DALLAS (BP) – Social media has fundamentally changed the way we communicate with one another. Thoughts are broadcast to followers in a matter of seconds, generating quick public criticism or praise. Posts can be as entertaining as your latest vacation snapshot, as boring as your dinner plate and as controversial as the politics of the day. And that’s just on a personal level.
For your ministry, it’s important to understand how social media can be helpful or harmful – and that depends on how it is used.
With daily advances in technology and a growing range of platforms, your church staff should know the significant power that social media holds and how to steward it to the benefit of your mission and ministry.
Here are six ways we’ve discovered that social media can be helpful or harmful.
Helping your ministry
1. It can help you educate. Social media is a great way to reach a wide audience simultaneously. You can quickly communicate to your church members and other followers with a few clicks. Whether it’s ministry resources, a weekly schedule, event photos or an important announcement from the pastor – social media helps you get the word out fast to the people that matter most.
2. It can help build a community. We are reminded in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 of the importance of community amongst believers. While virtual connection should never replace in-person gatherings with believers, an online presence can help build relationships and foster community when it may be challenging to fellowship during the week. Church members feel more connected when they can engage and see the day-to-day of their church body and culture.
3. It can help disciple others and grow your ministry – no matter the circumstances. Ephesians 4:11-12 talks about building up the body of Christ. Life ebbs and flows constantly, so being able to disciple others and grow your ministry through changing times and our modern world is crucial. And while social media as a tool should be only supplemental to a believer’s walk with Christ, here are a few ways social media helps ministry outreach:
- Social media helped many isolated individuals and families in the pandemic learn how to navigate online discipleship programs and Bible studies.
- Digital platforms help connect individuals on the go to discipleship resources such as sermon podcasts, Bible studies and faith insights.
- An online presence creates another entry point for nonbelievers to be introduced to faith, the church and ultimately Jesus.
- Social media serves as an excellent resource for those in unique circumstances – those who often travel for work or are home-bound for various reasons.
Harming your ministry
4. It can generate public comments discouraging to the ministry. Social media allows followers to engage with your content in real-time – which is a cool feature until someone’s remarks turn sour. Comments from others on your social media accounts can be blunt and disparaging – and they can distract from the message you’ve initially shared. It’s essential to monitor the comments section of your accounts so you can remove or redirect when needed.
5. It can be hard to build relationships. Although social media is helpful, it doesn’t account for all of the individuals in your ministry’s influence. For example, communicating with an older generation can be challenging through social media due to their limited use. There are also some individuals who choose to be “off the grid” or engage with only one social media platform. While social media is a great tool, you must consider how all of your audience receives information and create a communication plan for those offline as well.
6. It is an unbiblical way to handle potential conflict. Ephesians 4:29 tells us not to let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, “but only what is good for building up someone in need.” Many times, conflict seems easier to handle behind a screen through harmful words that we might not be bold enough to say in person. You must be careful with your written comments and responses – and consider how what you’re typing might be received. Remember that you’re a representative of the church and an ambassador of Christ. Kindness always wins!
As with all forms of technology, there is a cyber risk that comes with integrating social media within your ministry. Protecting your ministry against online crime is crucial, but don’t fear. We can help.
GuideStone is equipped to help you learn more about social media and cyber security, and we have a few tips for data protection strategies you can easily implement — such as never saving your passwords on a business computer to turning off all computers and ministry devices when they aren’t in use. We can also help you assess your ministry’s cyber risk. Learn more.
John Murphy is managing director of insurance sales at GuideStone Financial Resources. This article first appeared at Baptist21.com.