"Day by day, the task of being present online to your members, and hopefully your neighborhood, will feel less like a pipe dream and more like a manageable labor of love."
Churches and Social Media
Show of hands: Who feels like they have time for church social media? Unless your congregation is majorly staffed up for digital communication — or has some truly excellent and organized volunteers — I'm guessing you're doing your best imitation of the shrug emoji right now. Or worse.
In my congregation, reenergizing parish communications is the main priority in my job description. So let me cut right to the chase and share the "one weird trick" that has kept me in the game and helped St. Michael's Church hit our posting goals during the program year. The not-so-secret secret: create a posting plan.
Creating a Posting Plan
Your church's Facebook page – and other social media – will benefit greatly from a basic plan/schedule for posting. Some cautions:
- Do not overthink the posting plan.
- Do not make a complex spreadsheet to represent the posting plan.
- Do not buy expensive software to help you execute the posting plan.
Actually, you might choose to do these all things at some point, but starting there is just too intimidating to be realistic. It certainly was for me.
The nucleus of our posting plan was in place when I started my job. St. Michael's has long observed 'Thankful Tuesday' on Facebook. Thankful Tuesday is just what it sounds like. At the end of church staff meeting on Tuesdays, we take the pulse of what our church is thankful for. My colleague then writes a few sentences that begin with the words "This #ThankfulTuesday we give thanks for ..." and ends with "What are you thankful for today?"
Thankful Tuesday posts always have a picture, sometimes several. And we usually tag a person so they'll see the recognition. For example, this summer we were thankful for passing our fire alarm inspection. This simple, but very Christian, practice is the cornerstone of our posting plan. I told you it didn't need to be fancy.
An Example of a Weekly Posting Plan
We follow up Thankful Tuesday with #WindowWednesday. We've learned that the incredible artistic beauty of our church building is one of our congregation's primary assets and makes for popular and easy social media content. This one of St. Cecilia is my favorite. You're probably getting the idea.
These daily posts don't have to have alliteration or even a formal title. Here are some of our other examples:
- Mondays we try to share an article from our parish newsletter.
- Tuesdays are Thankful Tuesdays, see above.
- Wednesday are Window Wednesdays, see above.
- Thursdays we usually promote an event, either at our church or in the community.
- Fridays in Lent we ran prayers from Forward Movement (with added images).
- Saturdays we featured parishioner-written meditations.
- Sundays are for event photos and/or sermon messages.
Working the Plan
These aren't hard and fast rules. Sometimes we break them, like when we participated in the #pledge2pray between Ascension and Pentecost. Sometimes the content crosses over to our other social networks, but only when we can adapt it to the format of the platform. Usually at staff meeting I'm filling in a hand-written grid of post possibilities while we review the past week and look forward to the next one. The plan makes it pretty easy for me to leave staff meeting with my full marching orders. I try to work in week-long batches as often as I can, using the following scheduling tools to queue up the content:
- Facebook: just use the built-in scheduling tool;
- Twitter: I like TweetDeck- It's free.
- Instagram: A tool called Later - Also free.
Our posting plan isn't perfect. I know there are ways we could increase our engagement, especially through sharing more content from faith-based pages or organizations in our community. Hopefully this year we can make that part of the plan. The best thing about our posting plan is that it works... most of the time.
Make Your Social Media Posting Plan!
The kinds of regular content your church could create will depend on your identity as a congregation. Try out your own posting plan this fall. Don't overthink it! Do make adjustments based on post engagement and other feedback. Start by picking just one or two themes for weekly content, and build on those.
Day by day, the task of being present online to your members, and hopefully your neighborhood, will feel less like a pipe dream and more like a manageable labor of love.
Kyle Oliver is a priest and EdD student in the Communications, Media, and Learning Technologies Design Program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Previously he was digital missioner and instructor in the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary. Kyle continues to contribute to the e-Formation Learning Community. He is married and lives in New York City.