(The Juicys are a way to recognize and reward those churches who’ve worked to improve their church communications during the last year. It includes giving them a grant to jump start their next project. To see past winners, click here.)
The Project: Social Media Strategy
Like many churches, Fairborn United Methodist Church, a congregation of around 225 people in Ohio, was chugging along with their social media efforts. They were getting good interaction, but some aspects were missing. Without focus and intentionality, the church had to answer a basic question, “Why should our church do social media?”
Associate Pastor Rev. Dr. Meghan Howard says the answer became clear.
“There are people we are connected with on a daily basis who still do not know Jesus - and social media is the perfect opportunity to share Jesus with them,” she says. “We determined this was the right communications strategy because we realized social media wasn't a trend and therefore wasn't going anywhere. We knew there was more to social media than just random posts - it required an intentional focus and strategy.”
As leaders at Fairborn UMC became more focused on social media, several strategies became key to increasing interaction.
- Those attending worship are encouraged to tweet or post images, memorable moments, quotes, funny moments or anything that helped them engage in worship.
- On most Sundays, Fairborn UMC provides a "tweet-able or post-able" phrase that sums up the sermon. They also make a point to tell people to actually post that phrase.
- At least once every sermon series, the church does a Q&A at the end of a message where the pastor will answer questions submitted on social media from the congregation. They also encourage those watching online to tweet/post questions.
- The church created a 28-day content calendar to streamline communications into an intentional and focused manner rather than just posting/tweeting on a whim each day.
- On a regular basis, Fairborn UMC uses analytics tools, along with A/B testing, to measure how successful various types of posts are in reaching people.
While Meghan would tell other churches that implementing a strategy like this takes time, she says the results are worth it.
“We saw more people become connected with the church,” according to Meghan. “We saw an increase in church attenders sharing stories from worship and/or their faith. Engagement levels with the church social media sites increased. An entire new audience was reached within the Fairborn community on Twitter. People began reaching out through social media for information, prayer requests and resources. Our live streaming on Sunday mornings started to impact more people in other areas of the country and world. We saw lives touched by posts.”
What We Liked
Great communication takes intentional planning and this entry from Fairborn UMC is proof. The church developed a plan, made adjustments while reviewing analytics and found a way to make it easier for congregants to share their church with their friends. It’s a great model for a church of any size.
Fairborn UMC wants to add an app to their digital communication toolkit. Meghan believes the app is key to growing engagement with the congregation and the community. It will feature incentives that reward people with points and badges as they attend church, get involved with community outreach, attend community events, donate items and more. The church is learning from popular incentive-based apps like FitBit and Nike+.
“The more you do something, the more a habit is likely to be created,” explains Meghan. “Therefore if we can help others start to create healthy Godly habits through the use of our app, the Kingdom and their spiritual lives benefit.”