A 7 Day Social Media Experiment For Pastors

What could happen if you spent a few minutes a day creating conversations and connections through social media?

Here’s a play-by-play guide.

If there was an opportunity to expand your ministry reach and connect with your church and community where they are during the week, would you take it?

There’s an opportunity in front of you that is still mostly untapped and is ripe with ministry potential. That opportunity is social media. We have all the tools in the toolbox that we need to reach more people than ever before. Now, we need to learn how to use these tools to expand your ministry reach. All it will take from you is investing a few minutes a day. I promise the return will be worth it.

To help you get started, here is a 7-day plan to walk you through what this could look like. Adjust however you’d like to fit your style, community, and culture.

MONDAY

Start off the week by connecting with people and asking how you can pray for them. If you have an experience you can briefly share that demonstrates the power of prayer in your life, share it! This is such an easy way to connect with people and hear the burdens they may be experiencing. As people comment, make sure to reply to their comment with a word of encouragement or to simply let them know you’re praying for them. 

TUESDAY

What’s a win that has happened recently within your church that you can celebrate? You could share a photo and story of someone who was recently baptized or that gave their lives to Christ. There could be a ministry that is experiencing growth and seeing lives changed. Think about some wins or stories that the average person may not know about in your church, and use this as an opportunity to share it!

WEDNESDAY

Through this season in your life, what is God teaching you? Where have you seen God at work in your life recently? Share this from your heart, and end the post with a question that may spark some engagement by saying “What is God teaching you right now?” Get real and vulnerable. This is a great way to humanize yourself to people that are only used to seeing you on a stage behind a pulpit.

THURSDAY

Share through video or text, a look at what you’re going to be sharing in your upcoming message. People love getting a behind the scenes look at something they’re going to experience. If there’s a key question or felt need that you’re going to be addressing in your message, share that! It’s a great way to build some anticipation for what is going to be taught in your message. There may even be an opportunity for you to get feedback, or stories, about a topic that you’re going to share. Ask for that feedback and see if you can work those examples into your message this week.

FRIDAY

Is there an unsung hero at your church that you can highlight? Someone who faithfully serves behind the scenes, but may never get the credit they deserve? Snap a photo of them during the week and honor them through a post. This will be a huge encouragement to that volunteer, but will also be an opportunity to demonstrate how important volunteers are to your church.

 

SATURDAY

Why are you excited about church tomorrow? Share that and invite people to join you. Yes, you should share your service times and maybe a web link to get directions to your church. But that’s not the only thing you should share. Here’s the key. Don’t make this just about the information. Make this about the why. As you write this post, target the person that may be on the fence about if they’re going to come to church tomorrow. Share the why, not just the what, and encourage people to bring someone with them. This is also another opportunity for you to share about the topic that you’re speaking about.

SUNDAY

Take a few minutes after your services to jump on Facebook or Instagram Live to dive deeper into the application of your message that day. Share a brief recap of what you talked about in the message for the people that are watching on social media that weren’t at church that day. Then, take a moment to encourage people with how they can apply what they heard in the message. If there was a story or scripture that you didn’t have time to share during the service, share it here. This is one of the best opportunities for pastors to connect with people on social media right now.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How long should I spend on creating these posts?
I’d suggest blocking off 10-15 minutes a day to invest in this. Just remember, your job isn’t done after you hit post. Social media is a two-way conversation, not a one-way bullhorn. Make sure to take a few moments during the day to engage with any comments that are coming in.

How can I improve engagement?
Make these posts as visually engaging as you can. Use photos to bring them to life, or a simple graphics to drive home the message. There are some free resources out there for photos like pexels.com, unsplash.com, or pixabay.com. For graphics, you could use an application like canva.com.

What social platforms should I use?
Facebook is where I’d start. Instagram would be next.

Is there a way to plan ahead?
YES! You can schedule content on Facebook through HootSuite.com or Buffer.com. Write a few of the posts, and have them automatically posted when you specify. But, you can’t automate engagement. Engagement is manual, so make sure you’re carving out time to engage with the people that are engaging with you.

After I do the 7 day experiment, what’s next?
This 7 day experiment is designed to get you started and show you the ministry impact that social media can have. Don’t feel the pressure to post every day, but I would encourage you to be consistent in using social media to connect with your church and community.

What’s going to happen through this 7 day social media experiment? How could God use this? Let’s find out.

I’d love to hear any stories or feedback that happen as a result of you jumping in on this experiment. Shoot me an email at phil@philbowdle.com

Is Your Communications Team A Service Department Or A Ministry?

Have you ever had a ministry leader approach you with a big idea?

The conversation starts innocently enough with a need to promote an upcoming event or ministry, but quickly turns into talking about tactics like “We need t-shirts, a billboard, a new logo, business cards, and pens!”

The rhythm most churches are in for promoting an event is:

  1. A ministry leader or pastor tells the communications team what they want, how they want it, where they want it shared, and when they need it by.
  2. The communications leader or team takes this work order and attempts to complete the project exactly as requested.

Most conversations about promoting a ministry focus on the “what” before identifying the “why”.

When this happens, the communications team turns into a service department instead of a ministry.

This model is broken. What’s missing is that we need ministry leaders and communication leaders to partner together to more effectively communicate to the church.

Yes, we desperately need the vision, direction and expertise of the ministry leader to capture what they’re trying to accomplish through an event and to better understand the audience they’re trying to reach. However, we also need communication leaders to use their gifts to clarify that vision and effectively communicate it to your church.

How can a communications team partner with ministries instead of becoming a service department?

Continue Reading »

10 Free Or Cheap Ideas To Promote Christmas At Your Church

Christmas is coming! That fact means you’re probably reacting in one of two ways.

1) You’re rushing to find your favorite Christmas album or playlist to get in the Christmas spirit, or 2) You’re already getting anxiety over how stressful the Christmas season will be.

No matter how you feel, we can all agree that Christmas provides a great opportunity for the church to connect and engage our congregations and communities.

What’s it going to take to reach more people at your church this year at Christmas?
It takes a plan.

Unfortunately, the typical church I talk with doesn’t start thinking about their Christmas plans until they get back in the office after Thanksgiving. That leaves little time to strategically communicate how people can worship with you at Christmas.

Think about it this way for promoting Christmas this year at your church….You can have it fast, cheap or great, but you can only pick two.

Some of the most successful promotional efforts I’ve executed with my church have been on less than $500. You can get further with a strategic plan on little or no budget than others might get with thousands.

Here are a few cheap or free ideas that you could use this year to promote Christmas. Continue Reading »

Dear Senior Pastor

Dear Senior Pastor,

I’ll cut to the chase, because I know your time is short you’ve got a lot on your plate. If you’d be willing to give me a few minutes, I’d love to share my heart with you about what I see as one of the problems we need to solve in the church. I want to get a position on your radar, if you haven’t been able to address it already.

Before I get any further, I want to express to you how much I appreciate what you do. My dad was a Senior Pastor for 30+ years, and I saw first hand the challenges and tole that ministry can take. I’m in ministry today because of people like you faithfully serving the mission of Jesus Christ. Thank you for what you do.

At the end of the day, I know that you want to see lives changed and people reached for the Gospel. We have the greatest message to communicate in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You’d think that with all the new methods we have to communicate now, that it would be easier than ever to communicate that message, right? Unfortunately, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The church doesn’t have a message problem. We have a communications problem.

Since it’s easier than ever for anyone to communicate their message, there is more noise than ever. It’s becoming harder and harder for your message to get noticed in a noisy world.

Everything we do as a church communicates.

Every sermon, announcement, sign, handout, website, event or social media post communicates something. Everything we communicate has potential to add to or take away from your ability to communicate your message as a church. If you’re like the typical church that I speak to, you’re probably discontent with the engagement or response you’re getting and want to be more effective in reaching people in your congregation and community.

So what can you do about this communications problem?

Continue Reading »

Should Your Church Be On Snapchat?

Should your church be on Snapchat?
My answer is different today than it was a few months ago.

I’m usually an early adopter when it comes to new technology or social media platforms. Like many people, when I started hearing about Snapchat, I quickly downloaded the app to check it out.

I quickly discovered two things about Snapchat:
1) The interface is terrible. 2) I feel old.

I spent 20 minutes just trying to figure out how to use Snapchat. But here’s what was making me feel so old. The younger guys on my creative team LOVE Snapchat. They’re on it far more than any other social media platform. And to be honest, I just didn’t understand why! I didn’t see what purpose this could serve for me or our church.

How is it that a platform like Snapchat has over 150 million people using it each day? How is it that this has become the platform of choice for millennials?

Being the stubborn man that I am, I decided to fight through the initial resistance and try to figure it out. I needed to understand what it is about Snapchat that is resonating with so many people. And perhaps, I just wanted to feel young again…

So after using Snapchat actively for a week, my opinion dramatically changed about the use and potential of this platform. I truly believe Snapchat is a game changer for social media and it could be a game changer for your church.

Here’s what makes Snapchat different

Continue Reading »

The 4 Questions Every Great Story Answers

Many years ago, before I was a creative arts pastor, I got my start in creative ministry as “the video guy.” At the time, that meant that I mostly creating highlight videos from camps or mission trips. Honestly, it didn’t take a whole lot of skill to do what I was doing. I would just film moments that were happening on the trips, edit out the bad stuff, keep the good stuff, throw some music under the footage and call it a day.

Once I wrapped up a few highlight videos, the pastor I was working with shared that he needed some help in making some testimony videos. As the video guy, this is where I came in. However, there was one small issue… I knew how to hit record, make things look descent in the camera and make highlight videos, but I didn’t have the first clue about how to tell a story.

Nobody ever taught me anything about that. I never had anyone teach me about what makes some stories memorable and other stories forgotten.

What I had to learn and discover the hard way is that effective storytelling isn’t as simple as hitting the record button.
It’s more than just picking out the right camera, or buying the right editing software. It’s about tapping into the power of storytelling.

It took me awhile to learn that the effectiveness of your video is far more dependent on how you’re crafting the story than it is on what equipment you use or budget you have. If it was all about the budget and equipment, you would think films like Battleship (where they had an estimated $220 million budget) would have been the best movie of the year. Turns out, if the story isn’t compelling, it doesn’t matter how great the equipment or budget is.

That’s great news for many churches out there! Stories play a crucial role in our churches today, just as they have since the beginning of time. It was Jesus’ chosen method of teaching as He did throughout scripture with parables.

If we can become more effective as storytellers, we have an opportunity to create compelling videos that are effective for our churches. Continue Reading »

What I learned from my one month sabbatical

During the month of April, I did something I haven’t done since Middle School. I had a whole month off with no work responsibilities. I had a one month sabbatical.

Where I serve at West Ridge Church, we take staff health very seriously. So much so that our Pastors and Directors are given a 1 month sabbatical after serving for 5 years, and a 2 month sabbatical after 10 years. This paid time away is provided for spiritual refreshment and professional growth. It’s a reset button so desperately needed for a life in ministry.

So on April 1st, I removed my email and calendar from my phone and computer and kicked off a month like I had never experienced before. During the month, I:

  • Spent a weekend with my wife exploring Savannah, GA
  • Soaked up all the extra time with my 16 month old son, Ethan
  • Did a whole bunch of yard work…
  • Went to New York for the first time, attended the filming of the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and saw the incredible sights of a city that energizes and inspires me
  • Spoke at a communications conference in San Antonio
  • Retreated to the mountains for a few days of quiet time, writing, and dreaming for the season ahead

I’ve walked away from this month feeling rested and energized for the season ahead of me. I’m so thankful for our Senior Pastor and Elders who have set a tone for staff healthiness.

If you’re a senior church leader, I think you should consider doing this for your staff. Here’s why:

Continue Reading »

The Authenticity Generation

We have a “Millennial” problem in the church. Statistics and attendance are showing that Millennials are leaving or not connecting to the church at higher rates than ever before. Meanwhile, churches across the country are trying to find the best new tactics for reaching young people.

So what can churches do to reach this Millennial generation? Is it a new program or service? Is it adding some cool moving lights or starting new social media accounts? Maybe it’s just copying what the biggest church in town is doing?

Here’s the issue.

In an effort to reach Millennials, many churches violate the foundation that will make them effective. That foundation is authenticity.

Some call the young generation of 18-34 year olds “Millennials.” I just call them the authenticity generation. From an early age, this generation has been constantly bombarded by messages and marketing from businesses, organizations, politicians and churches.

Here’s the superpower that this generation was born with: they can sniff out whether you’re being authentic or not. They know when you’re just trying to sell something to them, get something from them, or be someone that they aren’t. This superpower is what draws them to certain organizations or people, and what turns them away from others. The current political landscape in 2016 is a testament to this power of authenticity.

So what does this mean for the church? Continue Reading »

Quit Doing Announcements

I’m gonna go ahead and put this out there… I hate announcements.

The very mention of the word brings back memories of being stuck in a pew, listening to someone read from a bulletin for 15 minutes about everything on the church calendar that week.

Growing up in the church, I can’t remember a time where I’ve heard someone say, “Wow, those announcements were powerful today.”

That presents a challenge for us as the church. We have life-changing opportunities for people to take advantage of, but they are often getting tuned out, ignored or forgotten during the typical announcement time.

Churches are making the dangerous assumption that if it’s important to us, it must be important to the audience. We assume if it’s announced from the stage, it’s remembered in the seats. Reality is, that’s just not the case. Continue Reading »

Might Be Time To Quit Your Job

Wanna know the most surprising thing I discover when talking to people working on a church staff? The biggest source of disunity and conflict often lies between the Senior Pastor and creative team.

Creatives often find themselves feeling under-appreciated, overwhelmed and ill-equipped to do their job well. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “my pastor/boss just doesn’t get it.”

On the other hand, I hear consistently from Pastors that they feel like creatives only care about their work and not how it fits into the church as a whole. They don’t feel the support, don’t give the benefit of the doubt to leadership, and are rarely happy with what they have.

Here’s the bottom line if you’re working on a creative team (or anywhere on a church staff):
If you can’t support the Pastor and the vision and mission of your church, go find another job. Seriously.

If you’re working on a church staff, you probably find yourself in one of three situations:

Continue Reading »

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