Nona Jones, leader of Faith-Based Partnerships for Facebook, took the Summit One Day stage in 2018 to share how churches can shift their social platform goals from seeking reach to fostering discipleship. In her keynote, she shed light on why churches aren’t reaching the growth they’re after and provided an entirely new school of thought on what the church looks like, and how to build a new, even better kind of community.
In this post, we’re breaking down the most impactful insights and strategies gleaned from Jones at Summit One Day, specifically in regards to leveraging Facebook to nurture and grow church communities.
Most Churches Don’t Approach Facebook the Right Way
According to Jones, most churches start from a place of using Facebook to get more people in their church building on Sundays. That approach, she argues, is flawed.
There are over 350,000 churches in the U.S. And though 40% of Americans report attending church every weekend, actual attendance is closer to 20%. That means that half of the people who say they’re in your church building aren’t. So where are they? Popular search queries give us a clue. Every month, over 30,000 people search Google for “church online.”
Christians are looking online for a community and ministry. Is your church providing that? Social media isn’t about growing your reach or building a following, it’s about building the Kingdom.
Questions You Need to Ask About Nurturing Your Church Online
As you foster your church’s social presence, Jones challenges you to ask the tough, but necessary questions:
When did success become about building a following more than building the Kingdom? —Nona Jones
What are you really looking to accomplish through social media for your church? Is it really just about getting the most “likes” or is it about expanding your ministry to introduce people to Jesus? Is a robust online presence really nurturing your church community, or is it nurturing your church’s ego?
As with anything you start, it’s important to understand your true goals. It’s the same with social media. As you place focus on building your social profiles, consider what you’re looking to achieve and the best ways to do that with the tools provided.
Why do we track how many people like our posts, but not how many people choose Jesus because of them?
As Nona discusses, churches are using social in hopes that it will get people in the building, but there’s a technology available to do so much more than that—to do ministry at a higher level.
Is church an event for a couple of hours each weekend, or is church a way of life 168 hours per week?
If church only happens in a building, says Jones, we’re missing 80% of people. Instead, we must radically shift the paradigm from Church = Building to Church = Community, while equipping local churches to make disciples digitally.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” —Matthew 28:19-20
Social Media isn’t About Marketing, It’s About Discipleship
Right now on Facebook, there’s a huge opportunity for churches to create a space for digital discipleship practice. Less than 2% of 200 million Facebook Groups are faith-based, and almost 0% are connected with a church.
Jones’ vision is a world in which everyone can be connected to and discipled through a digital church community. Hear how she puts it…
To build this community, she recommends:
1) Creating a Facebook page for your church, and then…
2) Creating a Facebook group for your church community.
A church’s Facebook page, says Jones, is like a porch where people can walk up and see what you’re about. A Facebook group, on the other hand, is where people can come inside and get to know each other. In a Facebook group, move beyond sharing content about your ministry and instead make disciples through your ministry.
Facebook offers plenty of tools that lend themselves to this kind of digital discipleship, especially in Facebook groups. There are other online tools aside from Facebook to create and nurture church communities, but the issue with that is that it’s not where people are. Most people are on Facebook, so the Church should be, too.
5 Tactics to Nurture Your Church Community on Facebook
1. Consider who’s managing your church’s Facebook and social media
A common mistake amongst churches is putting a social media manager in charge of running a Facebook group when the best person to lead this is really a pastor or another ministry leader.
Once you shift your approach to Facebook from expanding reach to expanding ministry, it becomes clear that Facebook should be treated as a digital church campus that will require discipleship. While a pastor may need assistance in setting up their social profiles or understanding best practices for when to share content and how to do so, they should be the ones driving the actual content being shared and the engagement that follows.
Your online congregation isn’t looking for a canned response, they’re looking for community.
2. Use Facebook intentionally
As mentioned earlier, really think about what you’re trying to accomplish with your social accounts. These goals and intentions should be applied to every aspect of your social engagement, from what you post to the Groups you create (more on that soon). Use this space to share content that’s as meaningful as your sermons on Sunday mornings.
Remember to be intentional about nurturing relationships on Facebook, too, by responding to comments instead of only posting content. Reach out to people independently of the group and help make connections for those looking to connect.
3. Make the most of Facebook Groups
Facebook Groups, which are different than a Facebook Page, in that they nurture the community by making it easy for people to share and communicate with one another. There are three privacy settings for groups:
Public Facebook groups can be seen by anyone, and anyone can request to join. Still, this group requires member approval by an admin or group member.
Closed groups are slightly different in that while anyone Facebook member can see the group name and description, only current members of the group can see posts or stories in the group feed.
Many churches choose this setting in that it creates an atmosphere of security for those looking to share with their community, but don’t necessarily want the information made public.
Secret groups on Facebook have the strictest privacy settings, with only group members able to see the content of the group. Additionally, no one can find the group on Facebook unless they’re invited to it.
These groups are ideal for “small groups” with focuses on sensitive subjects, such as addiction or divorce.
As you create the various groups for your church, consider which privacy settings make the most sense for your community.
4. Meet people where they’re at with Units
Units provide a way to organize content and resources available in a Facebook group. They’re perfect for sharing Bible studies or sermon series. As an admin of the group, you can see which unit people are on or where they’ve left off so that you can follow up with them to provide guidance or discipleship along the way.
5. Leverage Facebook features to help grow your community
There are many Facebook features that help grow community, including get-togethers, filter questions, and bulk invites, just to name a few.
Facebook get-togethers make it easy for your community to create opportunities to meet in-person, whether to meet as a small group or even just to meet one-on-one for coffee or a walk.
Filter questions can be established for anyone trying to join your Facebook group to help you get a sense of what they’re looking for. Jones recommends limiting filter questions to 2-3 so that you don’t discourage people from joining your group.
Lastly, send a bulk invitation to your entire church community by uploading your congregation’s email list. This is also a great way to engage people who’ve fallen by the wayside and not attended church for a while.
The Church isn’t a Place, It’s a People
Church isn’t confined to the four walls of a building but takes place wherever God is worshipped and ministry occurs. Approaching Facebook and other social channels from this frame of mind will expand your churches reach and discipleship.
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