About a month ago I conducted a mid-year review of my blog, podcast and digital footprint. I did this with the thought that I need to see if was on target with my goals for 2015 and to get an idea of what 2016 was shaping up to look like. What I walked away with was sense of how 2015 continues to be a big year for churches and the digital world.
Of course, like anything in life, I walked in 2015 with one set of expectations and instead ended up with a different experience. Unlike in previous years it seems the digital world around me and the church is moving at a faster pace. While 2015 isn’t over, there are a lot things I’ve already learned and I’m still unpacking. Here’s a quick list:
1. Church online campuses still have a long way to go. While we launched our first online worship experience, I still have plenty of reservations about the future of online campuses. I believe they are the future, however I’m not sure what that future looks like.
It still seems to me that unless you offer some sort of login where you can track visitors, it’s still largely an anonymous worship audience. We need more low-friction ways to get people to identify themselves without having to create additional user accounts.
Why do I want people to login? I want to be able to get a better picture of the kind of person who attends online and what their motivation is for attending. Are they turned off by our physical campus? Are they home-bound? Or is attending an online worship service just an easier experience?
2. You can’t do this job alone. I know a number of my friends don’t have much support when it comes to running social media for their church. However, I know that in order to do this job over a long period of time, you need to employ some type of help.
For me, I get to work with the amazing Katie Allred. Not only is she a rockstar at social media, she keeps me on my toes when it comes to being at the top of my game. I know that not everyone can have a Katie on their team, but I know what we’re better for it.
3. Content creation is really hard if your staff is not bought in. When we built our website last year, we built it with the idea that we would fill it with content on a daily or at least a weekly basis. That however has proven to be a bit more difficult than we thought.
It’s difficult because we learned that we needed our staff’s help in creating the content. While we could demand content from them, we also know that some staff aren’t really wired for creating content.
Since we’ve launched the website, we’ve had to reset our expectations and evaluate which staff have the desire and ability to create content. This has resulted in a more focused approach that is really starting to benefit us.
4. Your goals should be based around engagement not reach. Every year our team is required to set yearly goals that we’ll report on each quarter. This year we set some pretty ambitious goals in terms of pageviews, Facebook likes and Instagram followers. On each of those goals, I really proud to say that we should easily hit them.
However in 2016 we’re going to focus on engagement versus impressions (page views, Facebook reach, etc..). I believe this will force us to create better content and pay closer attention to our audience. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth the effort.
5. Youth still determine what’s next. I was wrong about Snapchat and Vine. I thought both of them would fads that would quickly disappear. Yet with every passing day, each of these social network gets stronger. I attribute their growth to their ability to capture the youth market.
So before I make decision about whether or not to invest in social network, I’m going to spend some time talking to our students to get their impressions. While they won’t be the deciding factor, they will be a good indicator on whether not a social network has a future.
6. Facebook has become the new church directory. Remember those church directories that contained everyone’s photos and contact info? They were like the white pages for churches. For me, that’s what Facebook has become.
I think to a large degree, Facebook has replaced some of the community functions of church. While I hear some people mourning the loss of community in our society, I would argue that some portion of that community has moved online and can be found on Facebook.
I’m not saying this is something we should rejoice about, but it is the new reality, which is why it’s even more important for your staff be on social media in some form. The conversations going on in these places have a huge impact on your church’s ministry.
7. Podcasting is a lot fun and hard work. I started a podcast and is a lot more hard work that I could ever imagine. It also helped me realize how important this medium is.
Now podcasting is not something that I recommend every pastor should do. For starters, getting the audio to sound right requires a good deal of expertise the right equipment. Second, it requires a good amount of prep work to make sure you know what you’re going to say before you start recording.
8. We’re on the front-end of the digital revolution for the church. I think a lot churches feel left behind in this digital revolution, but I think they’re wrong. I think we’re on the cusp of digital revolution for churches. We still have a lot of unanswered questions that will take a while to figure out.
Sure, your church may not be on any social network or might not even have a website. However, with a few clicks and a little work you can have website up and running in a matter minutes. The barrier to getting your church online is getting smaller every single day.
9. Your church website is never finished. It used to be you would build a website, then declare it finished, and the move on to another project. Those days are over. Instead, we’re in an environment were we constantly looking at analytics to judge what goes on our menu, which ads need to take priority of others and which devices are most visiting our website. These data points allow us to constantly reshape our site to accommodate changes as they arise.
I’m excited for the rest of 2015. With each day something new pops up and it starts to get me excited about the possibilities and future of the church. I hope you can say the same.
What have you learned so far this year? Has there been a big takeaway for you in 2015? Click here to share below.