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Spreading Life Change Online

How to start a social media conversation about what God is doing in your church

Spiritual-growth campaigns have always been a powerful way to move a church forward. But now, with the rapid adoption of social media by people in the pews, there’s never been a greater opportunity to create, stimulate and propagate a conversation among your people about what God is doing in their midst. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and a myriad of other online social networks are examples of how technology is helping our culture catch up with God’s original plan for His good news to be carried via interpersonal communication.

God’s good news spreads farthest and fastest through personal connections and conversations. But because growth happens with intentional focus, you will need a strategy for empowering people to further the conversation with their friends—whether you are simply beginning a new message series or launching a full-blown campaign on the scale of “What on Earth Am I Here For?”

Here are some strategic actions to consider:

Evaluate and expand your library of content. Content is currency. The people writing the books, blogs and tweets that offer the most valuable information are ultimately purchasing trust and influence, and no one has better content on hand than the church. 

Your church has volumes of potentially powerful content in the forms of sermons, devotionals and lessons. Size up what you have on hand—and expand it—then make it public on the Web.

Empower creative people to frame your story. More graphic designers and Web designers are producing content now than ever before. Even in the smallest of churches, there probably is someone just waiting for a new kingdom assignment in the area of designing beautiful messaging. 

From creating nicely edited video promos to post on You Tube to compiling pretty pictures of puppies and cookies to post on Pinterest, almost a third of your people will have a penchant for the creative process. Within parameters that make sense, set them free!

Initiate conversations that connect people. As you move from broadcasting the message to distributing the message via social media, you need to be thinking about how to build a community by connecting participants to one another. Realize that listening and asking the right questions is often far more valuable than doing all the talking.

Make your message easy to “like.” I’ve told hundreds of church leaders that Facebook’s “Like” button is the simplest and most powerful innovation that has happened online since Google got started. With a single click, one person has instantly recommended something to all of their overlapping circles of friends. So take your challenge, your sermons and the stories of life-change happening around you and break them up into bite-size pieces. Then spread those pieces all over your website, blogs, Facebook and Twitter. The goal is to offer something truly valuable and make it shareable in as few clicks as possible.

Remind everyone how easy it is to spread the conversation. Tell your Sunday crowd to turn their cell phones on and “check in.” Give them a tweetable quote to send halfway through the message. Put sharing buttons on all your Web content. Respond to what’s being said about you online in a way that demonstrates you care.

Be intentionally unintentional. As church leaders, our instinct is to start a new program or ministry for every good idea. Stop! The more structure and rules you create, the more you will slow your message down. 

This is an age in which everyone is a publisher. Your task isn’t to control how people spread the story of life-change. Your role is to cast the vision and empower people with the message—then set them free.

Gutenberg helped you print Sunday’s bulletin. Alexander Graham Bell made it possible for your phone tree and prayer chain to be in business. Now you can thank Mark Zuckerburg, the inventors of Twitter and the brains behind Instagram for the tools with which you can empower your church to tell the old, old story to more people in less time than ever before.

Brandon Cox oversees content and community for Pastors.com, one of the world’s leading online learning communities, and serves as editor of Rick Warren’s Pastor’s Toolbox, a free newsletter for church leaders. He is also lead pastor at Grace Hills Church in northwest Arkansas, a church plant sponsored by Saddleback Church. read more

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Twitter for Your Church

Believe it or not, 140 characters could solve your communication problems

If you're a church leader who feels like your church should be using the social networking tool Twitter, but you're not sure how to leverage it to carry out your church's vision or mission, here are a few techniques that may give you some ideas for getting started.
Showcase your staff. On your church website's "Staff" page, provide clear links to those staff members on Twitter. This is also a good place to link to their profiles on other social networking sites like Facebook. Here's an example:
Show live chats from events. A simple hash tag (indicated by a "#") can go a long way. At a recent youth event, our church encouraged people to use a hash tag when discussing the event on Twitter, and then we pointed parents to the Twitter search results page for that hash tag. Note: It was very popular, but you do run the risk of someone posting something inappropriate; nothing can be cleaned up or deleted. read more


Preparing for a Storm

During a Sunday worship service, a gunman walked unnoticed into a church in a small town in the Midwest. Inside the sanctuary, he shot and killed the pastor. For weeks, TV crews, photographers and reporters camped out in the small town as the church leaders and congregation struggled to deal with their loss and personal trauma of the tragedy.

Faulty wiring ignited a fire that burned down a 100-year-old church in the suburbs of a large metropolitan area. No one was injured, but the congregation was left without a permanent facility where they could worship and carry out their ministry.

The respected pastor of an urban megachurch confessed to an extramarital affair and stepped down from his leadership role, leaving the congregation and church leaders to face the consequences of his moral failure. read more


What to Do When Someone Goes Off

It was the middle of a Sunday service. The music was done, and I got up to pray.

Suddenly, from my right a woman rushed at the pulpit, ran up the stairs, screamed something, threw a book at me and started back down the aisle. I paused for a moment in mid-prayer, taking in the situation.

Almost every church faces it from time to time. How do you handle those individuals that aren’t quite right? read more


Are You Connected?

God is the ultimate filter for every part of our lives—including technology

Technology is powerful—drawing you in, altering your world and expectations, even defining who you are. If you’re not careful, what you start out controlling has a way of controlling you.

There’s nothing quite like the power of saying yes. The ability to say yes is heady, immediate and satisfying. It’s the feeling of having the world at your fingertips. No matter what the latest “it” app is, with the slide of that finger, the press of a button or the click of a mouse, your options magically unfold in nearly geometric progression.

But with every yes comes a consequence: when you say yes to all this technology, you attach yourself to a digital umbilical cord that can be difficult to remove—even temporarily.

If you’re not careful, what you start out controlling has a way of controlling you. read more


Creating a Meaningful Experience

To be effective, communication must be approached as a broad, multi-faceted spectrum


The church vision is clear; the church leadership and staff is in place; ministerial and operational systems are developed and running. The church is functional and taking shape. With all the given tasks to check off, it can be easy for anyone within a moving organization to get tunnel-vision, and not think about creating a meaningful brand experience. 

When it comes to the mission that God has placed on the heart of the senior pastor and the community, are churches being mindful of their “brand experience” and intentionally living it out? To implement a meaningful brand experience requires the entire team to embody the heart, mission, values, personality and culture of the church. Staff must be given the liberty to take leadership-covered risks in which they can creatively think and become a spot-on expression of the church’s heart. 

The brand experience is every touchpoint an individual would encounter related to the church. Each touchpoint should effectively bridge the church’s vision, goals, theology and community demographics (left-brain stuff) with the heart, personality, creativity and culture of the church (right-brain stuff). When done strategically and consistently, the outcome is a living, breathing, dynamic relationship that every person develops with the church. read more


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