This summer The Christian Post released its list of “Top 5 Churches That Use Social Media Best.” On one level, there were few surprises on the list—five leading mega-churches with massive audiences, bulging budgets, and staff members dedicated to social media.
And here-in lie the difficulty.
The view that social media is essential to growth is intoxicating, and wrong.
The list directly, and indirectly, perpetuates two myths of social media use that too many churches fall victim to.
Myth 1: Social media is key to—and at its heart about—church growth.
“When it comes to churches,” begins the CP article, “having at least a minimal digital strategy has become crucial in expanding Christian outreach even locally within their own communities.”
The view that social media is essential to growth is intoxicating, and wrong. Megachurches—if that’s the type of community you’re trying to cultivate—were around long before Facebook hit the scene. Social media in megachurches is more a reflection of the population served than a distinguishing trait.
But here’s the real problem. By tying social media to growth, the article overlooks the more important point—electronic communications (e-mail, e-newsletters, etc) and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., etc.) are first and foremost about communicating, not growth.
As with any form of communication, executed properly, growth may be an outcome. But growth is not an indication of success.
Take-away: Pay attention to the extent to which social media improves and strengthens community. That’s the true measure of whether social media is working well in your congregation.
Myth 2: Social media requires professionalism—and professionals—to work well.
Let’s be clear. Social media are tools for communicating. Nothing more.
If you are a poor communicator in person, or have difficulty writing coherent thoughts, social media will only exasperate that situation, not improve it. People who communicate well, however, will find their voice with these tools and learn to do it well.
Now, it is true that advice from professionals helps. Writers have from the beginning of writing had their work improved by editors. Public speakers have long benefited from what they learn at Toast Masters.
But one does not require professional communicators to master social media.
If you are a poor communicator in person, or have difficulty writing coherent thoughts, social media will only exasperate that situation, not improve it.
The five models held up by CP suggest that professional staffs are central for social media success. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Take-away: Yes, communicating through social media requires our adjusting to the medium, and good advice and guidance can help. But, social media is still just a mode for communicating language. Don’t believe the hype. If you communicate well in traditional venues, you can adapt and communicate well using social media.
At the end of the day, social media is not about growth but about communicating better with those in your faith community. Growth may come as a result, but if you place growth above improving your faith community’s ability to communicate, you have missed what makes social media so valuable in the first place—its ability to improve the ways we talk with one another.