Creating a Great Social Media Policy for Your Church
Concerns over social media reached new heights in 2020. With everything going on, platforms like Facebook and Twitter became sources of heated arguments and false information that only served to further divide our country. They were also used by questionable organizations and even hate groups to communicate and coordinate harmful actions.
Of course, reservations about social media have been around since the concept’s invention. Excessive use of social media has been linked to increased feelings of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. It’s also estimated that 13% or more of work productivity is lost due to social media.
With all of the negativity surrounding social media, many churches are likely wondering if it’s best to avoid it altogether. After all, there are plenty of ways for churches to communicate with people outside of social media.
However, the emergence of social media has had many positive effects as well. In the case of churches, it has allowed them to connect with both members and non-members on a level that was previously impossible. Used correctly, social media can be a great tool for churches to grow their communities and spread the gospel to those who might otherwise miss it.
In this article:
Why Churches Should Be On Social Media
There’s no denying the reach of social media. In the US, 72% of people actively use social media to some degree. Of those people, 68% use Facebook. Of course, just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s healthy or positive. In the case of social media, however, there are numerous benefits that should not be ignored or devalued.
Though excessive social media use has been shown to have negative effects on mental health, the same could said about many things that are used in excess. When social media is used mindfully, studies have shown it actually has a positive impact on a person’s wellbeing. Social media interactions can actively decrease negative emotions and boost an individual’s self-image.
Speaking of mental health, many have used social media to specifically share mental health struggles and help break the stigma surrounding mental illness. Social media has been used for similar purposes in other situations, bringing light to formerly marginalized topics. Here in the Twin Cities, social media played a key role in helping our community recover from the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. Not only did it allow communities to organize meetups, marches, and outreaches, but it also opened up channels for positive conversations and education regarding racial divides in our country.
As for COVID-19, social media helped supplement our inability to socialize in person. As isolated as you may have felt during quarantine, imagine how much worse it might have been without social media. There would be no sharing of memes, home office setups, at-home music performances, and pictures of friends and family members (not to mention their children/cats/dogs, etc).
Despite the misinformation that was often shared, social media allowed us to know what was going on in our local communities and the world as a whole.
Since its creation, social media has also helped level the playing field for gaining a public platform. With a little effort and consistent output, everyday people from humble beginnings have been able to reach audiences and share their story on a level previously impossible.
The same is true for churches.
You don’t need hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest in graphic design, ads, video, events, etc. You simply need one or two free social media accounts, and you have the potential to reach nearly three-quarters of the country.
At the end of the day, social media is a tool. Like any tool, it can be used for good and for bad. For churches, the audience they can reach and the impact they can have with social media is simply too powerful to ignore.
As Owen Scott, an associate Pastor at Prairie Alliance church says “If you knew a place in your town where 70% of your population went daily, what would you do? You’d go there and tell them about Jesus.”
Brandi Jones, a church-focused social media professional also says, “Social media allows us to have a place where we can do life together outside of the church building.”
And so, the question becomes how should churches use social media? To truly maximize effectiveness, reach, and impact, churches should implement an overarching strategy. But before they get too far into that, they need to create a policy.
Handled incorrectly, social media can cause a lot more negatives than positives. A proper, well-documented social media policy can help churches avoid potential pitfalls while maximizing their outreach and overall effectiveness.
Creating a Social Media Policy
Social media policies are generally private documents reserved for church staff and key leaders who have access to social profiles and digital communication tools. Because of this, we can’t directly share any examples or mention any specific church names here. However, we have viewed several polices, and we’ve taken part in dialogue with a number of church staff who have been forming their own policies.
With that, we’ve put together the basics that any church social media policy should cover.
What is the Point?
First and foremost, a social media policy should communicate the general goals and purpose of your social media profiles. For churches, social media accounts typically exist to relay important/timely information, create points of connection, share inspiration, and above all, spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As Nona Jones says in From Social Media to Social Ministry, “The Church is called to be more than a ‘house of content’. We are called to be a light to the world.”
Setting the Rules
Any statements made or actions taken should be true to both scripture and the church’s own values and beliefs. However, it’s not just about what you say, but how you say it. A policy should cover the “tone” of your social media profiles. Generally, churches want to be light, friendly, and positive.
Though you can certainly have some fun with your social media profiles, you should be cautious when it comes to humor. Seemingly harmless jokes can easily be misinterpreted or taken out of context, especially on the internet. It’s best to be straight forward. As Matthew says, “let your yes be yes and your no be no”.
Your policy should also cover the hierarchy of your accounts. This includes who has access and what capabilities they have. It should also highlight what accounts you have, in addition to who is allowed to create things like groups and events. You don’t want random staff members or volunteers creating groups and pages associated with your church without your express permission.
Social interaction is obviously a major component of social media. While it allows you to directly respond and dialogue with your church members, as well as those outside of your church, it can also quickly get you into trouble. Your social medial policy should outline how interactions take place on your social accounts.
This includes responding to comments and replies, as well as when/if comments should be deleted. Not only should this cover commenting on responses, but it should also take into consideration what is liked, favorited, retweeted, etc. Interacting with another person or organization’s profile can result in people associating your church with them and their actions.
Though interacting on social media can be tricky, it is important that your church does it. When people comment with a question or concern, they expect an answer. When they express excitement, they want the validation that comes with something as simple as a “like”.
“Imagine if you were at church, and you said hello to a greeter, and they said nothing in return,” says Brandi Jones.
At best, it would be awkward. At worst, it would leave you feeling alone and unwanted. This is why you should really try to respond to everyone to some degree. That is, everyone except trolls. For those who don’t know, a “troll” is an internet user whose sole purpose is to provoke, demean, ridicule, and otherwise invalidate you.
Though you should show caution in outright deleting comments of others, it’s often the best course of action when it comes to troll posts.
What to Avoid
In addition to covering what subjects you plan to discuss on social, you may want to cover taboo subjects as well. Certain topics are much more prone to cause debate, division, misinformation, etc. That doesn’t mean your church should ignore these topics as whole. It simply means that social media might not be the best place to approach them.
Social media lacks the nuance for some conversations. In these situations, it’s best to cover this information from the pulpit or in face-to-face conversations.
As John the Apostle said, “Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to come to you and talk face to face.”
In cases where you believe a sensitive topic needs to be approached on social media, it may be best to lock the comment section on that specific post.
Privacy is another important area to cover in your policy. While it’s great to share the stories and photos of your church members, you should only do so if you have permission from them. People are becoming increasingly wary of having their name and photo posted across the internet without their consent. This especially important when it comes to children. Even if you have approval to post a picture, it’s generally best to not share their names.
Finally, it’s good to consider items related to branding. Similar to maintaining a consistent tone in your messaging, your social media’s appearance should be consistent with your church’s brand. This includes logos, colors, fonts, phrases, and more. While it might seem like a small thing, branding and design help keep a cohesive image for your church. If you have design staff, it’s best that any graphics or images are overseen by them before they posted.
It’s also a good idea to setup a library of logo files, fonts, and more for those who have social media access.
The Church is Not a Place or a Platform
Though social media can help supplement outreach, interaction, and community, it should never be a substitute for these things. The church is not a platform. It’s not even a place. The word church comes from the Greek word “ekklesia”. This is defined as an assembly of people.
The Church is and always has been a community of a believers coming together to worship God while strengthening one another. Social media, when handled correctly, can certainly assist with this. However, it should always drive back to true relationships with each other, and most importantly, with God.
Some may be skeptical about the idea of genuine relationships beginning online, but it’s worth noting that many real-life relationships first being online. In fact, nearly 40% of couples now meet online. For many who are looking for a new church or are considering church for the first time, social media might be the most comfortable way for them to connect. Handled correctly, social media allows you to portray a great snapshot of what your church is like, what it’s doing, and what it believes in.
Just never forget that it is simply a piece of a much great whole.
A Platform Designed for the Modern Church’s Needs
While platforms like Facebook and Instagram provide some great tools for sharing the gospel and connecting with others, they not exactly designed for the specific needs of churches. That’s one of the main reasons why we’re creating the Torrch app.
Torrch provides a space for churches to be found by people in their community. Through Torrch, people can find all the info they need about a church, and they can even ask questions through a secure chat. Additionally, we are working on adding features that will allow churches to create virtual lifegroups, managing volunteers, and much more.
Fill out the fields below to stay up-to-date with Torrch.