Social media, as we now know it, has been around for less than 50 years. (I’ve only been around for 21 of them.) We can argue about where it all started, but there is no disputing the fact that 2004 changed social media forever. That’s when Facebook first launched on Harvard’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Since then, social media has significantly altered the daily lives of millions of people around the world. It’s hard to overstate the impact this new technology has had on society. As of January 2021, Facebook had over 2.7 billion active users. That’s 35% of the world population at the time. And that’s just one of the countless social media platforms around today.
Traditionally, the Church hasn’t always been great at adapting to shifting cultural trends. The truth is, this idea is a tension point for churches and church leaders. We are in the world, not of the world. Should we really pay much attention to what the culture around us is doing? Our message is timeless—the Gospel remains the same no matter where or when it is shared—but our methods for sharing and communicating the Gospel should adjust to the language of our time. The Apostle Paul said “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” This is not about compromising our beliefs, convictions, or values for the sake of culture. It is about using every means available to us to reach as many people as possible.
And in our current culture, there is no medium with greater potential for connecting with people than social media. 35% of the world’s population is actively engaged on Facebook. That’s saying nothing of YouTube (over 2.2 billion users), Instagram (over 1.2 billion users), TikTok (over 680 million users), and Twitter (over 350 million users). Just to name a few. Paul subverted all of the systems of the Roman Empire to accomplish his ministry and spread the Gospel. We can do the same with every system this world has to offer, using what may have been meant for evil to reach a lost and broken world.
With all of that in mind, here are two important questions to ask and answer about social media.
1. Why should we use it?
I think the information above is a pretty compelling argument for using social media in the Church. But let me give you a few more reasons why you should lean into the opportunity social media provides. I could tell you countless stories of people who have first connected with our church through social media. So often when I meet new people before or after a service and ask them how they found VOUS, they come back with the answer, I found you guys on Instagram. For years, churches have worked to connect with people outside of their four walls and compel them to come inside. Social media is a powerful way to find people who would never set foot in church and make them feel comfortable enough to reconsider.
Stories are powerful. You can use social media to put on display all that God is doing in your community. A picture is worth a thousand words. A video is worth a million. The posts you create and share do so much to give people an idea of who you are, what you’re all about, and what it’s like to attend your church. And they exist in a place where there is no pressure to participate or engage. Social media allows people to connect with you on their terms and in their timing. Here’s a quick story to help bring this idea to life.
Julia is a young girl who was living in Colombia. Isabela, another young woman living in Brazil, reposted a story VOUS had put up about our sermon collection “Restless.” Julia saw the post and clicked through to the message, which was on depression and suicide. She had never heard that topic covered in church before and was so encouraged by the sermon that she went on to listen to every talk in the collection. When the last message ended, she decided to give her life to Jesus. All because someone in another country who she had never met before shared a post on Instagram.
That’s why we use social media.
2. How should we use it?
I hope that story gets you excited for the stories, different in their details but consistent in their impact, that await you in the future. Now the obvious next question is, How do we use social media effectively? And there is no one answer to that question. That’s one of the beautiful and exciting things about using social media. The possibilities are endless. There is limitless room for creativity. How you use it will be a unique reflection of your church and the people you empower to lead in this space. But we do have a few tips we can offer to help you get started or go to the next level in your use of social media.
There are so many resources available on how to use social media effectively. One of the best starting points is the platforms themselves. Each platform provides resources on the tools they offer and the best practices for using them. There are also lots of third-parties who provide free and paid resources for improving in this area. Here are four apps that have been helpful to us.
Buffer - scheduling posts and generating analytics
InShot - easy video editing
VSCO - easy photo editing
Unum - previewing your feed before posting
Don’t just focus on growing a following, seek to engage with your audience and encourage interaction. Reply to comments and direct messages. Don’t just ask people to attend your church, provide them with helpful information, resources, and encouragement. Look for ways to repackage and repurpose content. A sermon can become a series of preaching clips—long or short, serious or funny—designed sermon quotes, tweets, application questions. Stretch yourself to see how many ways you can use the same content or concept. But don’t just post preaching clips and sermon quotes, put your community on display. Let people see the life of your church. Share stories and take prayer requests. Celebrate moments. Don’t worry about being deep or spiritual all the time. Sometimes, create something just because it’s fun and engaging. Lean into the possibilities of social media and watch as God surprises you with the results. He has called you to make an impact on people. So go for it.
You never know who you’re going to reach.