Sustaining Change through Social Media
by Kathye Hamm
One of the silver linings of the pandemic is it has given us an opportunity (or no choice) about change. This prolonged challenge has impacted our faith communities especially in terms of relationship building, formation and social ministries, and while so many congregations have risen to the challenge, there is still a lot we can learn about how to respond to our situation creatively. Updating our knowledge is a must, even amidst the information overload and zoom fatigue. In fact, the Witness Discipling Team just concluded a series of six 90-minute Online Worship and Ministry webinars with some of our leaders who requested it, especially among our new starts. Beyond the technical tips, there are adaptive information or solutions worth sharing. Along with other Directors for Evangelical Mission, we recently learned from a congregation that described themselves as a gathered and scattered church, with mission communities around their neighboring cities. Their situation is one of church reimagining what it means to be a church, both organized and organic, in a scattered and distant context. We heard from their Lead pastor and their resident “Social Media Ninja” ( I really love that title), who is the founder of SocialManna. I found this information fascinating. You may already know about it, but here’s some of what I learned for adaptive social media tips:
- Know the key message you want to impart by starting with these questions:
- What is your story? From this story, ask questions like what sets you apart from others. And from this story use your social media platform, be able to communicate: we relate to you, we understand you, to those who encounter you on social media. This is an inclusive strategy, trying to include others in your story. What does an inclusive communication strategy look like using your unique story as a faith community?
- Who is your audience? One of the observations that came from the Social Media Ninja is that most churches use social media platforms for their members, rather than the wider community. How can you communicate beyond your members?
- How are you speaking to them? Communicating to the community rather than your members would mean we wouldn’t use insider language, as the larger community does not know anything or a lot about your congregation.
- Being Seen
In the new normal of not being able to see each other in person as often as we want, social media is very important to be continued to be “seen” and show our care and love. It is important to be reminded that because we are operating as a volunteer centered community, we need to be careful how much time (and resources) we can invest and do what we choose to do really well. Of course, we have faith communities who have more resources, but it is important to know that consistency, having a solid strategy and guidelines, time to learn the best practices about the selected platform and implement them, maximizing the use of the platform tools and capacity, and finally consistency, consistency, consistency (ironically to the point of even religiously!) – all of these require time and energy. Understanding an algorithm is important too as it will affect the reach of your message! Can you believe that an angry emoji is a negative point? Adapting to this new language of social media is needed to impart the message of hope, grace, and love – it has been important but more especially now. I really admire and inspire our leaders who continue to open themselves to the work of the Holy Spirit in transforming them and those around them for the sake of the gospel.
This short article can’t possibly capture all of what I have learned from my fellow pastors in the synod who presented at the recent webinars and from the Social Media Ninja. Their dedication to connect and build relationships through social media platforms is so inspiring. I also know that you may be turned off by marketing strategies, and the challenging ethics and justice issues in using technology and the lure of capitalism are also needed. I wonder how we can use social media to build love and justice. Can you imagine how all the change we are experiencing could sustain our community into the future? May our collective message of hope in Christ sustains all of us in this changing times.
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