The internet may be a ubiquitous part of our daily life but how well have we positioned our church websites and social media pages to respond to the needs and demands of today’s online audiences? Scott Guyatt writes.
It’s not rocket surgery to say that the internet is all pervasive in 2017. It’s everywhere, all the time. And of course that’s how you’re reading this column, so I know you know it.
Our church lives in the world and is part of the broader society; we once built church facilities on the town square, right in the heart of our communities.
Now the web is the heart of many communities and social networks but are we there?
Of course some churches are. Some have fantastic, modern websites, active social media presence, mobile apps, nice looking graphics and more. Sadly though, many don’t.
Some church websites are faded and out of date, with the last newsletter or story uploaded some time in 2013. Many churches have no website at all.
The same can be said of social media presence—whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or any number of other platforms.
The thing is, by either not being present at all, or by presenting a stagnant and out-of-date presence, we’re missing out on being in the town square, in the day-to-day lives of our neighbours. Our capacity for discipleship, advocacy, evangelism and justice is stunted.
This week one minister told me that “almost every new person who visits our church has interacted with me on social media before they come to visit physically”.
Just about anybody under a certain age (to make a gross generalisation) will come looking for you online before they’ll ever darken your doors in person.
Another person told a story of a small church of just a few dozen people, but who have thousands engaged with the gospel via their social media presence—reading stories, listening to sermons, being challenged, provoked, encouraged, nurtured. Their reach is global, their impact immeasurable.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that every church needs multiple social media accounts, or a wondrous bells-and-whistles website that does everything and saves the world.
But a Facebook presence that is updated regularly (by which I mean a minimum of several times a week) with quality content, the congregation’s basic contact and event details, and alongside that a clean, simple, modern website are not beyond the reach of many congregations who aren’t there yet.
I’d go so far as to say that in terms of being “findable” in your community, these two things outweigh nice signs out the front of the church, and they’re definitely far more important than newspaper advertisements or phonebook listings.
Naturally if you have the capacity for a full communications profile incorporating all these things—physical presence, advertising, web, social media, mobile app—then so much the better.
It’s my view that being visible, active and contemporary in our online presence should be one of the highest priorities for a 21st century church that seeks to engage its community, to be in the town square.
What if every church took the web seriously?
A communications tool kit featuring guidance on web presence and social media is available from the Queensland Synod website.