As we pioneer the digital landscape, it is without a doubt going to have some bumps along the way. From glitching equipment, user errors, and the unforeseen guest that creeps into video backdrops, this act of failing forward is part of the journey. Though some hiccups will be unavoidable, there are a few things that can help alleviate some bruising along the way.
#1 Identify Your Audience
Before you create another piece of content, ask yourself, “Who is my audience?” Consider who it is on the platforms that you are trying to reach, and what they are looking for in that space. According to data from a recent publication by Statusbrew, there are 190 million Facebook users within the United States. Shockingly, of those millions, the average age range is from 24-35, with just over half being male. Take a walk around your local park, school, and community center to see who is gathering at those places. These are the people, the ones who live in our communities, that should be considered part of your church’s audience on social media. The demographics tool MissionInsite (available at no cost to any North Georgia Conference church), is another way to better understand the people in your community. Rev. Scott Parrish, our Mission Specialist with the Center For Congregational Excellence, is available for help with navigating MissionInsite. Knowing who is on various social media platforms shapes our digital dialogue so that we can best engage with our communities.
#2 Think Multi-Access
A common term used to describe our new era of online and in-person ministry is hybrid. The definition of hybrid is, “a thing made by combining two different elements; a mixture.” But this term doesn’t fully express the work that we are doing. When we think in terms of being multi-accessible, it allows for many expressions of church. In-person gathering can be in a sanctuary, at a coffee shop, in your local brewery, or out on the mission field. There are many ways to connect to the church in-person, just as there are many ways to connect on the digital landscape. People can meet through Zoom, Google rooms, in virtual reality spaces, and through gaming apps like Discord and Twitch. People also gather around shared thoughts on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. The church has a unique opportunity to have many entry points into the community of believers that are no longer limited by brick and mortar spaces with only a front and back door. Think multi-access!
#3 Bring Value
Once you have identified your audience and thought through how your church can offer multi-access ministry, it is now time to create content that brings value. Bringing value simply means taking time to think about what your community or audience is dealing with, their pain points, concerns, celebrations, or information they might need. If you realize that you are a church in a community with a lot of young families, it might make sense to provide helpful information about raising families or encouraging posts for parents who feel stressed out. This type of content brings value to the real lives of your audience and signals that your church is a place they can find relevant information and, even more importantly, community. Content should always be relevant and validating of the human experience.
#4 Seek Partners
As you get to know your community and audience, you will start to find other places in your community that are reaching the same group of people. This could be recreation departments, local stores, neighborhood restaurants, or community groups. Your church cannot and should not “do” everything within your community. In developing strategic partnerships with local businesses and community agencies, you can start to point others toward these resources. If your church doesn’t have a sports program, you can share the sign-ups for the youth baseball league at the county recreation department. This is an opportunity to be in the community, meeting people where they already are doing life. Invite your members to go to games, cheer, and give out water bottles during a tournament. This is how we gain more access points into the life of the church. And partnering with others online gives a boost to their digital impact and we will also see growth on our pages.
Whether you are just getting started with digital ministry, or have been at it for years, it is always good to reevaluate your strategy to make sure that you are reaching the audience you want. If your engagement is not reflective of your intended audience, then try the four strategies I shared today. Bring others into the conversation and lean into those community partners.
Creating sacred spaces takes time and trust, so keep showing up!