“If it isn’t on Facebook, it hasn’t really happened,” a friend‘s daughter told me. Although it’s said jokingly, if something is that vital to people, doesn’t it make sense to look for ways that God can use it? Most of you probably have heard of Facebook, but a brief description may be helpful. When you describe Facebook, you have to use the words "social network". A social network is an online service that enables groups of people to communicate and to grow communities. Specifically, here are a few things people typically do on Facebook:
- Write a status update. At the top of the screen there's a rectangle with the question "What's on your mind?" Here you write what you are doing at the moment, or what you are thinking about, the lyric of a song in your head, a link to a video or website you think is cool, a question, whatever you want to put out there for others to read about you at this moment. (By default, only your friends can see the items you post.)
- Check friends’ posts. Below the status box is a long list of items your friends have posted -- their status, photos, comments they have made, or other actions they have taken. You look through the new things people have posted and perhaps write a comment about their update or photos.
- Upload photos. You post your own photos. Sharing photos is a big piece of Facebook. In fact it is the most popular photo sharing site in the world.
When you first go on Facebook, you may think there is not much to do. But it gets better as you add friends. Facebook suggests friends and has tools to go through your email contacts and find friends who are on Facebook. You can also search for people by name or email address. Although Facebook started with college students, the majority of U.S. Facebook users are now over 25 years old, according to “Inside Facebook.” The older you get, the more possibility you have of finding friends you have not seen in years.
The other day I wrote in my status that I was writing this article and I asked, "Why do you use Facebook? What is it that makes you keep coming back?" Some stay-at-home moms said it keeps them sane, being able to chat with friends; others talked about connecting and reconnecting with friends and relatives and one said, "It's good to have a social space in between intimacy and no communication at all."
So what does all this have to do with church? Why would you want to put your church on Facebook? Because it's another way for your church members to connect with each other. It's quite likely that many people who attend your church are on Facebook on a regular basis; this gives you another way to keep in touch.
I recently made a "page" for our church on Facebook. Organizations can make a page, and then people using Facebook can "become a fan." When they become a fan, as you post things on the church’s page, they will see what you post in their news stream, just as they see the status updates posted by their friends.
In order to create a page, you will need to be a registered Facebook user. You go here, click the "Create a Page" button and fill in the information. You'll be asked to choose a category (such as "Local Religious Center" or "Non-Profit Organization"), name your page, fill in the address, description and so on. Once the page is created you can add a photo or graphic of some kind (I used our church logo) and fill in other information such as the service times, office hours, contact information, etc. Once you have some content on your page, you will want to start attracting “fans.”
Fans are people who sign up on your page in order to see the updates in their news stream. Here are a few things you might do to encourage people to become fans:
- Post a link to the page on your own Facebook wall
- Send an email to Facebook friends you think may be interested. (Look for the “Suggest to Friends” link on the top left of the page.)
- Add an announcement to your bulletin about the church’s Facebook page
- Put a link to the page on your church’s website
I started our church’s page a few months ago, and it has 52 fans now. Not a huge number, but it's a start. (Our church has 172 professing members; attendance usually runs a little over 100.) It’s interesting that not all the fans are church members. In fact, about half the fans are people who have moved away or no longer attend. What a good way to keep connected with our sisters and brothers in Christ even when they no longer come to our services each Sunday. What you post on your church’s page may differ according to who your fans are. If the majority of your church members are on Facebook, it could become one of your main means of communication.
Facebook actually has an application specifically for churches called "Mychurch". It allows you to register your church and gives your page tabs for prayers, bulletins and media. You, or others, can post prayer requests, bulletin notices, photos, movies, or other media. It even uses PayPal to allow people to give donations. For your church to participate in Mychurch, you need to pay for a plan -- Basic, Plus or Pro, ranging from $9 to $99 per month. So far, I have not proposed including our church on MyChurch. I post our bulletins and sermon recordings on our website, as well as photos, news and information. I've also set up a Google group that we use as an electronic prayer chain. But MyChurch looks like a good tool for helping your members to connect and exposing your church to others.
You can easily put a link to your Facebook page on your church’s web page. On your Facebook page, go to the page settings (under "Edit Page") and look for the link to "promote with a badge". There you'll see a preview of a badge such as you see on our church's website. You can customize the look, and then copy the HTML code to embed on your page. Also, there are other types of links or badges you can use.
Speaking of your website and Facebook, there is overlap. Sometimes you will want to post the same information in both places. You might want to become a fan of a few other organizations' pages to get ideas for postings.
I posted a question asking what people like or dislike about our church page. So far there has been one response and her favorite items were tributes to two of our members who recently died. In one case, I posted a link to the video shown at the person’s funeral, and in the other I added the information from the members’ funeral liturgy and invited people to comment with memories or tributes.
Other possibilities for page updates are:
- Reminders of upcoming events
- Reminders of special collections or drives
- Questions or discussion starters
- Links to music or videos related to a sermon series
- News from the denomination or other relevant religious news/articles
- Prayer requests
- Links to blogs of missionaries or members your church supports
I think it's a good idea to try to "touch" people at least once a week. It would be ideal to have more than one person posting information, to vary content and give people more than one person’s input.
Facebook is one more place where we can have “communion of the saints.” I'd love to hear how your church is using Facebook or other social media.
Written by Mavis Moon. Four days a week Mavis is an IT Manager for Pivot Interiors, a Herman Miller furniture dealership in San Jose, CA, and works at San Jose Christian Reformed Church one day a week.