Social media vortex
Social media works when it comes to church planting.

There’s a formula for launching a church in America: Collect lots of money. Spend lots of money getting the word out. Turn a big crowd of strangers into a church.

It’s easy—if you have lots of money. But church planters are hackers by nature, right? It’s possible to get the word out in a better way, especially today.

When my team and I began planting our church in northwest Arkansas, we didn’t want to drop a ton of money on massive but impersonal means of announcing our arrival—and we didn’t have a ton of money anyway. So we used Facebook. We’re still using Facebook. And it’s working.

Proof That It Works

We started with two couples (including me and my wife), spent $0 on traditional advertising and had 35 at our first gathering in July 2011. We grew to approximately 80 people within six months through word of mouth and while continuing to spend $0 on traditional advertising. On our first official Sunday, we launched with 176 people—most of whom heard about it through Facebook, word of mouth and search engines.

Today, we’re the most “liked” church on Facebook in northwest Arkansas, and an estimated 75 to 80 percent of our first-time guests found us on the Internet.

How to Use Facebook

We launched our church website and our main Facebook page before we relocated so we could get a jump on connecting with people. We heard from people wanting more information long before our first vision meeting. And it grew quickly.

If you’re going to use Facebook, you need to use it well:

Understand the difference between a Facebook profile and a Facebook page. A Facebook profile is for people; a Facebook page is for brands, organizations, celebrities and other entities. Your church should have a Facebook page.

Use your personal Facebook profile to connect with people. Through your own personal Facebook profile, you can connect with new people in your community, people who get in touch with your church about the plant and other people in your town you want to get to know.

Maximize your church’s Facebook page. Facebook offers all kinds of great features for pages, such as cover images, avatars, events features and an “about” section (which, by the way, should include a link to your website right at the top so no one has to dig for it). Be sure to take advantage of them.

Build one single page. When your church and its corresponding Facebook page reach critical mass, then you can start “sub” pages for different areas of your church, such as the kids’ ministry or small groups.

Don’t Forget a Website

When we think about social media, we think of all the different social networks out there—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, to name a few of the majors—but I’m convinced you need to see your church’s website as a social network too. It’s a content hub of sorts, just like all the other platforms.

Sometimes your goal is to move people from the established social platforms to your site. Sometimes it’s about moving people from your site to the social platforms. Either way, having a hub on the web in the form of a church website is essential.

If you’re going to have a site, be sure to follow these steps:

Design it with the end user in mind. This means caring less about aesthetics and more about usability.

Make some information obvious on every page. I’m talking about gathering times, locations and directions here. Don’t make people search for this information. Make it readily available no matter where they are on your site.

Tell the story of your church. Use pictures, testimonies and video. Avoid bland, impersonal statements and data.

Make it findable via Google. Otherwise, it doesn’t exist. 

Brandon Cox has been a pastor for 15 years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas sponsored by Saddleback Church and other strategic partners. He serves as editor of Pastors.com.

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