Some Advice About Social Media and the Church

So, here I am, "Director of Communications for the Alaska United Methodist Conference."   It's a job I inherited just because, at a meeting about four years ago, I mentioned that I thought our Conference Website was in need of a makeover and we could do a better job presenting ourselves to the world.  And the job became mine...with no skills to speak of...either then or now.  So, we started a redesign, which is still a long way from where we'd like it to be.  So, we got ourselves one of those newfangled Facebook pages and what's that "tweeting thing?"  Oh, yeah, Twitter accounts.  And, for better or worse, I was supposed to be leading in the area of web presence and social media.  (I might have mentioned that there are still no skills in these areas to speak of.)

At this point in time, I'm learning.  I serve a small church in a small community.  While some of our folks are social media savvy, many of them find it gets in the way of their fishing and skiing and biking and all of the other things we like to do far away from a computer screen.  But, I'm always looking for ways to help our churches get into social media and understand it a little better.

It's in this regard that I want so share something I found on a very beautiful blog written by Brad Ruggles.  (Seriously, it's beautiful.  I'd love a blog that looked like this.)  The blog is called Learning How to Live and the post title is "Going Overboard with Social Media."  Brad says we live in a culture and a business environment that can get too much into Social Media.  It can go overboard.  So, as businesses talk with him about getting into it, he often says "don't do it."  Here are some of his reasons.

  • Don’t do social media just because everyone else is doing it. Remember what your mom used to say, “Just because all your friends jump off a bridge…”
  • Don’t launch your social media efforts prematurely. Splash around in the kiddie pool before you take off your floaty and jump into the deep end.
  • Don’t do it all. There are a lot of fish in the sea. Throwing a few lines out is good but if you have too many you’ll probably get your lines tangled.
  • Don’t venture into social media without a well-thought-out strategy. It’s an awfully big ocean out there and it’s easy to get lost at sea. Think through your strategy before embarking into open waters.
  • Don’t do social media if you’re looking for a miracle fix. Social media is a tool to help your organization communicate with your fans and followers. It’s not a silver bullet. Jumping on the social media boat will not instantly make you cool, hip or connected.
  • Don’t do social media if you can’t do it well. The social media ocean is littered with the floating remains of abandoned Twitter profiles, under-utilized Facebook accounts and YouTube accounts with one video from 2007. If you don’t have the time or people to do it well, wait until you can.
  • Don’t do it if you’re looking for instant results. With all the buzz about viral campaigns some people think that after their first Tweet they’ll instantly start an international sensation and the followers will come by the thousands. Not true. Growing your presence in the social media landscape takes time.

Now, I have to confess that I have a couple of underutilized Facebook pages and I'm still not sure whether or not Twitter is really doing anything to advance our local congregation or our Annual Conference...although I've found a lot of good stuff through both of these.  And, my biggest advice to churches would be to be aware of the time required to do this well.  I've  become very well aware of the time this blog takes from other stuff that I probably should be doing.  But I would suggest that dabbling in social media...and therefore learning better for churches than not being involved in it at all.  The social media world is changing rapidly and our younger folks will be well-versed in it...particularly in our more urban areas I think.  So it would make sense, for the sake of evangelism and spreading the message of Jesus that we stay up on all of this.

So, that's some advice for you.  And do go check out Brad Ruggles' blog.  As I said, it's a VERY nice looking blog.


  1. good stuff, I've contributed similar thoughts as well at:

    although I am a big advocate of social media, it has to be done wisely and with the right expectations.