6 Surefire Ways to Hurt Your Ministry’s Social Media Engagement

Posted on
September 16, 2020

You work like mad to grow your ministry and stay relevant.

And hopefully you know by now that social media strategy is a requirement. You’ve also done all the things you thought you needed to do to wield social media in your favor. Facebook: check. Instagram: check. Twitter: check. LinkedIn: check. And man, the learning curve is real. 

You thought just BEING on social media, posting a couple times a week and tagging some influential folks in your sphere would do it. But then came the graphics, the photos, the hashtags, the GIFs. Meh.

You can spend hours checking all the social media boxes—but you can still lose your audience.

We’ve heard so many people saying lately that they come away from their feeds feeling angry, frustrated, just ... bad. So we dug in and asked people to describe their least favorite thing about social media in ONE word. Here are some things we learned.

A. The best way to get more than one word out of a person is to tell them they have to use one word. You think we jest. We don’t. 

Maybe this is how to get teenagers to talk to you.

B. Your audience is not actually looking for your opinion when they find you online.

For our purposes, we’re going to focus on item B. and just let item A. sit with you.

Here were some of the responses to the “What’s your least favorite thing about social media?” question:

drama. outraged. biased. inaccuracies. politics. negativity. hate. opinions. closed-mindedness. impersonal. unkindness. critical. hurtful. slander. assumptions. disconnection. judgement. intolerance. ignorance. fake. virtue signaling (FYI, one definition describes virtue signaling as “feigned righteousness intended to make the speaker appear superior while condemning others”).

JT English wisely writes, “all the partisanship, anger, and unrest is, at its core, spiritual hunger. The gospel is still the best news ever heard.” 

As ministry leaders, it’s crucial to recognize that we are called to engage a community of overexposed, tired souls who are looking at you with the hope that they’ll see something different. 

Lead pastor of a large Nashville area church has said, “People aren’t angry at Christians because we’re different. They’re angry because we aren’t different enough.”

So, in the storm of negativity that has become social media, in the age of being unfollowed and unfriended for making people angry or expressing a dissenting opinion, how can we reflect Christ’s love, truth and humility to the hurting people in our orbit? How do we refrain from sharing unwanted opinions, from sparking even more controversy—from virtue signaling ad nauseum—while still sharing the Gospel and being transparent about who we are?

DO: Resist the knee-jerk reaction. Really think first before you post, lest you become Twitter’s Proverbs 29:20 “man who is hasty in his words.” Yes, the media industry thrives on being the first to post about something, but that is not biblical wisdom. If you struggle with this, designate someone trusted to filter what you think you want to say before you actually say it. :-)

Don’t Do This: Post in the heat of the emotional moment. Virtual mob mentality is alive and well, but it’s not for you. 

DO: Stay in your lane. It’s tempting to feel like you have to have a stance on everything and make that stance known. Speaking out on a subject that doesn’t clearly relate to your ministry or its mission can a) become confusing and b) unintentionally alienate people who need what you have to offer. 

Don’t Do This: Post about digging wells in Uganda when you’re a food pantry in America. It’s about staying in your lane. We’re not saying never speak up when it matters, but post tweets that are off-topic very sparingly. 

DO: Be different. If the responses we got were indicative of the way all Americans feel about social media right now, then the digital world needs a very heavy dose of encouragement and positivity. Dig deep, if you must, for some good news (if you’ve heard how successful “Some Good News” has been on YouTube, you’ll know it’s worth it), and share it.

You’re smart, so we’re going to be different by not giving you an example of a negative post. :-)

DO: Get personal. Your community gets enough #blessed posts. What they desire is true, honest relationships with others, perhaps now more than ever. Amid your general daily posts and announcements, also take opportunities to demonstrate and invite sincerity, and to make people in your community feel valued. Maybe it’s posting attaboys or -girls about your regulars and naming them personally. Maybe you need to share your epic ministry fail of the week and invite others to share their own, for the sake of being real together. Don’t just connect, but engage

Don’t: @resonate just scored an epic contract today. So great to be in this business doing what we love every day!

Here’s a more appropriate alternative: Adulting is hard work, but it was a good week at Resonate. What was a win for you this week? 

DO: Remark on His remarkableness. Not yours. This is where that “virtue signaling” thing comes in. Of course you should spread the word that your ministry is on mission, but you should also regularly remind your audience that you didn’t choose the mission because you are virtuous beyond reproach; you chose it because God led you to it and you’re trying to follow His will. 

Sure, it feels necessary, and sometimes it’s right to share your ministry’s heartache about a tragedy or circumstance. But acknowledge that your ministry’s distress doesn’t come from disapproval of some people, but from trying in your own way to love all people—because that’s how God is working in and through you.

Don’t do this: So glad our team members all understand what it’s like to go without. Love our heart for giving to the underprivileged. #service 

With a single post, you could pull a muscle patting yourselves on the back.

DO: Avoid making assumptions about your audience. You can go to the same church and sing the same Christian songs every Sunday of your natural life and still not know anything about each other other than that you believe in the same God and you’ve both got killer tastes in footwear. Yet none of that means you have the same opinions about political candidates, social movements, or Constitutional law. 

If you have personal opinions about where the ministry / church should stand, there’s room for that. Have a one-to-one coffee and debate, out of love or purely for a challenge and walk away on good terms. But your ministry’s social media pages aren’t the right place for that. All it takes is a meme with your clapping hands emoji above it. Click. Someone just Unfollowed you and is now convinced that your ministry, your church, and although it may seem dramatic, #truestory—your God—isn’t a good fit for them. 

Don’t do this: If your church hosts Celebrate Recovery meetings or addiction support and a multitude of your posts imply condemnation or weakness of addicts, you’re probably not going to get many takers on your addiction support services. And hear us on this—we know the power and destructiveness of addiction. When the bible warns against drunkenness and temptation, it speaks truth. But when you're a leader, you represent your organization and can hurt the very people you’re committed to serving if your words, even if true, are untimely and out of context.

*Please note, these virtual rules of engagement are not for individuals—but for leaders who represent their ministries. As a general rule, if you wouldn’t say it to someone over lunch without being bombastic, then don’t post it. 

This isn’t about being PC. There are times when you have to take a stand because, well, you just do. But unless it’s a hill you’re ready to die on, don’t let social media be your battleground. Let it instead be your planting, cultivation and persuasion ground.

We’re called to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

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