An introduction to Facebook for Churches

I am running a workshop for Bradford Diocese on Monday entitled ‘Social Media for the Scared‘. Some of the delegates asked if I could come with some examples of the use of social media by churches. I realised that it’s quite hard to find churches on Facebook and so put out a request on Twitter for some examples. I have now started quite a list which I have decided to put on this page here. If you would like to add your church to the list, please email the link to me.

Facebook is actually quite a ‘religious’ place – the members reflect our wider society and hearteningly, the  most popular Facebook page in the whole world is The Jesus Daily! Use of religious language in status updates (that’s when you’re sharing something on Facebook) results in more positive engagement.

Why should churches use Facebook?

  • 1 in 3 people you meet have a Facebook profile! Scary isn’t it?!
  • Over 50% of UK pensioners are on Facebook – it’s not an exclusively ‘young’ thing any more.
  • If Facebook were a country it would be the 3rd largest in the World!

These statistics change the tone somewhat of Jesus’ great commission to go to the ‘ends of the earth’!

Put simply – Facebook is where people are, that’s where the church should be.

What could a church do with Facebook?

  • The first thing to note about Facebook as with all social media is that it is a communication tool. Just as you will have a church magazine, newsletter and noticeboard – these things can be replicated on Facebook.
  • Connect with people on the edges of the church
  • Organise events and meetings
  • Publicise the work of the church
  • Engage in fundraising
  • Have another presence online which boosts your church website’s SEO (Search Engine Optimisation – this is how high up you come in a Google search)

What you need to know before getting stuck in:

Facebook is made up of:

  • Profiles (individual people’s profiles) – a profile is a personal account, you make friends with other people who have a profile
  • Pages (for organisations, businesses, brands and celebrities) – all pages are public, when you are logged in to Facebook you can ‘like‘ a page to show you appreciate that organisation and would like to keep informed of what’s happening (clicking ‘like’ on a Facebook page is a bit like giving your email address to a company or filling in a ‘welcome card’ at the back of church to share your contact details!)
  • and Groups (for focused discussion and engagement on a particular topic – these can be private or open). Groups are useful for small groups of people who are working on one particular thing – so a worship team in a church might use a Group in Facebook to communicate. Groups aren’t particularly flexible in Facebook so they’re better for more internal organisation than engaging with people outside of the church.

It is against Facebook’s terms and conditions for an organisation to create a profile (ie an account people can be ‘friends’ with). If you have created such an account for your church, firstly – well done for getting involved in Facebook! Secondly, don’t worry, you can convert your profile into a page and Facebook will convert all your friends into ‘fans’ (ie. people who ‘like’ your page). I have written a guide for converting your profile into a page here. It’s well worth converting a profile into a page anyway as you’ll have a lot more flexibility for engaging with people as a page than you would have as a profile.

You need a Facebook account (profile) to create a page but, and this is important, you can keep your Facebook page and your personal account completely separate from each other. No one will know who manages each Facebook page and you can have a number of people managing a Facebook page at once.

What to do before you create a Facebook page for your Church:

  • Find out who in your church is already on Facebook – if you have some enthusiasts it would be a great idea to get them to create and manage your Facebook page – a current user will understand Facebook well and be able to get people on board
  • Search Facebook to see if anyone has already created a page or group connected to your church (you can contact Facebook if you are concerned that something is incorrect)
  • Nominate a person or team to manage the Facebook page. It’s no good creating a page and then leaving it. That would be like putting a landline into your church and then never picking up the phone when it rings! If you can’t find anyone to look after a Facebook page for your church, then don’t create one.
  • Consider the focus of your page, you may decide that rather than creating a Facebook page for your church it would be better to create one for one of your ministries, perhaps your Alpha Course, Parenting clubs, Over 60s (why not?!), Mother’s Union etc. You can create pages that link to your main page so if yours is a large church you could have a page for your church with a page for an Alpha Course connected to it. I, for example, made this page for a Wedding Fayre we ran at our church.

Once you’ve created a Facebook page, remember the following:

  • When you have over 25 fans (ie. 25 people have clicked the ‘like’ button on your page) claim your username (go to ‘edit page’ and ‘basic information’) – this is so you can have a personal URL for your page eg. facebook.com/yourchurch instead of the default series of numbers you get.
  • Put links and the Facebook logo on your posters, noticeboard, church newsletter, magazine etc – tell everyone you’re there!
  • Put a link from your website homepage direct to your Facebook page. If you have a wordpress site – add a Facebook ‘like’ box.
  • Add your Facebook link to your email signature if you’re clergy or an administrator.
  • Encourage visitors to go to your Facebook page – once they click ‘like’ on your page, they will get regular updates from your page whenever they login to Facebook!
  • Don’t be too self-involved – don’t use your page just to broadcast – use it to have conversations and support people – aim to have 20% of the content you talking and 80% of the content other people talking. Feel free to share interesting news stories, blog posts and videos from elsewhere on the internet – it doesn’t all have to be about you!
  • Plan your content for your page – create a calendar and put in what events are coming up for you and events in national life (such as the Olympics) and then have a think about what you could share – a photo, video, blog article, event. Plan it ahead so that in a quiet month you’ve still got something to say! You can use a tool such as Hootsuite to schedule posts ahead of time (if you’re on holiday for example).
  • Always respond to a comment on your page. You can delete unsavoury comments, don’t worry!
  • Make sure you’re aware of Facebook’s terms and conditions for pages – read a summary here.

So that’s a quick overview. Do get in touch if you need some help setting up a Facebook page or troubleshooting issues on a page. You can subscribe to my personal Facebook timeline here: http://facebook.com/vahva.

What tips would you have for churches using Facebook? Please add them in the comments below.

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11 thoughts on “An introduction to Facebook for Churches

  1. About six months ago, my rector came to me and asked me to manage our parish’s social media. This is really a helpful blog post, Bryony. When we started, we didn’t have a clear vision of what we needed to actually do with the page other than promote events, and I still need to tie down our creative and marketing people into coffee shop chairs and ask for their ideas (I don’t have complete editorial freedom like I do with my own faith-based page) and style guidelines. I hope we can get a really helpful FB and Twitter presence going very soon!

    • Glad you found it helpful Karin. I think one way to think about FB and Twitter content is to see it like an old fashioned church magazine. I would argue that being involved in church social media is the new ‘Parish Magazine Editor’. What you want is a combination of funny stories, puzzles, thoughts from the vicar, reviews of books etc. All this can be put out through social media! All the best with your FB and Twitter stuff and let me know if I can help in any way!

  2. A great introduction.

    Regarding unsavoury comments: it totally depends on the nature of the comment, but deleting is not always the best approach. If you delete a comment then the poster may take that as unfair and it could reinforce a negative view of the church/faith. In some cases your community will counter the negative comment with positive ones of their own. In others someone from the leadership may need to address the comment themselves.

    I speak from personal experience where I moderate a Facebook group and have had some lengthly discussions over how to handle negative, personal or inappropriate comments.

    I don’t want to put people off but it should be something that you’re prepared to deal with, and it’s worth thinking about what your comment-handling policy is up-front.

    Good work though, I’ll be bookmarking this for future reference!

    • Thanks Ross, you’re absolutely right. Because this is an introductory post I couldn’t go into detail about monitoring policies etc and just wanted to let people know that it is possible to delete things people put on Facebook (as this is often a concern people have).

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  7. Bryony,
    Those are some excellent points to get churches started on Facebook in an effective way. Many pastors and churches I find have no idea how to leverage Facebook to create an authentic and effective online ministry. I actually have a blog focused on creating effective online ministry called “DigiAspire”. While most of my readers and clients are based in the US and particularly the United Methodist Church, I’d like to link to your post as a resource for my readers who are getting started building their online ministry presence on Facebook. I’ll send you a link when I get it up. For now though, I do have a post which might interest your readers. I’ve compiled a quick list of 20 different types of content a church can use on social media to connect to their communities: http://digiaspire.com/engageyourcongregation

    Meanwhile keep up the good work and I’ll make sure to add your feed to my Google reader list! Keep up the good work! God Bless!

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