasons to do them like inclusion for shut-ins or replacing the CD ministry, but I am going to say that you won’t have a thriving digital or online ministry. What you’ll have is boring archives that most of your congregation and potential visitors pay no attention to. 😱

Think about it, if that’s all your church does, it’s stuck in broadcast culture and 20 years behind the culture. There’s no room for people to contribute and you aren’t going to them where they are because you are saying “we are over here on this page or account and you need to come over here.” It reminds me of the classic Kevin Costner film, Field of Dreams:

If we build it They will come meme - church social media wishful thinking

But guess what, just because you start a page or channel doesn’t mean your whole congregation will like and follow it so: “if you build it, a few might come.” Only a fraction will follow, and of those who do, the algorithms won’t show those members everything your page or channel posts and you’ll probably not get much interaction or discussion going on. You can try to post from your church page or channel daily in the hope some posts or videos reach members, but you face diminishing returns. 😭

By now you should be asking “okay, but then what would be a better way to kick off our digital or online ministry because I don’t see any other options?” 🤷

Making it about them and not about you

Well, keep in mind that social media is about people who connect with people. Your page or channel probably isn’t really set up as a person and the algorithms are going to punish you for that. You need to connect as a person to your members. They need to see you come out from behind the veneer of the church as an organization, they need to see that you want to listen and be engaged, they need to see “Pastor Dave followed you, follow him back?”

Connecting via “the jar method”

There are ways to automate parts of the following or friending process, but for most, the jar method is going to be pretty straightforward and manageable:

1. Get a list of your members

Whether off of ChMS or spreadsheet, you’re going to need a list. Bonus if the list already has the social media accounts of your members. Some ChMS’ will try to look that up for you.

2. Get a jar

Any jar or container will do, I like those clear mason jars for the psychological effect that I can see it filling and the bonus points that they are kind of cool and hipster. 😎

3. Put 20 items in the jar

They could be coins, paperclips, marbles, whatever. It helps psychologically if they are big enough to fill a good portion of the jar when you have them all inside.

4. Every day empty the jar

You should now have 20 items sitting in front of you just waiting to be put back in that jar.

5. Fill the jar

For each item, go friend or follow a member at your church. Try to focus on just one social media platform for now, one that you like more than the others and your congregation tends to like, you can expand later.

Using social media to be… you know… social!

Now, if you set aside an hour each day, you should finish early and still have some time to jump on and like, comment, and share stuff you see from your members popping up in your feed. You don’t need to come up with content at this stage, just the fact that you are interacting with your congregation online through the week puts your church on the cutting edge!

Think about it, what has more impact for your member? When you post a sermon or when you see them post that they just lost their job, their mum, or their dog and you respond with “I’m so saddened to hear that, is there anything I or the church can do to help?” Furthermore, every single person they interact with online is going to see the interaction and know that your church cares about people.