Your Church and Social Media

New Vintage Church is not only a great church (though I’m biased 🙂 ). In many ways we are an experiment in the impact of social media and technology on starting a church. Why? Because we have always been too poor for advertising that costs money. We did a small Facebook ad for launch and Easter that didn’t cost very much at all. For the most part, however, NVC has launched on positive word-of-mouth from attenders and the same on social media–particularly Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere. Some venues have been effective (Facebook and blogs). Others not so much.

Here’s the skinny on our findings thus far:

Facebook – A great litmus test of who cares about your church–and who’s willing to go public with it to their friends. Each church is comprised of people with a lot of friends. Facebook is one of the quickest and safest ways for people to talk about church with their friends from a distance. It’s also a great way for those same friends to check out your church by following their friend’s tip on Facebook. Huge. If you can get each of your people to share one positive thing about your church by name per month for a year…it’s more “Come and See” evangelism than you may get face-to-face in ten years.

Vimeo – For your video junkies. If you can do video even moderately well…a great way to make an initial impact and capture the imaginations of people. We use it for spreading the word about new message series…and for our humorous videos.

Podcasting – for your sermon people. Each week we post audio and video of the sermon on ITunes and via podcast on newvintagesd.org and feed. Each format is downloadable and we try to make them all decent quality. It never ceases to amaze me how far sermons can travel in this tech-driven age of ours. What a blessing!

Twitter – A great litmus test of how tech-savvy your church is. Being limited to 140 characters is also a great way to test your church’s message for clarity.

Blogs – The secret way people really check out your church–or at least ours. All four ministers at NVC have blogs. You’ve obviously found mine 😉 You can find Peter Wilson’s, D.J. Iverson’s, and Randy Armstrong’s by following the links. It’s not necessary to work at NVC or anything–we just all happen to blog. Just know that often people check blogs before deciding whether they will return or try out the church. Some people I know that don’t follow Jesus at all that read this blog. It’s their way of checking me out and checking out NVC a little more closely from a safe distance. I’m cool with that.

In Summary

What we’ve managed to build over time is a social media wheel of Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, podcasts, blogs, web site, etc. They all reinforce one another at different levels and hit different kinds of people. Here are a few rules for the road.

  1. If you have never heard of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or now, Google+…PLEASE find out about them. To ignore them is like what your parents did by ignoring rock n’ roll. Fear not.
  2. If you don’t want to go as far as we have but want to dabble or need somewhere to start: I would start with Facebook and podcasts.
  3. Maintaining all these social networks may sound like it takes a lot of time. It really doesn’t. In fact, if it takes too much time, you’re probably posting too often.
  4. For churches, I would suggest posting a maximum of once a day on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. Hopefully, you’ll get some retweets, +1’s, and “likes” that will cast the net further for you without annoying everyone to death.
  5. Like it or not, many (if not most) people 40 and under will check your church out EXTENSIVELY before even attending. We have people coming to NVC right now that checked us out on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and watched sermon videos before every attending NVC for the first time.
  6. Keep in mind all of this is more or less free, except for the labor costs associated with the time. It might be good to build a small team of people to handle it for you. Don’t ask your 75-year-old assistant to do it. She probably can’t make this ministry sing. Shoot young with this one. Anyone under 35 is likely close to black-belt status. Teens and college students are straight-up ninjas.

Lastly, just remember the point of all this isn’t self-promotion, but finding creative ways to expose people to Christ and His people for the purposes of authentic transformation and God’s glory. Keeping the right aim in view will help you stay faithful with this important enterprise over the long haul.

I hope some of this is helpful. Any thoughts or questions? What has your church experienced?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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