When I was a teenager, the only Facebook groups I was a part of were some iteration of, “New phone, need contacts.” Anytime someone lost their phone, or got a new phone, they’d create a group with the intention that all of their friends would join the group and send them their phone number—and that was it. Today, Facebook groups are a completely different monster. I’m part of groups based on interests, lifestage, culture, geography, family, skills, and work.
Groups on Facebook allow people to be a part of an online community with shared interests. Groups can feel more secure and relevant to users, and are a great way for church’s to communicate with their congregation and actively engage the broader community.
Let’s start with the fundamentals of Facebook. We won’t cover everything here (if you need a more comprehensive introduction, check out our free ebook, “Facebook for Churches”), but here’s a broad overview if you’re newer to social media and trying to figure out if Facebook groups are right for your church.
Facebook Page—this is an outward facing profile for your organization (business, charity, church, club, etc.). You can create ads from your Page so more people are exposed to your Page and the message you’re presenting. Anyone can see these posts.
Facebook group—There are three types of groups: public, closed, and private. Based on your group’s purpose, you may want to choose any one of these three privacy settings.
Often, the difference between a Page and a group is explained like this: a Facebook Page is outward facing, while a group is inward communication. That’s a generalization, but it may be helpful.
If we assume the axiom above is true, then it makes sense that what you post on your Facebook Page should be more outreach-oriented, community-minded material. Your Page should probably focus on more first impression or informational type posts, like the upcoming spring clean up at the neighborhood elementary school, not on letting Susie know she left her Bible in the sanctuary on Sunday morning
But Facebook groups provide a massive opportunity for your church to build community among the congregation. Groups can be established for the congregation as a whole, for individual ministries, and even for functional teams. Members can post needs, requests, recommendations, and more—and church leadership can communicate critical information—posting urgent information, communicating about cancellations, and more.
You can create as many Facebook groups as you’d like for your church. From all congregation groups to segmented groups—like parents of elementary children, women, moms, families on the north side, the co-ed softball team—the options are endless. The benefit of segmented groups is that you can communicate targeted messages to appropriate groups of people.
I’m sure your wheels are spinning now about all the different groups you could create for your internal church communications. That’s good. But don’t forget your community.
One thing I wish I saw more of is churches participating in community-based Facebook groups. There are tons of needs, interests, and events in your community and your church can be part of the conversation about them. Find community-based Facebook groups that are formed around the demographics, values, and the interests of your church. If you have an original group idea, or already have a physical group that’s meeting a new need for your congregation and community, create a Facebook group!
Creating groups based on interests, lifestage, or other elements can be an incredible way for your church to build a presence online and a rapport with people that you may otherwise never have the opportunity to reach. I’m talking about groups like:
- Neighborhood Moms
- Pick up Kickball at First Church
- Families of the Neighborhood
- City Business Recommendation/Exchange
- Free Stuff (Get free stuff, and get rid of things you don't need anymore).
That’s five ideas off the top of my head. Coming up with ideas is easy. But before you create a new group, confirm that that it doesn’t already exist in your community. Then, tie the group to the church’s Facebook Page, but don’t just use it as another place to publish things about your church. Be genuine. Post information that will be helpful to your community members. Build relationships with members. Create community. It may not be the way we’ve always done things, but it’s a great, new opportunity to expand beyond the doors of your building and do outreach in your community.
Facebook groups present a huge opportunity go build genuine community amongst not only your congregation, but the neighborhood or city around you as well. Start thinking outside the box—how could your church utilize Facebook groups to build community?