Utilizing New Media in the Church
Cardinal Sean Brady of the Roman Catholic Church recently encouraged (particularly young) people to use Twitter to tweet a prayer every day. I found this encouraging as oftentimes science (technology) and religion don't necessarily go hand in hand. This however, doesn't have to be the case. New media strategies can help out almost every organization, even especially the church. Here are a few ways that religious organizations can take advantage of upcoming technologies:
Get into blogging
One of the biggest hurdles in creating and maintaining a blog is the time constraint of consistently writing new content. The church however has a natural advantage here as the pastor/minister/rabbi generally writes and gives a sermon at least weekly. Why not post those sermons on a blog? This would encourage feedback which would help guide future sermons, allow for links to other relevant articles to give the sermon more depth, and provide a venue for those people who missed the sermon to avoid missing the message.
In addition to a weekly sermon post, churches could post about upcoming events, achievements by members of its congregation, and share their view on controversial issues and relevant current events.
Join the Twitter craze
One of the most popular uses of Twitter is hearing the day-to-day activities/thoughts/interests of celebrities like Shaq, Dave Matthews, and Oprah. Well the pastor/minister/rabbi is a celebrity of sorts in the community and I'd be surprised if members of the congregation wouldn't like to know what's going on in his everyday life, what tid-bits of wisdom he's got to say, and what links he's found interesting online.
But Twitter isn't only about celebrities of course. The church could be encouraging its entire congregation to utilize Twitter to better connect and interact with each other. Members could tweet about Church events they're planning to attend and learn about each other's interests to promote general community growth.
Facebook: tread carefully
Facebook is without question an impressive community and it's likely that many members of a church's congregation are active participants in that community, particularly the younger ones. So I advise churches to set up a page, have a presence on Facebook, and encourage dialogue among its fans. Facebook has recently made several changes to make the social network more business-friendly. But it's important for a church's page not to take advantage of its fan base by sending too many mass messages or forcing the page on congregation members. Facebook users, especially the younger population, view their Facebook community as a trusting one and sending too many of these messages may violate that trust and generate a negative relationship instead of one with real value.
Have an up-to-date website
A church's website is often the first place congregation members and potential new members will go to find information, upcoming events, and recent developments in the community. This first impression needs to be as current and useful as possible. The church's website should also be a portal for all the new media techniques that were already covered. Here at New Media Campaigns, we've designed websites for several churches and other non-profits and we encourage and help all of these organizations take advantage of these new technology techniques.
Imagine a family that has recently moved to the area and is looking for a new church to join. They go online and look at the websites of several local churches. Most of them are similar but one has a blog that's updated several times each week. They read the last few posts and see what events the church has recently held as well as a few planned for later in the month. They also read the pastor's last sermon and like the message he's trying to send. They see the pastor is on Twitter and look at his last few tweets. They see that he's actively interacting with members of the congregation, giving advice and asking questions. None of the other churches in the area have a community that's as alive and connected. That's a community they want to be a part of. That's a community that stands out. That's a community only possible through embracing the world of new media.
What other ways can religious groups use new media? What other organizations are poised to move into the new media world?