I’ve written before about how I’m grateful that my pastor engages people on social media. He definitely makes my job a whole lot easier. However, I know that he’s more of a rarity than the norm. There are lot of pastors out there who simply refuse to engage in social media.
Now I understand that some pastors have real concerns and fears about social media. These concerns are genuine and they shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, I wonder for a lot of these pastors if their concerns are based on facts or misconceptions about social media?
Today, I want to walk you through what I believe are six common misconceptions pastors have about social media. These misconceptions have been compiled from conversations I’ve had in person and online with different churches and their staffs. My goal is that by the end of this post you or your pastor be a little closer to engaging your church on social media. Here are the six common misconceptions:
1. It takes too much time.
“Look, I don’t have time to monitor Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any other social network”. If this is something that has crossed your mind, you’re not the only one. It crosses my mind all the time. But I would by lying to you if I told you that there was a silver bullet that would let you engage in social media with out spending much time on it. Social media does require you time.
However social media doesn’t have to take up all your time. If you focus properly, you can be pretty effective on social media. By “focus”, I’m referring to only being on a few social networks. There’s no need to try to be everywhere at once. So if you’re just starting out, focus on one social media network and try to master the basics. Ask plenty of questions and do some research (hint: I’ve built a resources section on this website if you need help).
Besides focusing on one social network, you’ll also need to learn to let go of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Social media is not like email. You don’t have to check it 24/7 to make sure everything is okay. Instead you can jump into social media, check things out and then jump right back out. There’s no need to read every tweet from your followers or every Facebook post on your news feed. If you did that, then you would never get any work done.
Your time is valuable and you should treat it as such, but don’t let a misconception of social media stop you from engaging your church online. Instead, focus on a few things and enjoy building the relationships.
2. It’s mostly for millennials.
Social media is for young people (aka millennials). That may be the number one thing that I’ve heard from pastors when I talk about social media and for certain social media networks that could be considered to be true. However when you look at where social media is growing, you quickly see that social media is no longer for just millennials.
Recent research suggests that senior adults are the largest growth demographic for social media. I know this is true for our church on Facebook. We’ve seen the largest area of growth in the 55+ audience. More and more, senior adults are coming online to interact with each other and you know who needs to be there? You do.
(Side note: Let’s say for a moment that you still don’t agree with the statistics or care that senior adults are getting on social media. Don’t you think that millenials and younger generations need to hear what God has put on your heart? Don’t millenials need your wisdom and experience speaking into their lives?)
3. It’s mostly about self promotion.
Click here! Buy this product! Yes, there are lot self promoters who want to you click on their content or buy their product. Of course, there are also people who are simply obsessed with promoting their “personal brand”. However if you can get past all the noise that these individiuals make, you would see that there are plenty of people who don’t use social media for self promotion. In fact, the people I know who excel the most in social media aren’t in it to promote a product or themselves. They’re simply trying to help others. They have a genuine concern for other people and really desire to change the world.
Don’t let the noise of a few marketers ruin what could be meaningful connections between you and your community. Yes, you’ll have to do some filtering and occasionally unfollow some people, but over time you’ll see that there are real people on social media in need of what God has called you to do.
4. There’s too much chance for error.
I’ve said before that you’re going to make mistakes. Major organizations and personalities do it all the time. The beauty of social media is by the time you’ve made the mistake (assuming it’s not a fireable offense) you can quickly delete the error and try again.
Let me pose this question to you: When was the last time you made a mistake in a sermon? It could be pronouncing something wrong, misquoting a source or even getting the scripture reference wrong. If you’re like most pastors, you’ve had your fill of mistakes. Did you quit preaching because of those mistakes? No! The same thing applies to social media. You shouldn’t let a few mistakes stop you from engaging people on social media.
5. You can’t have a real conversation on social media.
If you look at who I follow on Twitter you’ll find people quoting scripture, ranting about politics, talking about their lunch or how their college football team should be in the playoffs (these are mostly SEC people). So it’s easy to see why most people think social media is just small inconsistent tidbits of information. There seems to be no cohesion.
However, what if instead of focusing on what everyone is saying you focused on one person’s social media feed. What would happen? I believe that you can learn a lot about that person. In fact, I think you can learn more about them on social media than you can from a single Sunday morning conversation. You can learn about their likes, dislikes, family, favorite sports teams, political leanings or what they watched on TV last night. In other words, you can get better insight into who they are as a person.
For me, social media is the start of the conversation, not the conversation itself. Social media allows me to engage people and eventually find ways to take the conversation to a deeper level. Do I expect to best friends with everyone I meet online? No. But I do know that through social media I can be in better touch with my church community and those who live around me.
6. Social media isn’t real work.
I’ve occasionally heard social media networking referred to as “social media notworking” and there are days when I don’t blame people for saying that. You can’t blame people for thinking that when there are studies released every month on how companies are losing employee time to social media. If you read most of this coverage, it’s a wonder any work is getting done at all.
Now I agree that you shouldn’t be on social media for personal reasons during the workday. However, some of the best ways for your staff to engage your congregation is through social media. So yes, while it may not seem like work that your children’s minister is liking photos on Facebook. It’s a ministry opportunity for them to engage your church and walk along side your church members as they do life.
I like to think of it this way: Church members are becoming less interested with giving more of their time to coming to church. For most members, they’ll give you Sunday morning and that’s it. So social media allows your staff to speak into their lives the other six days of the week.
Hopefully, I’ve unpacked some common misconceptions that you or your pastor have about social media. Maybe today is the day that you begin to engage your church on social media.