Last February I attended the “eChurch Summit”, a great social media conference just for churches sponsored by PushPay. As a Catholic at the event I was in the minority of denominations represented at this event. Maybe it’s reflective of the Church’s dismissive attitude of engaging members through digital technology, but last May Pope Francis shared a letter with the bishops calling them to embrace the “digital convergence”. The USCCB hosted a #CatholicConvocation to focus on challenges for growth and retention of members this month. So change is coming!
Many of the keynote speakers represented at the eChurch Summit came from some of the most popular non-denominational churches across the country including Saddleback Church. They covered a variety of challenges confronting churches today and provided great solutions using social media as an agent of change. During the two-day event attendees could focus on three session tracks: Leadership, Technology and Communications.
Of course my focus was on technology and communication as a social media strategist the following sessions were what really resonated for me:
The Impact of Technology on the Church
Communication is key to the evangelization of the churches method. Think about it whenever the church experiences a decline in reach, technology has played a role in jumpstarting its growth. Case in point one of the pivotal things to move the needle for the church was the use of the printing press in the 1400’s in Europe and making it to American shores in the mid 1600’s. In today’s culture as consumers we seek to use world class technology, yet in our churches we present in antiquated systems. Again we are at a precipice the Pew Research Center reports that 95% of Americans have a cellphone with 77% of those devices having smartphone technology. The content you create must be accessible wherever an individual wants to consume it. So churches must change how they communicate and engage their members. A recent study from CHMS, a church management software company finds that mobile must be first and web second. The technology that we use must have an inward vs. external facing to be the most engaging.
A Church that does not engage its members through their mobile phones will be on the decline
-Chris Heaslip, CEO of Pushpay
How Elevation Church’s Website & App Work Together to Engage Their Members
Elevation Church is a great example of what happens when you harness the power of social media and define who your audience is. They suggest that you build personas and create content around giving members things they need or answer questions. Building personas starts with knowing the interests, values, fears and motivation of your members.
Their primary focus for connecting with their flock is through their website elevationchurch.online, YouTube, Facebook and The Elevation App. When they built the app they made sure it was fully integrated to accomodate the needs of the user and this growing community. Here are the elements of the elevation app:
Leverage the registration elements of name, email, phone number, date of birth, zip code and gender to help create 5 types of content that connects. These elements help you to connect as you will be able to identify the generational gaps, geographical factors and gender issues.
Stories of Change.
Feel good stories.
Relatable identity content.
Elevation gets its audience and has mapped out a “Path to Praise” journey as follows:
This path is very much like how a personal relationship evolves - right? You meet someone, you like them - then you start dating. After a period of time you become engaged and make a life commitment we call marriage. When you look at our relationship with members in this way it really underscores how important being welcoming is to people who visit our churches. Remember, you only have one shot at a first impression. We are also becoming consumers who trust peer recommendations over testimonials and by creating awesome content that is shareable is interpreted as an invitation.
Capitalizing on the tenets of sharing the content they create taps into the three reasons why people share:
It expresses their members personal identity.
Shares an emotional gift.
The churches annual report saw increases across all their social media accounts; 256 percent in YouTube subscribers (to a total of 146,120), 95 percent in Instagram followers (to 163,077), 87 percent in Facebook followers (to 193,411) and 25 percent in Twitter followers (to 113,083).
Millennials: How to Reach and Engage the Next Generation
There are 49-Million Millennials aged 17-37 and most churches have baby boomers at the helm who just don’t get this group. During this session Chad Veach, Pastor of ZOE Church LA a very progressive church with 90% of its congregation being Millennial shares the keys to connecting with this elusive demographic.
“They don’t care what you know unless they know you care.”
Authenticity - Sharing stories of members or clergy and how Christ has lead them to do, be, touch, learn or live, projects a community identity that exhibits practicing what you preach!
“Is your Church a Hospital for Sinners or a Hotel for the Saints?”
How to Use Social Media to Grow Your Church Fast
Alejandro Reyes, former Director of Digital Marketing with PushPay presented this session. He says to grow your church or social media pages you have to be thinking “audience first” who are they and where do they spend most of their time, for many it’s on their phone and or social media!
“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words”
-Saint Francis of Assisi
When it comes to developing a mission for why you are using social media the number one goal should be sharing content for “Leading people to Christ”. So what kinds of content can you create to bridge your community with following a path that leads them to Christ? When you provide content that answers questions and solves problems it fosters trust. One the easiest ways to share this information is simply repurpose the homily. Here’s a formula for creating 10 pieces of content from a single homily:
5 quoteable elements from the homily.
3 bible verses from the homily.
1 invitation to change behavior or spiritual focus.
1 Facebook Live element like a preview to Sunday’s message.
Now that you have the content, here’s a schedule for sharing it throughout the week:
Monday - 1 quote (visual graphic), recap of the message (written or audio).
Tuesday - 1 quote (visual graphic) from the homily, 1 message (written or audio) from one of the readings or Gospel.
Wednesday - 1 quote (visual graphic) from the homily, 1 message (written or audio) from one of the readings or Gospel.
Thursday - 1 quote (visual graphic) from the homily, 1 message from one of the readings or Gospel (written or audio).
Friday - 1 quote (visual graphic) from the homily, 1 Facebook Live on invitation to mass this weekend or call for change in behavior or spiritual focus.
This content scheduling plan can be used on all of the social media platforms. Even the Facebook Live invitation can be shared on Instagram, Twitter and SnapChat. Make sure the Live is short enough to be used across the social media sphere. There are many free tools for help with creating the graphics for the quotes my go to is Canva.com!
How to Use Online Video to Explode Your Church’s Growth
Sean Cannell author of the book You Tube for Churches shared four really cool ideas for incorporating video as a tool for evangelization:
1. Homily Highlights - Posting the entire homily may or may not be engaging to every generation within your parish. So do a Google Search on the central theme the first page titles are going to be the best ones for creating an engaging title to capture people’s attention. The length should be 1 - 5 minutes.
2. Must See - Create content consistency that helps members form habits of consuming the weekly or daily messages to help them with spiritual challenges or spark inspiration for living a more Christian lifestyle.
3. Behind the Scenes - Show the Pastor’s process for creating the weekly homily, show how the bulletin is put together, how the church is maintained or something else that shares the inner workings of the community.
4. Announcements - Going Facebook live before mass to set the stage for the message, highlight a ministry or member.
In crafting videos Sean says there is no magic number for the length, but you have to hook the viewer in the first 5 seconds and consider if their age is over or under 40. Stats show that you have one minute or less to create an immersive experience for those under 4o vs. three minutes for viewers over 40. Here are more tips from Sean’s website.
The eChurch Summit happens again February 13-15 and will feature Mega social media influencer Seth Godin at the Disneyland Hotel. If you are interested in attending here’s a link to the registration page.
May the Peace of Christ be with YOU!