Happy new year!
I don’t know about you, but it feels like my 2018 was a blur. So much happened in my life as well as the world of church communications, it’s hard to really categorize what actually took place.
So, Facebook struggled to be honest about everything, inexplicably shocking us all to know that our data wasn’t that private after all. Then the creators of Instagram walked out of Instagram with just one finger in the air to the company they built but no longer recognize. Meanwhile, I was discovering that you can advertise on Waze for nearly nothing and get a lot of traffic! See what I did there?
But where are we going in 2019? I see a few trends coming this year that may or not materialize, but nonetheless, they are big possibilities this year that you may want to at least prepare for. Where traffic isn’t an issue because where we’re going, we don’t need roads.
Here’s what I see coming in the world of church communications in 2019…
YouTube is no Longer a Sermon-Hosting Solution
In the past, churches have used YouTube as a place to simply upload their sermon after the service so that they could share it on social media or host an embed on their website’s on-demand page. Well, last night Darth Vader came down from planet Vulcan and told me that if we didn’t try some new things out with YouTube that he would melt my brain.
In 2019, churches are going to start finding more uses for YouTube, creating content for discipleship, evangelism, or just plain fun in order to…I hate to say “reach more people” because that carries connotations…but get in front of more people you normally wouldn’t.
Videos like how to study the Bible or what to do when your kids say they think they’re attracted to the same sex will be something many churches will begin using YouTube for. And it will be scarier, messier, harder, ministry than they’ve ever done before because if you’ve ever been to the comments section of a YouTube video, the Hate Trolls there are the biggest and meanest. They are Westboro Baptist Church size there and you’ll need to go in prepared.
Facebook Groups will be a Thing
Groups will be a primary way that many segments of people in your church will begin to interact, fostering events, relationships, and meetups IRL. I’ll be blogging a lot more about Facebook groups in the future, so stay tuned for that.
*In fact, join my Facebook group and we can talk about it now and all the live-long day.
Social will Become a Means, Not an End
Right now, many of us are so focused on getting interactions and engagement on social media, we may be missing the bigger picture. Social media is simply a step in a few different systems such as discipleship, evangelism, and mainly, connections.
Churches that understand that social media interaction is important will thrive, but those who understand that it is a step toward face to face (even if that’s over video chat) interactions, will explode.
Whether you’re asking them to show up to something or just saying “Hey! Look over here!” church communicators will need to have an end target in mind. At least be better than Movie Pass.
One to One > One to Many
The largest platforms for social media have algorithms that make it nearly impossible to reach a wide audience without putting ad dollars behind it. Email open rates (even the good ones) are only around 20-25%. While we need to keep at it on those platforms, we also need to pay attention to what’s happening around us.
Snapchat and WhatsApp are hanging around with Messenger and fringe apps like TikTok on their tail. They may not seem like real major players because these are one to one platforms, unlike the one to many platforms like Facebook and Instagram. However, there’s a reason they are still growing steadily among young people.
One to one messaging will become even more important this year as people are bombarded with thousands and thousands of marketing messages from the usual platforms. They will seek escape to these other places.
Churches will have to find a way to exist in a more personal, one to one, way on social media in 2019 to make the biggest impact. You may even have to start a team and share the load. It’s honestly the only way I get things done for our church. I have a few people watching Messenger for me in case I miss something urgent.
Maybe the church’s main goal online shouldn’t be to reach as many people as it can, but to reach the ones it can in a meaningful way?
Still won’t be a thing. They just don’t get it here. But I’m not a big Twitter guy and neither is our church, so no big deal right now. Your move, Twitter. Prove me wrong.
Something New Will Rise in Church Communications
I know that’s vague and unclear, but with algorithms, data breaches, and the overcomplicated backend of Facebook Business Manager, we’re eventually going to get fed up. I know GenZ’ers are.
Something big and unexpected is going to rise up this year, I can feel it. It may be small or even an offshoot of something we already know but look for that social app you think is the stupidest thing you’ve ever seen that gains a head of steam with high school and college students.
Then get your church’s username secured before one of the other 1000 churches with called Faith/Hope/Community/Bible Church gets it. You can do it. If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.
We’ll Have to get Creative
We’ve heard “put all your money in Facebook ads” for so long now, we may be finally coming out of our trance to realize there are other places to put our ad dollars that may actually yield some pretty great results.
Waze, Yelp, Messenger, Reddit, and Pinterest are all virtually untapped platforms that offer advertising capabilities and I literally hear NO ONE talking about them. I may be one of the only dudes on Pinterest actually pinning stuff. I searched for churches on Pinterest the other day and found about 50. Sound like a lot to you? It isn’t.
What was that old phrase about the one basket and where to put your eggs? Facebook is packed, those other five really aren’t.
Here are my Pinterest boards you may find interesting, btw.
It’s All About the Week
A church leader at a large church once told me that everything they did was all about the weekend. The staff even had a catch phrase for when things they wanted to do were turned down that would have been outside the weekend: It’s all about the weekend, stupid.
In 2019, the weekend will become less and less important to churchgoers. Attendance is already under twice a month for someone who considers themselves to be “regulars.” Churches who have leadership that are being honest are starting to understand the implications of that.
I think that in 2019, more churches will begin to divert resources from the weekend experience to beef up their weekday and online efforts each week. I think this will be the slowest trend to materialize due to the church’s historical resistance to change, but forward-thinking leaders will begin making moves now because their focus isn’t on keeping a model but reaching a people the best way they can.
This shift only comes, of course, because communicators are making the case for it when and where they can. If a system were broken, it wouldn’t take much to convince someone to change. But if the system is working but could just work better, there’s the challenge. It’s the difference between plutonium and Mr. Fusion.
What do you see coming in 2019? Think I’m off my rocker somewhere? Let me know in the comments. As for me, I’m going to make like a tree and get out of here.