Three reasons why churches don’t use social media

Even though about half of all Americans use Facebook once a week,only 40 percent of people report that their church has an active Facebook page. Only 14 percent of Catholic Churches have a Facebook presence. And, only about 10 percent of people post or update their status with something about their church.

These statistics are from a new report from Public Religion Research Institute. The study reveals some insightful trends on social media and church. For instance, only 5 percent of respondents reported following a pastor or other spiritual leader.

It seems there are two things happening here. First, there is a disconnect between churches and their adherents with regard to connecting through social media. Second, a minority of churches actively use social media to communicate their ministries. I truly believe a lot of churches try “social media” and become frustrated with websites, Facebook pages, or other social medium. Here is why:

Churches think social media is a big mystery. Many churches believe the world of social media is like a Rubik’s Cube. You have to know the right formula or tactics to make it work. Social media is about engagement, not advertising. A lot of business think that their Facebook page is for sharing their specials or new products. That’s only a small piece of the social media picture. Remember, it is called social media. You have to engage, talk, and connect using Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or other social media. Churches must find ways to engage through posting pictures, asking for favorite scriptures, posting sermons and asking people to respond, or commenting on their follower’s status with uplifting words.

Churches think social media is a waste of time. Many churches think social media is a young person’s toy. Facebook changed the day my parents and their friends started to friend me. Fifty years ago, if you wanted to find a church’s number or address, you used the phone book. Now, people just “Google it”. If 92% of people use a search engine, then they are using the internet to find products, books, vacations, restaurants and churches. The churches still spending ad dollars in phone books are only hitting a small percentage of people. Google ads by contrast are cheap, and having a website with basic info can cost a few dollars a month. Engaging through a website, Facebook, and Twitter can be done. If no one knows how in the church, then look for local classes on how to use social media. Or ask someone under the age of 20 to help.

Churches think social is too much work. It is easy to get sucked in playing Words with Friends on Facebook, but updating and interacting with people throughout the day can only take a few minutes. Many churches see how Rick Warren does social media and think, “That’s too much work.” Well, if you want to get the word out about your great church, then you need to prove it online. By setting aside 30 minutes a day, pastors and ministry leaders can check the pulse of social media. If you find out that your people are talking about the Olympics, then share a story of a star athlete who prays. Google searches for such info are quick and easy. Don’t think your church has to be the superstar of engagement. Just engage in a way that is meaningful and simple.

By thinking about how a church can connect, consistent engagement is the name of the game. You don’t have to be a “social media ninja” (I dislike that term). And, it’s not about volume of content, it is about active content.

Alan Rudnick

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About the Author
Alan Rudnick has been featured on television, radio, print, and social media and serves as the Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Ballston Spa, NY. He has quickly established himself as a leader, blogger, and commentator in the areas of faith, Christianity, ministry, and social media. He is the author of, “The Work of the Associate Pastor”, Judson Press. Alan’s writing has been featured with the Albany Times Union, The Christian Century, Associated Baptist Press, and The Fund of Theological Education. http://alanrudnick.org

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  • http://www.facebook.com/eric.lundquist.184 Eric Lundquist

    A lot of younger parishioners communicate with their world only via Facebook (or some other outlet). You’ll need to log in every now and then to see how things are, and even find out if someone is facing a crisis that demands your attention.

  • http://twitter.com/SueBoudreau Susan Boudreau

    Really good point, Eric. There have been two instances where FB posts either warned or presaged suicide within our community. In one case, the response of one of our members may have saved the day.

    It’s easy to trivialize FB – it’s an add on to face to face not a substitute, but it’s not hard to use, even for old ladies like me. Twitter too, seems on the rise among my 18 year-old’s friends.

  • http://www.vmrcommunications.com/ Hugh Macken

    Alan – I agree with all reasons you mention and would like to add one more from a Catholic perspective. I am a member of the Association of Catholics Exploring Social Media. And the one other major reason I see is concern about the risks and not really having adequate guidance on what the risks are and how to formulate guidelines to address those risks. It’s as if pastors feel as if they don’t know what they don’t know when it comes to risks. There is a decent amount of free guidance out there on social media strategy  but Catholic pastors are leery about talking strategy unless you are also able to talk risks and how best to deal with those risks. This concern is perhaps more pronounced among the Catholic community in other communities but I would imagine it exists as a concern among non – Catholics as well. Would you agree?

  • http://twitter.com/MeredithGould MeredithGould

    Amen, amen.  Fine post that nicely sums up the resistance in a virtual trinity of reasons.  I especially appreciate how you make the point about mixing up the media. Everyone — not just Millennials — respond well to a combination of narrative text, visuals, and videos.

    What I’d add is this latest insight: social media won’t “work” if the website stinks. I’m realizing that even the best, most strategic use of social media will fail if the main online presence (i.e., the website) is so awful as to make Jesus weep with deep sorrow.  

  • http://twitter.com/johnhosman John Osman

    I think there is an underlying tendency among religious people – and this changes based upon denominational adherence –  to be technology-adverse. This may just be an initial reaction to any new development. I am convinced that when the church bell, yet another human technological invention, was introduced there was push back!

  • http://twitter.com/johnhosman John Osman

    I think there is an underlying tendency among religious people – and
    this changes based upon denominational adherence –  to be
    technology-adverse. This may just be an initial reaction to any new
    development. I am convinced that when the church bell, yet another human
    technological invention, was introduced there was push back!

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