Friday, 25 June 2010
By Justin at BeDeviant
When I presented at Faith Lift earlier this month on the digital pastorate, I met two types of people:
- Those who were overwhelmed with what I was presenting.
- Those who were eating it up.
While the second group is important, the first group matters most to me. Digital ministry can be absolutely paralyzing. “Where do I start? How do I maintain my efforts? Who do I get permission from?” One of my goals is to make digital ministry less debiliating and more invigorating. Make it accessible to all.
Coincidentally, reader Eric asked this question recently:
What would you recommend to the small church pastor as an approach to get started [with an online ministry] and to be able to fold it into their daily efforts?
I thought I’d address it here so anyone else who was wondering the same might benefit. Below is a list of five tools that can get you and your church or ministry started down the path of digital ministry. These aren’t all the tools, but this will give you a good starting point to leverage for later and more complex efforts.Twitter
It’s first for a reason. More so than any other social medium, Twitter has the pulse of what people in your area are talking about. If you haven’t already signed up, please do yourself (and your ministry) a favor and do it! If you’re still wondering what Twitter is all about, here’s a great video that spells it out in plain English. Sign-up, start tweeting and use Twitter’s search feature to find people in your area. Find out what people in your community are talking about. Follow everyone within a 15 mile radius. Invite them to be a part of what you’re doing, but not before you take the time to listen.
Chris Brogan suggests a 12-to-1 ratio on Twitter: For every one link of your own stuff you send out, match it with 12 links to other people’s stuff. This will keep you from being “that guy” on Twitter, the one (obnoxious) guy who is constantly promoting his own stuff. Ugh. Start small. Maybe one or two tweets per day. But do start. And stick with it. Six months down the road, you’ll be glad you did! (Oh, and don’t forget to follow me!)Facebook Fan Page
A fan page for your ministry or church is a must. Some churches are doing away with their traditional website altogether in favor of only having a fan page. I can’t say that I blame them! If you’re a small-town pastor or running things on tight budget, nothing says “do-able” like free! Plus, most people are already familiar with the user interface of Facebook. Win-win.
My church’s fan page serves as our online hub of activity. We update it everyday with a question, devotional thought, preview of the weekend or something that we think our people might get value from. As my senior pastor put it, our fan page serves as our “digital church bell,” alerting the community to whenever something noteworthy is going on!
Keep in mind, if you’re on staff at a church and you’re not in a “decision making” role, go ahead and start a page. Yes, that’s right. I’m giving you permission to bend the rules a little bit. We started our Facebook page on a whim and before long, we had over 3,500 people join in! That ministry doesn’t exist because it went through a billion miles of red tape. No, it was started with a tiny bit of initiative and BAM! A major online hub for our church was birthed. Plus, if you get in trouble after starting a fan page for your church, is that a place you really want to be at anyway? Get started here.Google Alerts
You used to have to buy the information that Google now gives you for free. Surf over to Google.com/Alerts (you might need to set up a Google account first) and type in your church or ministry name. Designate:
- Where you want Google to look for your phrase.
- How often you want them to look.
- Where you want them to send it to and your set.
Google will now tell you every time your phrase pops up on the web, on blogs, in the news or in discussions.
Why would you want to do this? I have Google alerts set up for our senior pastor (Mike Housholder), my church’s name, my name, and “social media ministry”. Not too long ago, I got an alert that someone had mentioned both Mike’s name and our church. I checked out the post and was able to clear up some, shall we say, misconceptions about our church with the post’s author. Clarity wins. Thank you very much, Google!
Use your creativity on what you could search for. Type in your city’s name plus the word “church.” Know what people are saying about your ministry. Get involved in the conversation. Thank people when they mention you in a post. The tools are there and they’re free!Tweetdeck
Simply put, Tweetdeck will keep you from losing your mind. Think of it as a social media train station: trains (data) coming in and out at all times. It’s got to be managed somehow! Tweetdeck is the way to go to keep you from being overwhelmed.
Tweetdeck lets you manage multiple Twitter accounts, administrate your Facebook fan page as well as manage Google Buzz, Foursquare, MySpace and LinkedIn. They’ve really outdone themselves with the latest update. My favorite gem of a feature has to be the ability to schedule tweets and fan page updates. If you’re a lone pastor, you can set aside a block of time at the beginning of the week and post updates for the whole week. That way your updates are on auto-pilot and all you need to do is interact with people throughout the week. Easy power.
Think of Tweetdeck as your personal social media manager. It manages your digital life so you don’t need to. Give it a shot. Plus, like the other resources here, it’s free.Wordpress
If you want to be a digital pastor, you need to have a blog. It’s that simple. You need to be contributing to the conversation by adding your voice.
- Your congregation wants to hear it.
- Your colleagues want to hear it.
- Your city needs to hear it.
Wordpress.com is the easiest way to get a blog started. With the most recent updates they’ve made, there’s nothing to stop you from creating a decent looking blog, all for free. It’ll take all of 30 minutes to set it up before you’re rocking the blogosphere. Find two or three topics that you like writing on and get to it. Keep your posts digestible (400-500 words) and use Tweetdeck to post it to your Twitter account and fan page. It’s really that easy. (Plus, if you ever want more flexibility you can transport over to a self-hosted Wordpress.org blog with ease.)Summing Up
In closing, these are steps that anyone can take. If you’re pastoring a church and don’t have the slightest clue where to start, use these easy steps and jump into the digital stream. You may flounder for a bit, but once you get your feet wet, you’ll get the hang of it in no time.
Of course, if you get tripped up along the way, feel free to email me at justin @ bedeviant . com. We can work through any problems you might have together. Anything to get you geared up for the digital ministry. Be careful out there, and have fun!