Church crowd
Do you think your church's online presence could be driving people away?

I can’t say that I’ve ever been on a dating website, but the stereotypes are common enough that I don’t need to see it with my own eyes to imagine the “worst” kind of profile.

A list of exaggerated accomplishments. A photoshopped picture from a decade ago. A dozen euphemisms for anything that might be considered a “fault.”

All it takes is a one date to discover the person across the table from you is nothing like the person they said they were online.

Could churches and dating websites have something in common? In all my work with social media and churches, I’ve found that churches make many mistakes when it comes to their online presence. Some churches simply don’t have an online presence (which is a huge mistake since studies are showing more and more young people are finding their churches online).

Others have an online presence but are tweeting too much, or too little, or simply making their online life all about them. But, of all the mistakes churches make, one tops the charts. Most little mistakes churches make fall under this one BIG mistake:

They try to act like someone they’re not.

Like a bad profile on a dating website, so many churches want to pretend like they’re bigger, or cooler, or “prettier” than they really are. And the scary part of this desire is that, with Instagram filters and web designers, they can do a pretty good job of putting on that show, of framing their image—for a while.

Here’s the catch. All it takes is one encounter, one first “date,” for a churchgoer to discover that the church they met online is not the church they’re meeting in person. And this is one mistake you it’s virtually impossible to recover from.

Chances are, they’ll never step foot in your building again.

Here’s the beautiful part of this whole thing. You don’t have to pretend. This is what I would tell the owner of a bad-dating profile, and it’s what I say to churches all the time. You don’t have to pretend like you’re someone you’re not. In fact, if you waste your time pretending, people miss out on the real you.

And the real you is really unique—important and useful to the Kingdom of God.

You were fearfully and wonderfully made.

Just like there is “someone for everyone” in dating, there is “some church” for everyone as well. Not every churchgoer is looking for the hippest, coolest most mega-church in town. In fact, they might be looking for you, the real you. And when you are authentic on social media, those who are looking for a community like yours can find you.

So, no more “bad dating profiles,” so to speak. Be yourself on social media, whatever that means. The church people encounter online should be the same church they encounter when the step foot inside your building.

What does that mean for your church?

With more than a dozen years of local church ministry, Justin Lathrop has spent the last several years starting businesses and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the kingdom. He is the founder of (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership, and, all while staying involved in the local church. Justin serves as a consultant in the area of strategic relations predominantly working with the Assemblies of God, helping to build bridges with people and ministries to more effectively reach more people.

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