By Michael W. Kruse
How can my church effectively use social media? Which social media services should my church use? Aren't we opening our congregation up to abuse if we venture into social media?
I've been blogging for seven years and because of that, I frequently get questions like these from pastors and congregation leaders. I can offer some help, but social media can be used in many creative ways. I've never focused on social media's application for a congregation, so my input has always been incomplete. But now I have definitive-ish solution, or at least a starting place, for congregations that want to fully engage with social media.
Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow wrote a book earlier this year, "The Definitive-ish Guide for Using Social Media in the Church." Bruce was a church planter and a pastor. He also is a past moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). But most importantly, Bruce has been an avid user of social media as pastor in the congregational setting.
The book begins with Bruce highlighting culture shifts that have reshaped the way we communicate and connect. He writes about the spirituality of social media, but also the inherent dangers, offering insights on how to navigate this new world.
As a starting place, Bruce recommends five social media tools:
- Google Docs
I use all five of these. Maybe you do, too. But what was helpful for me was Bruce showing particular ways these tools can be helpful in the life of a congregation. He raised several ideas I hadn't given much consideration. For instance, I use Yelp to look up stuff all the time. What are people saying about your congregation at Yelp? Have you encouraged people in your congregation to write a review so people who want to know about your congregation can get a flavor of what you are about? My congregation has one review. I'm going to work on that. In a later chapter, for the more adventurous souls, Bruce briefly explores several other social media tools like Twitter, YouTube, Goodreads, and Instagram.
Near the end of the book, Bruce offers some very helpful advice for pastors. You have been a pastor of a congregation for several years and now you have taken a new call. In the PCUSA world, you are expected to severe pastoral relationships with your congregation so there is no confusion for the new pastor. But you are now Facebook friends with half your congregation and a member of groups the congregation has formed through social media. How do you manage this transition? I think Bruce offers some very helpful advice. He has had to live this himself.
Finally, Bruce closes out with a frequently asked questions chapter. He invites his readers to jump in, but also to communicate back to him the things they learn along the way. He has an appendix that offers some practical helps. The book is only available (I believe) in electronic format. That will allow Bruce to update the book easily as social media evolves. He tells me he is already working on a second edition.
This book is just awesome! If your congregation has been resisting social media, I'd encourage you to read this book. Even if your congregation has already been using social media, I think you will find tips and ideas you may not have considered. It is relatively short book written in a very engaging style. I now feel like I have a tool I can give to others to help get them started. I recommend you get a copy today.