Does your church use Facebook? Should it? Learn how to best use Facebook as a tool for your congregation.
**The Great **
**In short: **Facebook is a great tool for communication within a church and community building.
(1) Communicating Within the Church: Facebook gives churches a great way to communicate between church members. The person who creates the church profile, the “Admin” and church members can share prayer requests, events, birthdays, questions and anything else they like on their church’s wall. Churches can either create “fan” pages where their members can join the page by liking the church’s fan page or group pages where church members can join the group.(2) **Community Building:**Facebook is a great place to post photos or videos from church events, start conversations amongst church members, post last Sunday’s sermon and have church members support one another by “liking,” “sharing,” and “commenting” on each other’s posts. It’s a great way to rally the church behind a certain cause or initiative (e.g. raising money for a mission trip.)
(3) **An example: **The Church of the Gateway here in NYC has used Facebook very effectively to share events, encouragements, sermons and photos. Check out their profile here: http://www.facebook.com/ChurchAtTheGateway?sk=wallThe Not-So-Great
In short: Facebook generally fails as a tool to bring new people into your church or as a public profile for your church. (1) **Facebook Search is not built for finding a church:**On Facebook, search is primarily text based. If you type in “church” for example you get a list that includes a church in North Carolina, Dallas, Seattle and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Needless to say, this is not helpful for someone who is looking for a new church in New York City. Get a little more specific and type in “NYC Church” and list gets a little more helpful, but only includes churches with the words “NYC” and “church” in their title. So if your church’s name is “First Street Fellowship” then the average person looking for a church on Facebook probably won’t ever find it. This leads to another problem. Because Facebook search doesn’t work very well, people don’t use it to find things. So even if you’re church’s name is NYC Church you’re not likely to receive too many new visitors via Facebook.
(2) Privacy Concerns: Churches who effectively use Facebook primarily use it for communication within their church, as discussed above. Facebook can be a great place for church members to encourage each other, share prayer requests and remind each other of events coming up. The problem is that if you make your Facebook profile completely public then it becomes a less effective place for your church members to communicate with each other. Church members are going to be less eager to share photos or personal prayer requests or engage in debates about church decisions if these discussions are going to be 100% public. (3) **Barriers to Entry: **Newcomers face a number of barriers to entry to engage with a church on Facebook. First, some folks still either don’t belong to Facebook and many who are involved rarely use it. Facebook just misses these folks. Additionally, to access a church’s wall a newcomer must “Like” the church. A “like” comes with a public affiliation on the newcomer’s wall. Perhaps the newcomer doesn’t want to make that public affiliation so early on in their search. Additionally, newcomers might not want to give the church access to their Facebook profiles because they want to keep certain information about themselves private.
FaithStreet’s advice: If you’ve found Facebook to help you communicate within your church, great! Keep it up. But if you feel like your community is already engaged without it and you really want to focus on outreach, it’s not the best use of your time. Instead, make sure your church at least has a very basic, cleanly designed web-page with the church’s name, contact information and service times prominently shown on the homepage. Pictures definitely help give your website a “welcoming” feel. And if there’s a section of your site that lists updates (news, events, blog posts), it’s essential to update these things regularly or else visitors to your site will think your church no longer exists. (Example: If your church’s last news update was from 2007, a newcomer to your website is going to think that your church folded in 2007.) And sign-up for FaithStreet, the only site specifically designed to help people find churches in NYC. If you’ve already done both of these things, contact faithstreet at faithstreet dot com for more advanced help.