Social Media Plan 3: Interactivity

faviconThis post is the fourth in a series about developing a social media plan in a church or ministry. Read the Introduction, Part 1 Aim, Part 2 Connection.

Once you’ve established what the aim of the new social media is and who you’re trying to connect with, the third question for developing a social media plan is:

How interactive does this new social media need to be?

Do you need to juggle calendar dates with multiple people, get feedback from a specific event, spark new ideas, or just make sure everyone gets the same info? Will the church provide the content or do you hope the people you’re trying to connect with will?

If you’re looking for a way to make sure everyone knows what’s on the church calendar, there needs to be little interactivity. A static calendar or even a list of events on your website or Facebook account or emailed out once a week (or once a month) will suffice.

However, if you’re aiming for something else, you’ll probably need a more interactive type of social media. Here’s a quick breakdown of the major types of social media.

Website/Blog: great for information passing, can involve one or more of the other types of social media to make it more interactive

Social Networking: Facebook, LinkedIn, MeetUp, good for information passing and connection to people you already know or people who share common interests or similar jobs

Microblogs: Twitter, Tumblr, great for conversation and connecting with people outside of the specific church world

Wikis: Massive online gatherings of information, the most famous being Wikipedia but many other wikis exist to cover more specific information

Video Sharing: YouTube, great way to engage people of various learning styles by making and upload videos whether it’s simply the sermon from last Sunday or updates from a mission trip

Photo Sharing: Flickr, great way to have photos as a resource

Everything Sharing: Pinterest, Reddit, great for involvement from multiple people since you can make a board where multiple people can post anything from images to videos to blog posts

Podcasts: great way to take your church beyond the local community, can be audio or video as well as have PDF downloads, many churches are using podcasts so people can stream their services as well as devotional material

Forums: phpBB, discussion site where people have conversations in the form of posts and replies, great for feedback and discussion

Our example First Church of Cityville already has the first two steps in their social media plan. They are trying to encourage individual spiritual practices and connecting to members and regular attenders of the church. Now the question of how interactive this new social media needs to be. One of the pastors points out that people have different learning styles and different kinds of spiritual practices. Some prefer silent prayer, some scripture reading, some creation of art, some music, some historical practices, etc. They also want the members interacting not just with whatever spiritual practices are being encouraged but also with each other.

They decide a weekly blog or Podcast would be sufficient for guiding the new spiritual practices and a forum will be used so members can talk about their experiences and frustrations. There is also an agreement that a more traditional small group could be formed for those who do not want to use a forum but who do want to engage in conversation about their practices.

First Church of Cityville’s Social Media Plan
Step 1 (Aim): encouraging individual spiritual practices
Step 2 (Connection): members and regular attenders of the church
Step 3 (Interactivity): Blog or Podcast and a Forum for discussion

Social Media Plan 2: Connection

faviconThis article is the third in a series of developing social media practices in a church or ministry. Read the introduction and Question 1: Aim.

The second question when thinking about using a new social media for your church:

Who are you trying to connect with by using new social media?

Social media is a great way to connect with people, all kinds of people from all over the world. Individuals often want to connect with their friends old and new as well as engage in conversation about things they’re passionate about, and they choose how best to do that often by talking to their friends or by trial and error.

However, churches and ministries are not individuals. Even if only one person will be running your new social media, that person will still be representing your church and working toward the goals you’ve already set. The simple question of “Who are you trying to connect with by using new social media” is a great way to focus your goal. Not every church can do every thing, and not every type of social media can reach everyone.

Deciding who it is you’re trying to connect with will undoubtedly influence what kind of social media you pursue and how you pursue it. A church looking at connecting members of a certain committee will most likely need a more private cyber-space than if the church is trying to relay information about youth group meetings.

The leaders of our example First Church of Citytown have already set the goal for the new social media of encouraging individual spiritual practices. At first when they approached this second step the leaders thought it was fairly simple who they were trying to connect with: the members and regular attenders of the congregation. Then a leader asked if that was too narrow a vision for this social media. Shouldn’t this new social media also attract new people into the church and spread the Word?

After some thought and discussion, the church leaders decided that because of their goal of encouraging individual spiritual practices had specifically been written with the members and regular attenders in mind the new social media should focus on them. There were other goals in the new mission statement that were specifically about engaging their local community and growing their church, and the Outreach Committee already had a plan in motion. However, the church leaders agreed that whatever form the new social media took there should be room for people who are at all parts of the journey which did include new and reinvigorated Christians. Pastor Madison also said that they could re-visit this question after the social media had been in place for a while.

First Church of Cityville’s Social Media Plan
Step 1 (Aim): encouraging individual spiritual practices
Step 2 (Connection): members and regular attenders of the church

Social Media Plan 1: Aim

faviconThis article is the second in a series of developing social media practices in a church or ministry. Read the Introduction.

In the post “Social Media Resolutions” six questions were asked for churches considering getting involved in new forms of social media. We will be looking at each individually over the course of the next few weeks. Today we begin with the first question.

Question 1. What are you aiming to do with your new social media?

The various kinds of social media are different types of tools. If you were trying to hang a picture on your wall you wouldn’t pick up your handsaw. You would pick up your hammer and a nail. Or, if you’re in a place where you can’t put holes in the wall or don’t want something that permanent, you would use those hooks that come off cleanly. Using the right tool for the job and for your context makes all the difference in the world.

So what is your community aiming to do? Think in terms of the big picture. Communicate more clearly? Engage in more conversations? Create a prayer chain? Use more artwork in worship? Connect with your neighbors? Let the world know where you are and what you do? Stream your worship services online?

This question is often discerned as part of an ongoing conversation between church leaders and members. Maybe someone has pointed out that when Mrs. Smith died on Monday the majority of church members didn’t know until the next Sunday. Maybe your worship committee wants to use more artwork to reflect the multicultural congregation you have. Listen to the conversations that are happening and to the silences within your community.

However you can get the aim of your new project written down. This will help guide the rest of your journey.

For this series, we’re going to use the fictional First Church of Citytown as our example. First Church is a medium-sized congregation with a building in downtown Citytown. The church employs one full-time minister (Pastor Madison), a part-time minister for pastoral care (Pastor Dean), a full-time church administrator, and several part-time staff. First Church also has a leadership board of lay people who assist in church governance and vision.

Last year, First Church rewrote its mission statement. Included in the new statement is a goal that the board thinks social media can help with: encouraging individual spiritual practices.

The aim has already been set through the work the church did while rewriting its mission statement. Great! On to the next step!

First Church of Citytown’s Social Media Plan
Step 1 (Aim): encouraging individual spiritual practices

Online Spiritual Resources

There are so many online resources we use in our everyday life–e-mail, Google, Wikipedia, Facebook. There is so much online that can help boost our spiritual lives not just through social media but also all over. There are so many blogs and downloads it can be hard to find something that you can use for personal spiritual practices that updates on a regular basis. Worship Times has put together a list of resources that we hope will help you find God in your everyday life.

Candles and cross

-The Daily Lectionary is a 2-year cycle of scripture readings meant for personal reflection that offers a morning Psalm, an Old Testament reading, an Epistle reading, a Gospel reading, and an evening Psalm. You can also subscribe to get it e-mailed to you (on the left above “more information”)!  The PC(USA) is also planning to release an iPhone/iPad app later this fall. Keep an eye out for that!

-The Hear the Word Podcast, also by the PC(USA), is an audio recording of the Revised Common Lectionary (read on Sundays by many churches) with an Old Testament, Psalm, Epistle, and Gospel reading. You can also go to your iTunes and search “Hear the Word” and subscribe to the podcast to easily put it on your computer and mp3 players.

-Also an audio recording, Pray-as-you-go is designed for people to listen to while traveling on their mp3 players (although it could be used anywhere). It’s made by the British Jesuits and features beautiful music, one scripture reading, and questions for contemplation. It is also available as a podcast. Search for “Pray as you go.”

-The popular devotional Our Daily Bread has a podcast and a daily e-mail with devotions. You can also listen or read the devotions online daily without having to subscribe.

Day1 is a multimedia resource designed for Mainline Christians that includes a weekly sermon podcast, video conversations, an app called “Call on Faith.”

-Many churches offer prayers and reflections through e-mail or on their website (sometimes even on Facebook). For example, Christ Presbyterian Church in Martinsville, NJ offers a Thought for Contemplation every day. Check your church’s website.

Saint Paul Used Social Media

Things have changed with social media.Circuit Board with People

Back in 2005 when I first got on Facebook only college students could get a Facebook account. Even back in 2009 when I started seminary many churches who at that point could get on Facebook didn’t want to, and many people thought Twitter was for nothing but short updates about meaningless things.

Now, my mom and grandma  are using social media. Churches, synods, dioceses, presbyteries, and the like have Facebook accounts that at the very least give their contact information. More and more individuals, organizations, and churches are becoming Twitter converts as they see it being used in huge movements like the 2012 election as well as for personal communication.

For anyone in ministry who has hesitations about social media, let me calm some of your fears. There is biblical precedent for churches and ministries using social media. Saint Paul used social media.

Paul used the absolute best social media of his day: letters. The people who wanted to be like Paul wrote letters. We may not think of letters as incredible technology, but back in Paul’s time letters were a big deal. Never before had people been able to communicate like this!

Someone like Paul who traveled so much was able to keep up with communities he had let not just through sending messengers or constantly having to travel back and forth. Through writing letters Paul was able to keep relationships going that he may not have been able to if he didn’t write letters. He was able to help those early communities with their problems and struggles. He was able to encourage what the churches were doing well and explain what they were not.

Then the communities had those letters to continue looking back to. Today we still look to Paul’s letters to help us understand how we live out the Gospel. The technology had drastically changed, yet churches and ministries are still using social media to build relationships, encourage, and explain. Social media connects us with communities we are not with in body. It is a useful tool in our lives individually and communally as we try to live out out our commitments.

Saint Paul used the best social media of his day to be in communication and conversation with people he cared about and people he did not even know! He had never been to the church in Rome yet felt so strongly about wanting to be in conversation with them he wrote the Epistle to the Romans, an incredible letter.

Saint Paul is a powerful example of how to use social media, and as social media continues to change we continue to look back to his example of using technology to best serve his ministry to discern how best to use technology in our ministries.

Visitors and Your Website

Have you ever wondered what people who aren’t regular attenders at your church think about your website? The easiest thing to do is to find someone who fits in that category to look at your website and tell you, but that’s not always possible. We don’t want to jump on people who visit the church on Sunday morning and bombard them with questions.

Kingston UMC front page

Instead, here is a list of questions to ask yourself as you look at your website to try and get an outside point of view.

1) What is the first thing your eye is drawn to? A picture? A logo? Does this represent something that’s important to the congregation? Is there too much going on to focus on one thing? Maybe you need to break the homepage up into multiple pages

2) Is there a clear navigation tool if you have a multi-page site? If there is, is it clear what each page is about? The page labeled “JOY!” may point to your church’s retired person’s group list of activities, but to someone who doesn’t know joy stands for “just older youth” it doesn’t mean much

3) Where is your contact information located? Ideally it should be in more than one place like on the home page and on its own separate page labeled “contact us.” (Also a good idea to check and make sure all the contact info is up to date for the church and staff/volunteers.

4) Is the font consistent throughout the site and large enough to be readable? You don’t need to only use a single font; but make sure all the page titles have the same font, all the links have the same font, etc

5) Where are your worship times listed? Many people browsing online for churches want to know when your church worships. Worship times need to be on the front page and easily seen in the first look at the screen. (No scrolling.) You can have all kinds of information about the style, the music, and the dress on another page

Hopefully these questions will help you start to see where or if your site needs to be updated. Knowing what needs to be done is the first step!

Online Resources for Advent Worship Planning

It is that time of year in churches across the world. It’s Advent worship planning time!

Advent Wreath

Advent wreath

Advent is the four wonderful Sundays before Christmas where we focus on preparation for Jesus’ birth. This year Advent begins on December 2nd, but Advent planning often starts months beforehand.

There are many online resources for worship planning and plenty especially for Advent. Worship Times has put together a list of places to start your worship planning.

Reference Resources
Revised Common Lectionary Texts–on Vanderbilt Divinity Library
Advent Visual Arts and Worship Slideshow
Hymns for Advent–on Hymnary

Denominational Resources (lots of tools on each page)
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Reformed Church in America
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church

Other Resources
5 Things Your Church Must Do at Christmas–on Ministry Matters
Advent and Christmas Quick Planning Ideas–from St. Mary’s Press
1st Sunday in Advent Resources–from Text This Week
Blue Christmas Worship Service Template–from NAMI

Facebook Fan Page Welcome

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We’re dedicated to creating quality websites for ministries by ministers. We know that many churches are looking to expand their presence in social media. We’re doing the same.

Each piece of social media serves a greater purpose in our various ministries. Facebook is a great place to find information on ministries and churches as well as get updates about their ministries right in your homepage feed.

Our Facebook page features links to our blog posts and other resources we think you’ll will be interested in. It’s also a place for you to ask questions, post comments, and respond to polls. We’ll bring you regular news updates on what’s going on with Worship Times!

So head on over to our Facebook page and click like!


That’s a Worship Times Page!

The other day I accidentally deleted my church’s newsletter from my inbox and went to their website to download the file. I was shocked to see a site completely different from the one they had before. Since I began attending this church in 2009 they had kept the same basic website with only recent information being updated.

Plainsboro Pres Homepage

The new site features a scrolling picture wheel from various church events, worship information right up front, upcoming events listed down the side, and a helpful links bar at the top. Straightforward but dynamic and effective.

Scrolling down, I saw the Worship Times logo at the bottom. What?! I thought to myself. That’s a Worship Times page! I have worked for Worship Times for a few months now, mostly behind the scenes. I had no idea that my own church was working with Worship Times to create this new site.

All last year I interned with another church, so I wasn’t able to keep up on what was happening at mine. The new site gave me tons of information about what was going on over the summer and what was going to happen during the fall. I found out we had a new Director of Music (and when choir practice is). I even learned about the history of the church. (The founding pastor was tried for heresy!)

Most importantly, even though the site was new this was still my church. Our beloved prayer doves are featured as part of the picture wheel, our newly updated Mission and Values statement is under the “About Us” link, and everything sounds real and authentic. They didn’t have to change anything about us in order to make a site that is usable for members, visitors, and the curious alike. That’s a Worship Times page.

The Intersection of Theology and Technology

Worship Times is a community of churches dedicated to pursuing a faithful witness in the midst of a society that is rapidly embracing technology as a primary medium of communication. While there was a day when there might only be one telephone in an entire neighborhood, now it not uncommon for each member of the family to have their own mobile phone, not to mention the plethora of other computers and internet connected devices that dominate the technology markets. Like the intersection between gospel and science or gospel and culture, the intersection between gospel and technology is fraught with both highly practical moral concerns (e.g. can children bear the responsibility of technology adequately?) as well as questions of authority.

As part of our encounter with the gospel of Jesus Christ, the church is moved to discern what place technology should play in our communal life.  Should it be considered a medium through which the gospel must be preached, or is it dangerous to our life together and should be resisted? These questions, and many that follow them, require sustained prayer, attention to scripture, and theological reflection. It is my hope that Worship Times will be a place for inquiry and theological exploration of these important themes. Its purpose is not to provide answers, but to provide tools so that your body of believers can be empowered to live faithfully in your own place and community.

These tools will take varied forms. Some will be incredibly practical, exploring advancing technologies and considering how they could be employed in your church. You don’t need to subscribe to a hundred of other technology blogs to see how you could use the technology for your church’s ministry, we will notify you when there are great shifts coming in the technological world and how they might impact your ministry. In other cases, we will engage in theological and scriptural reflection, seeking to discern what role technology should play as we witness to the lordship Jesus Christ. Not every technology is equally useful for every congregation or ministry and we want to be a conversation partner with you as you seek to be a faithful witness in the post-technological age. Regardless of the form the tools take, Worship Times is a community of believers seeking to rightly appropriate technology to serve the church in its larger mission and ministry.

Let me encourage you to subscribe to the Worship Times blog, we look forward to bringing you a rich selection of information that will assist you in your life and ministry.