Social Media and the Episcopal Church:
A New Way to Tell a 2,000-Year-Old Story
If your congregation is a typical one, you don’t spend a great deal of time or effort on your online presence. You probably have a website, but it may be little more than a static page that lists basic information suchas your church’s address, phone number, and scheduled services. Yet at a time when participation inorganized religious communities is declining across the board, you simply can’t afford not to create astrong online presence. It’s time to embrace the immediacy, intimacy, and warmth that the Web and socialmedia such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube can bring to the way you reach out and communicate withthe world—in particular, with people looking for a spiritual home.In this white paper, you will learn how social media can help you welcome new members to yourcommunity in a warm and deeply personal way, encourage participation in parish activities, and tightenthe social bonds of your congregation to build a stronger and more vibrant spiritual community. We provideyou with six best practices to give you an actionable guide for leveraging social media in today’s EpiscopalChurch. We also introduce you to an easy-to-use, affordable tool specically designed with the EpiscopalChurch in mind that will help you do all these things without requiring huge amounts of money or time.
BEST PRACTICE N. 1:
Too many churches jump headrst into designing their websites and Facebook pages without rstidentifying who they are. What is your unique personality? In what particular way do you hope to serveGod? What are your specic social or spiritual goals? The beauty of social media is that you can preciselytarget certain groups of people and strategize to fulll very specic objectives.First, try to see your church through the eyes of a stranger: what is its personality? There could be 12churches within a 10-mile radius, and yet each has its own unique characteristics: one has great music,another has a Latino Mass, another has strong missionand outreach programs. Once you identify your brand,you should then speak in the most authentic voicepossible—on your website, on Twitter, on Facebook,on any YouTube videos you post.“The very rst step is to gure out who you are as achurch, and then allow that to guide the technologies youembrace,” says Justin Wise, a social media expert withMonk Development, a company that specializes in churchwebsite design. He recently nished a consulting engagement for a church near Fort Worth, Texas, thatwanted to leverage social media to have a greater impact on issues of interest to the secular community,and to draw non-churchgoers into the congregation. From that goal, he was able to create a Twitter andFacebook campaign that served advertisements to people who searched on certain keywords within a20-mile radius of Fort Worth, and generated a tremendous amount of trafc to the church’s website thattranslated directly into increased attendance at Sunday services.
Make a list of the top ve programs that make your congregation unique (e.g., your church’s MOPs group, pre-school, or mission trip team). Create Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for each program, and delegate responsibility for each account to a member of your community who is active in that particular area.
YUR WEBSITE: TE fRNT R TEPISCPA CNgREgATINS
Key to attracting a new member to your congregationis that a “spiritual inviter” needs to make a personalrecommendation or referral.
Newcomers tothe Episcopal Church say that a key reason forchoosing an Episcopal congregation over otherreligious denominations is the warmth and openingwith which they are greeted.
“Our unconditionalwelcome seems to be a true differentiator,” says Anne Rudig, director of communications at theEpiscopal Church Center in New York City. “Peopleseem to seek us out at key moments of change intheir lives, and these moments of change—the birthof children, young adulthood and the assumptionof all its responsibilities, the empty nest—can beaccompanied by a spiritual awakening and seeking.” Yet increasingly, this spiritual invite begins online.People search for a church online because theywant to be assured they will like it before they setfoot inside. A full 77 percent of Christian churchgoersrecently surveyed said the website was “somewhatto very important” to their decision to attend theirchurch.
Even more—83 percent—said the websitewas “somewhat to very important” in motivatingthem to participate in church activities.
“It’s thesame message St. Paul preached 2,000 years agoin the marketplace at Corinth. Just via a differentmedium,” says Bill McGarvey, head of McG SocialMedia, a social media consulting rm in New York City, and the former editor-in-chief of BustedHalo.com. Jan Butter, the director of communications forthe Anglican Communion Ofce in London, agrees.“The vast majority of the Anglican community—60to 70 percent—is online,” he says. “And if we don’ttake advantage of that, we miss real opportunities todo what we are supposed to be doing with our faith,which is to be in communion with each other aroundthe world.”
1.Brandtrust on behalf of the Episcopal Church (2010), “Emotional Enquiry.”Research deliverable.2.Ibid.3.Goodmanson, Drew. “Website Wisdom: New Research, Cooperative Reveal BestPractices for Churches.” Your Church, Nov/Dec, 2009: 24-27. Retrieved fromhttp://essentialchurchplanting.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/websitewisdom.pdf.4. Ibid.
Increasingly, this spiritual invite begins online. People search for a church online because they want to be assured they will like it before they set foot inside.