Every congregation faces the same challenge of facilitating an engaged community outside of the four walls of the church building – whether that be during the COVID-19 restrictions or in any normal season.
We’re all seeking to build a sense of family and clearly communicate important messages, not just for 90 minutes on Sunday, but every single day.
While Facebook is not new to 85% of the world, how your church is using it, and the necessity to embrace new ways of creating community and pastoring your people, may cause you to lift your intentionality during this unique season.
If you’re not convinced yet – consider the time, cost and privacy legalities of other forms of mass-communication, such as email and SMS, and the lack of engagement they produce.
So let’s take a look at a free Facebook strategy that utilises the combination of Pages, Groups and Learning Units – all native features within Facebook’s platform – and the best part is, it’s all easy to setup and zero cost!
Your Church or Campus’ Facebook Page exists as the front-porch of your online Facebook community. It will be accessible by everyone and the first thing people see when they search for your church or campus on Facebook.
We utilise this space for things like highlighting information or announcements from leadership, providing messages of encouragement and giving general Campus-related updates.
You may already have this set up…
If your Page is the “porch”, then a Facebook Group is your “living room”, so within a Church/Campus Page we create Groups.
These Groups are Private but Visible (that’s important!) which allows the leaders of the Group to responsibly steward the people who are able to join. People who’ve liked your Page will see that the Group exists and ask to join, and existing members of the Group (i.e. your congregation) can invite their friends to join.
One of the key benefits of a Group is that you can ask a number of questions about the person and their reason for joining the group prior to granting access. This information is invaluable when you consider how you might choose to pastor them.
For example, if a new group member indicated they’ve been attending your church for five years but no one has ever connected with them before, your conversation will be very different from someone who indicates they’ve just moved in to the neighbourhood and found your church online. You simply don’t have this kind of information for those that just ‘Like’ your Page.
You can also present Group members with the Code of Conduct for being part of the Group – helping to create a healthy and inclusive culture from the outset. You can appoint a number of moderators (Facebook term for leader) to help with this process and make people feel welcome. This essentially creates a database of your congregation you now can freely communicate to, as often as desired.
This strategy can go even further by creating more Groups for specific communities. For example, your Campus’ Facebook Page might have a Group for all the Small Group Leaders so you can create communication pathways directly to these groups and even hold training over Facebook Live (or links to other software) that are accessible anywhere.
Larger churches may even want to create Groups for each service time they offer in cases where people identify their “community” around a particular service time (e.g. Sunday 9am service).
Before we move on, the real power of Groups is in Facebook’s algorithm they instituted a couple years ago.
Facebook wants it to be a place for community and has tailored the platform to promote activity within Groups to the top of people’s Feeds.
While companies and organisations spend fortunes on promoting their Page’s messaging to be visible in user’s Feeds, Group members will see the majority of new activity organically each time they’re scrolling their Feed (they don’t even have to enter the Group!).
That’s why creating Groups for your Church or Campus unlocks a whole new level of effectiveness than simply relying on a Page.
Finally, Learning Units is a fantastic tool that creates sequential, modular content releases that you can schedule for release within your Groups. Imagine them as being perfect for an ongoing devotional or Bible study. They could even be used for running volunteer training or a new-to-faith course.
How fantastic to have the these resources so accessible and in a place where people are already looking, sometimes multiple times a day.
All of this is a work in progress for us at Hillsong Church. We believe that harnessing the opportunity within Facebook, to better connect with our people at this time, will create lifelines for those in need and enhance our ability to communicate with our church as we look forward to when we can meet again physically.