Saint Paul Used Social Media

By Emily Hope Morgan

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 elections and revolutions 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.

Thou shalt keep thy calendar up-to-date

EditorsPick_2014_200The team at Worship Times is dedicated to empowering congregations developing their church websites and digital presence. On November 1 Worship Times was named one of Worship Leader Magazine’s Editor’s Pick for web development (read more here). So for the next couple of weeks we will be presenting what we consider to be the 10 Commandments for Church Websites. If you have further questions or want to learn more about Worship Times, please feel free to email us.

8th Commandment for Church Websites

Thou shalt keep thy calendar up-to-date

There’s nothing more frustrating than showing up to worship or another event at the wrong time, especially for visitors. If anything is canceled at the last minute, be sure to send out a cancellation via each way you advertised. If your church changes worship times in the summer, make sure that is noted on your site for a couple of months before the change will happen. Just a couple hours over the course of a month spent double checking and updating dates and times of events on the website can make a big difference. Be sure any Facebook events are updated as well.

7. Thou shalt be thoughtful about using social media

6. Thy website is never done

5. Thy website shalt be mobile friendly

4. Thou shalt keep it short

3. Thou shalt use pictures that show thy community in action

2. Thou shalt be on thy website who God is calling thou to be in the world

1. Thou shalt put needed info right up front

2nd Commandment for Church Websites

EditorsPick_2014_200The team at Worship Times is dedicated to empowering congregations developing their church websites and digital presence. On November 1 Worship Times was named one of Worship Leader Magazine’s Editor’s Pick for web development (read more here). So for the next couple of weeks we will be presenting what we consider to be the 10 Commandments for Church Websites. If you have further questions or want to learn more about Worship Times, please feel free to email us.

2nd Commandment for Church Websites:

Thou shalt be on thy website who God is calling thou to be in the world

Many potential visitors will be looking at your website, and they’ll be expecting what you say on the website to match what they see in worship or other church activities. If your church has crafted a mission statement (1-2 sentences) be sure to have it on your home page. But don’t just say what your mission is. Show it. Photos, events, even language that you use needs to support your greater mission. Granted, churches are vibrant and dynamic. It’s hard for all churches regardless of size to sum up your mission in a statement or in your digital presence. Tell the story of who you are and who God is calling you to be, not who you think visitors want you to be.

1) Thou shalt put needed info right up front

1st Commandment for Church Websites

EditorsPick_2014_200The team at Worship Times is dedicated to empowering congregations developing their church websites and digital presence. On November 1 Worship Times was named one of Worship Leader Magazine’s Editor’s Pick for web development (read more here). So for the next couple of weeks we will be presenting what we consider to be the 10 Commandments for Church Websites. If you have further questions or want to learn more about Worship Times, please feel free to email us.

1st Commandment for Church Websites:

Thou shalt put needed info right up front

You have 3-4 seconds to capture a visitor’s attention. The number one things visitors are looking for is your physical address and worship service times. Put those somewhere at the top of your homepage. The easier it is to find this basic information, the more likely visitors will take the time to find out more info beyond the basic.


When I’m traveling or in a new location looking for a church, the first thing I do is google churches in the local zip code. If I can’t find the times for worship services on a church’s website, the likelihood of me visiting goes way down. I have only once in my life driven by a church, seen the worship service time on their sign, and gone into service; but I have visited dozens of church services because I first visited their website.” -Emily Morgan, Worship Times’ Social Media Coordinator

5 Ways to Schedule Social Media Posts

Last week I spoke with a friend who had recently taken a job at a larger church. Part of his new duties are to run their Facebook and Twitter pages, and he asked me for help because it was overloading his schedule. He was spending a lot of time worrying about the things he needed to post and setting up alerts on his calendar to remind him to post. It doesn’t have to be that stressful I told him. There are online tools to help you schedule social media posts.

Free Tools

1) Buffer–With Buffer you can literally stack up updates so that they go out at regular intervals. You can choose what days and what times they go out. You’ll have more flexibility with the paid version, but the free works very well. Buffer has an extension for different browsers so if you come across an article you want to share all you have to do is press a button.

2) Everypost–Everypost is a mobile app where you can not only schedule posts you can also search right on the app and add what you find to your schedule.

3) Hootsuite–Hootsuite is a great way to keep track of your social media accounts, see what other people are posting, and schedule posts yourself. They also have a button you can add to your browser that auto-shortens links as well. There’s also a nice “auto-schedule” feature if there are things that don’t need to go out at a specific time.

Paid Tools

4) Sprout Social–For those churches with a lot of different social media accounts, this might be the way to go. Great analytics and ability to monitor your various accounts. You can also assign tasks to individuals if you have more than one person doing your social media.

5) Social Flow–Social Flow is all about optimizing timing of posts. This is used by professional marketers and big companies. If you’re a big church with lots of stuff going on looking to really reach new people, it might be worth it to go with Social Flow.

Are there other tools you would suggest?

Does Your Church need Online Giving?

Macbook_0748As churches begin to look toward the annual stewardship campaign, many will be considering whether or not they should add online giving to their website. The answer is yes, if you can.

We can take pictures of checks and upload them to our bank account. We use computers or tablets or phones, whatever we have to pay our bills and connect with causes. Online giving is a good way to engage people who do their banking and bill pay electronically.

If you want to get more young adults involved in your stewardship drive online giving is a good tool to have. In 2012 83% of young adults (about 18-30) made a gift to a nonprofit. How did they do it? 84% gave online. (For more see the Millennial Report 2013)

Ok, so if you want to have some kind of online giving tool on your website, what can you do?

The easiest thing is Paypal. As a non-profit churches can use Paypal at a discounted rate. You’re looking at a rate of 2.2% + $0.30 per donation. So Paypal gets $2.50 out of every $100. (Some churches ask their donators to pay a bit more to cover that rate.) Paypal works mobile, it works without the giver having to have a Paypal account, it’s a good all-around donation tool. If your website is a Worship Times we offer easy Paypal integration through Gravity forms.

Research other online tools and see if there’s something better out there for what you want to do. For example, if you’re doing a creative project with a clear end goal consider Kickstarter. (Check out this Philadelphia ministry kickstarting a soup company) Raising money for the youth group to go on a mission trip? Maybe GoFundMe is the way to go.

Pay attention to the rate charged for each donation and any barriers to getting the donations (for example, if your Kickstarter doesn’t get 100% or more funded you don’t get any money). Also think about whether or not you’re going to change how offering happens in Sunday morning worship. A church here in Louisville gives online donators poker chips to put in the offering plates to symbolize their giving. (The chips don’t directly reference how much they donated, just that they did donate.) If you still can’t figure things out, reach out to a local church who is already doing online giving and ask them for help.

Re-Purposing Social Media Content

There’s a repeated phrase in the world of social media: content is king. As a church leader who also does social media I understand the phrase but have some trouble with it because if we’re going to call anything king it should be Jesus. But the main point of this phrase is to point to the importance of content within online communities.

The term “content” can mean a bunch of different things–blog posts, podcasts, Facebook updates, e-newsletters–anything that communicates a message. The great thing about this is churches tend to have strong messages such as sermons, devotions, worship services, announcements, and photos that are translatable into online content.

Think creatively about re-purposing content. Most people need to hear or see something multiple times to remember it. Taking the sermon from Sunday and posting it on Monday could be a good way to re-enforce the message of the service. Pastoral prayers can be posted in pieces throughout the week. Reflective questions posed in the sermon can be posted and even discussed.

When we re-purpose content to be communicated online, there are some considerations that need to be thought about. When sermons are then published to be read, what else needs to happen? Are there quotes from books that need to be fully cited or emphasis that comes through in preacher’s tone that needs to be conveyed through punctuation or underlining key words? Who is going to make these changes? If the entire worship services goes online as an mp3 do you need to also put a PDF version of the bulletin up?

If you’re not sure what questions to ask, consider these:

  1. If a regular attender wasn’t at this service or event, will they understand the message through the medium it is being communicated?
  2. If someone has never attended a service or event at your church, will they understand the message through the medium it is being communicated?

With a little re-purposing you can take the content your church is already producing and ensure your online presence is kept up all week long.

Social Media for Christian Education

social mediaAs social media is integrated more and more into people’s everyday lives, we in the church have an opportunity to use those tools in all types Christian education. Worship Times has compiled three of our favorite ways of using social media for Christian education to give you some inspiration for your own planning.

1) Video clips–Bringing in video clips is an easy way to engage multiple learning styles and give a bit of variety. You don’t need a huge projector or any special equipment. People can gather around a laptop or tablet for a video clip. If your church has a projector you can borrow, great! Use it! Show clips from a DVD, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, or anywhere else you can find them. You don’t want to violate copyright, so check out the rules around that.

2) Special speakers–Using Skype, Google Hangout, or any other video or voice software churches can bring in speakers from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. What a great way to keep in contact with mission co-workers in other countries, young adults away at college, or youth groups on mission trips not to mention all the different teachers you could bring into your classroom. Many authors, pastors, and professors would be happy to speak with Sunday school classes over this technology. It never hurts to ask.

3) Conversations during the week–Your class could establish a Facebook group or a hashtag to continue conversations throughout the week. This could be a way for members of the class who weren’t there a certain Sunday morning or Wednesday evening to catch up before the next meeting. You may even find others outside of the class are happy to chime in the conversation. If you only want the members of the class to be a part of a discussion, lock down your Facebook group or start a forum where you have to register before posting.

Have you used social media as part of a Christian education class? Tell us about it in the comments!

Using Social Media for Church Job Searches

communityMany churches are using social media thoughtfully to assist the hiring process. Often churches have hiring committees made up of dedicated people who are volunteering their time. We all want our time to be respected and valued. Using social media and technology increases communication between the committee members and between the committee and the candidates. Below are some tips about how social media can help three different parts of the hiring process.

1) Advertising the Position–Whether your church is looking for a full-time pastor or a part-time bookkeeper social media can help your church draw a larger pool of applicants. Use your church’s social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to announce the job opening and link to a description. Put an announcement and link on your website’s homepage. Ask people to retweet and share the position, and don’t be afraid to re-post the position every week or two. Check out other sites that list non-profit and ministry jobs (for example to see if it would be beneficial to advertise with them. Be sure to use key words that someone would type into a Google search. The church may need an organist, but use the terms “accompanist” and “musician” in the description for better search engine optimization (SEO).

2) Communicate within the Committee–Most importantly, when your committee forms talk about how best it is to communicate with each other. Phone, email, text, just agree on a main form of communication. If you need to schedule meetings outside your regular time use a tool like Doodle for easier tracking. Keep a shared Google Doc list of candidates who apply, which member of the committee is going over that candidate’s resumé, what references have been checked, who is the committee member contact person for them, etc. Share any links the candidates send a committee member individually such as YouTube videos of them preaching or their personal blog. Open communication will save you from headaches later.

3) Conducting Interviews–Phone interviews are fine especially if you’re working in a church without reliable internet, and face-to-face interviews are best if possible. In between there are many options. If the committee will be in multiple places, pay for a premium Skype account ($4.99/month) which then can be used to get up to 10 Skype accounts on the same video call or use Google Hangout. If the committee will be gathered in one place, a regular Skype account, Google Hangout, or FaceTime (if someone on the committee and the candidate both have Apple products) will work.

Has your church used any social media to assist in a recent hiring process? We’d love to hear about it! Comment here or ping us on Twitter or Facebook.

Listening as the Key to Social Media

A lot of times when we in churches and ministries think about social media the question is, “What do we need to do on social media?” And that is a good question to ask. Knowing your purpose and knowing what platform is the best fit is important.

But there’s another key in building relationships over social media that is sometimes overlooked:


The internet is a noisy place. We tune out some important things that people are saying because we’re focused on something else or because we’re scanning quickly.

Listen for the emotional content or, as Ronald Heifetz calls it, the “song beneath the words.” People will post things on social media they would never say to a pastor’s face. Social media can help us see the everyday emotions people are going through. This isn’t true for everyone. People censor themselves online or may seem more angry than they actually are because they forgot to take the caps lock off. But the song beneath the words is worth listening for.

Listen for the disconnect. People are passionate and use social media to talk about things they’re interested in. If someone has agreed to be your friend on Facebook or has tweeted about taking art classes, they’re not going to be surprised if you bring it up in conversation. Someone may be active in a local non-profit that your church could partner with. Take that disconnection, that “I didn’t know s0-and-so did that” and turn it into connection.

Listen for the longing. People often post about things that trouble them. If people are asking for prayers about a situation you’re not aware of, ask them how you can be in prayer for them and the situation. If people are posting about an issue in the world, maybe that’s an issue you can speak to in an upcoming sermon. People also post about joyful things they want to share with as many people as possible. They long to share their joys and concerns just as we do in worship services.

Listen to people outside your church. Many people follow other community organizations and churches to keep up on what’s going on locally. Many also follow churches or individuals across the country who are doing different things to keep new ideas churning. Many follow people passionate about similar issues but who come at the issue from a different point of view to keep perspective.

Social media is just like any tool for ministry–it’s there to build relationships and help us live out our faith. We need to use it wisely. We need to listen more than we talk or post or tweet.