On October 4, 2021, Facebook, the largest social network in the world went offline for the bulk of the day.
The company lost around $7 Million…or was it Billion? Honestly, at that amount, who cares except those who lost it? It was more than you or I will ever possess at one time combined.
So, church communicators and pastors, what lesson did we learn?
Well, rather than make you read all the way to the bottom for the answer like a recipe blog, I’m going to tell you the lesson and then explain why.
Churches need to DIVERSIFY everything they are doing to be effective.
You can’t rely on one platform for everything. It’s an age-old lesson that we’ve traded in for ease and comfort and on Monday, we saw the flaw in our strategy. But did we see everything?
In this case, churches need to diversify their communication channels.
When Facebook servers or DNS records go down, it takes your Page, your Groups, your Instagram feed/stories/reels, and WhatsApp with it. I know many of us in the church world have most of our eggs in the Facebook basket with Instagram as the afterthought/middle child of social media, where we post the same content from Facebook. Then we host our sermon messages on YouTube and that’s our social media strategy.
Why is this a big deal? Because many churches think that their FB page is a PRIME avenue for communicating INFO to their people.
It’s not. It’s one of the worst for that, actually.
Groups are one of the most effective ways to communicate info with your people, but many are not using groups. Here are a few blogs and podcasts to help you get started on that. But alas, you’re still using FB.
Churches that are excellent communicators in the future will understand that your email list/texting list and website are the most important digital channels next to a one-to-one personal invite.
After that, search, SEO, Google Ads, and YouTube are most helpful for finding new people. After that, Facebook ads. After that, it’s all a wash with your regular FB/IG posts. And I look for Twitter to start making a comeback in the church world too since it’s the platform everybody goes to when one of the others falls apart.
Social media is all about creating conversations and meaningful connections. However, with the recent whistleblower interview on 60 minutes that confirmed what most of us already suspected, we may want to rethink our “game the algorithm” strategies and start using social media for ministry, not advertisement. Perhaps our focus on numbers, likes, shares, etc has led us to encourage negative behaviors. Instead, maybe we should ignore the algorithm and just try to flood the feeds with positive reinforcement and try to disciple our followers, tackling the big issues, and just being helpful instead of always asking “what’s in it for us?”
Maybe we should practice and encourage a social media Sabbath every Saturday? Where we don’t post or respond on social as a church and we encourage our people to do the same. It’s a thought.
The lesson is the same
But the lesson to diversify has been shouted at us for the last 2 years. It’s no different than what I believe God was trying to tell us in March of 2020. As the pandemic started to ramp up, we were revealed to have become too reliant on our programming, buildings, and in-person “experiences” for ministry. We discovered how difficult it was to “go and tell” when we had practiced for the better of two decades an “attract and serve” approach.
We were forced to diversify where we thought ministry could occur and how we could reach people. It’s sad to me to see so many churches fighting and clawing their way back to the previous way things were, even at the expense of the health and safety of their people. Last I checked, Jesus named his followers “sheep,” and they’ll follow each other over a cliff if a shepherd doesn’t step in and direct them.
We also had to look at the need to diversify our representation at the highest levels of leadership in our churches. From age to ethnicity to economic backgrounds and more, we realized that having people in leadership that all look the same makes for easy decision-making but is not a guarantee for great decisions.
Diversifying means discomfort
Which leads me to the biggest roadblock for diversifying your communication, leadership, strategies, representation, or anything else: It’s uncomfortable.
It’s hard to have multiple communication channels that you’re doing well, (I could write a whole other blog on how the definition of “well” has drastically changed) but if our goal is to reach and minister to people through the tools we have available, then social media is just a tool.
- our best foot forward
- a representation of our church
- a way to increase our attendance
- a means to gain clout among other churches
It’s a tool to do a job.
So, what’s the job you’re trying to do with social media? If it’s sharing information, inviting people to things, and trying to get people to church, you probably freaked out a little bit when Facebook crashed. Unless you were paying for ads…
If you’re trying to do ministry, then you probably didn’t panic too bad. You probably just pivoted to your Twitter, email, youtube, or texting list for the day. Or you probably just said “Oh well, I guess we can’t post today. Let’s just post what we had planned tomorrow or when it comes back up.”
Because when Facebook (or any social media network) goes down, it’s actually less like your church was closed and couldn’t communicate and more like the local coffee shop was closed today and you need to find a different place to meet your friends for coffee.