Facebook is constantly working to improve user experience on their platform by adding features and changing their algorithm to provide content their customers find valuable. Although no one knows exactly how the algorithm works, one thing is clear: Facebook values authentic sharing of ideas by users, their friends, and family. As church communicators, we need to provide value to our audience in order to increase the likelihood that our followers will have a desire to share and engage with our content. Facebook Groups offer a great way to encourage interaction and engagement. There are several platforms that help you create online groups to stay connected or to offer Bible Studies, but using Groups is the most efficient and effective way to do create quality groups. Why? Two reasons. One, you already know how to use Facebook and so does your audience. Two, your audience is already online and using Facebook on a regular basis. You don’t have to drive them away from the app or website they are already using to interact with your content. You can meet people where they are.
Think of it like this—several years ago some church had the idea of having studies in “home groups” instead of just on campus. Some even began to host gatherings at coffee shops, in parks, or at community centers because that’s where their people were at. So where are these groups of people now? Facebook. At 2 Billion monthly users, Facebook seems to be the congregating place for many. Your group can be there to engage with them. When you do this, you not only minister to the audience, you positively affect your place in the Facebook algorithm.
Starting a group on Facebook is really simple. Just follow these 5 steps:
1. The Basics
Have a purpose. You might build your group around a sermon series or studying a book of the Bible. If you choose to make your group a Bible study-type group, depending on how your group goes, you may decide to extend the group and explore other topics. Or maybe you choose to use your group to facilitate and encourage prayer requests, or interaction and deeper fellowship between Sundays, diving deeper into the past Sunday’s sermon. Whatever you decide to do with your group, make sure you have a clearly-defined purpose when setting up the group.
2. Guidelines and Group Set Up
Write a description for your group and include “The Basics” plus a framework on the type of comments and discussion you are expecting. Even though you may not feel it necessary, it may be a good idea to put a disclaimer about any types of comments you do not want to engage in with the group. The actual setup of the group is quite simple. To create a group follow these steps. You will have the option of making your group public, closed, or secret. Closed will give you the option of approving members and will give your current members a feeling of security knowing that only members can see their comments. If the subject matter is extremely sensitive, you may choose to make your group secret, which would mean only members would know the group exists.
3. Invite People To Join
This is self-explanatory. You can add people to your group or you can invite them to join your group. This is just like inviting someone to an event from Facebook or sharing a post with them.
4. Pin A Post
Because people may join at different times, pinning a post with a welcome note and a call to action like “tell us about yourself in the comments” is a great way to engage with your new members automatically. Another way to have any guidelines or notes handy is to create infographics or slides and add them to your photo gallery.
5. Have Fun
This is the last tip, but it is definitely not the least in importance. Remember you want to connect with people, create conversation, and encourage members to share with each other, just like in a face-to-face group. So have fun and be real.
Remember, as with any group, it takes time for people to open up, to reach out, and to connect. Just keep leading your group by asking questions, providing content that speaks to your purpose, and following up with your group members. Over time, your Facebook Group will become more interactive as the members find value in the group. When your audience finds value in what the church provides via social media, they will be more likely to share your content and invite others to join the conversation.