This is Part Two in a four-part series on how to use social media for churches. To read Part One on using Facebook for churches, go here.
Quiz-time: What is the shortest verse in the whole Bible?
If you guessed “Jesus wept” (John 11:35), you guessed wrong (don’t worry–I got it wrong the first time, too!). The shortest verse in the Bible is actually Luke 20:30: “and the second…”
Actually, that was a trick question. It is true that “Jesus wept” is the shortest verse in the English Bible but, in the original Greek, “and the second” is four letters shorter.
What does all this have to do with social media? Well, whether you use the English or the Greek, each of these verses would fit nicely within the 140-character limit of a tweet; and that’s more than can be said of many Bible verses (just take a look at Esther 8:9).
Tweeting Bible verses is just one way your church can and should be using Twitter as a regular part of your ministry. Twitter is a great platform from which your church can network and distribute content. Read on for advice for how your church can establish a vibrant presence on Twitter.
Set Up An Attractive Twitter Profile
Have you ever clicked on someone’s Twitter profile only to find their picture is the default egg and their header is a stock photo? If you’re like me, you clicked away, sure that this Twitter user (Twuser?) wasn’t worth following.
The moral of the story is: No one wants to read an ugly Twitter feed, and no one will follow you if your profile picture is an egg.
Fortunately, ensuring that your profile is complete and attractive is as easy as 1, 2, 3:
- Let your profile picture be professional. Set your profile picture to be the logo of your church, if you have one. If your church does have a logo, this is a great way to get more exposure for your church’s “brand.” If your church doesn’t have a logo, try setting your profile picture to a photo of your pastor, which can add a slightly more personal touch to the profile.
- Set a warm and welcoming header picture. Try uploading a photo of a group of people from your church. If you have a small church, the photo could be a posed picture of the entire community or, if your church is larger, you could post a picture of one of your weekly worship services.
- Write a visionary bio. You only have 160 characters to tell the Twitterverse about your church, so make ‘em count! You need to use these 160 characters to share a pithy statement of your church’s mission. Check out these great examples and notice that none of them even use all 160 characters.
Twitter also provides spaces for location and website–don’t forget to fill those out as well.
Tweet Cool Content
Your first instinct might be to use your church’s Twitter account solely to run promotions for your church. You might think this is the best way to attract new members and grow your congregation.
Please don’t do this.
After all, would you like your Twitter feed to be constantly flooded with what are essentially ads? I think not. Try to make sure only 20% of your posts are promotional.
As for the other 80%, it should be cool content that your congregation and followers will appreciate, for instance:
- Thought-provoking or inspirational quotes from your daily reading, from current ministry leaders, or from great figures in the history of the Church (with a picture of whoever said the quote).
- Meaty Bible verses–just make sure they’re short and use Twitter abbreviations.
- New content from your church website or blog.
- Event announcements (weddings, charity auctions, etc.).
- Worship service times.
- Photos from recent events or from the daily activities at the church.
- Bible passages that will be covered in Sunday’s service or Tuesday’s small group.
- Prayers, prayer requests, and answered prayers.
- Links to useful resources or interesting content from around the web.
- Encouraging lyrics from your favorite Christian artists.
- News from the church and surrounding community (complete with pictures).
- Teasers for Sunday’s sermon.
- Funny, personal posts from the pastor or staff (especially pictures!).
- Missionary updates (with pictures).
- Short videos.
Did you catch the theme? In case you didn’t: Pictures or other visual content are always a good idea!
Also, in order to retain followers, be sure to tweet more than once a week. In fact, aiming for one or two tweets every day will get you off to a good start.
For a while my college roommate and I had a running joke where, when I did something she found particularly funny as a Protestant, she would say, “#MyCatholicRoommate.” This joke made us laugh at ourselves but also sometimes sparked a thoughtful discussion of the differences and similarities in our faiths.
While “#MyCatholicRoommate” would probably not be relevant to your church, hashtags in general are a great way to draw together your church community and get them thinking about the same ideas.
Start by creating a custom hashtag for your church. This can be the name of your church (e.g., #SaddlebackSMLA for Saddleback Church in South Manila) or a phrase that epitomizes the vision your church has for its mission (e.g., #ShowGodsMercy). Make sure it’s distinctive and memorable but short. Then, whenever you or your followers tweet, you can add your church’s custom hashtag somewhere within the post, thereby alerting the people in your Twitter community that you have a new tweet and creating continuity between tweets from different members of that community.
Then, create hashtags for special events at your church (e.g., #MissionSunday or #JulyPicnic). Encourage attendees to tweet pictures or quotes from the event using your church hashtag plus the special event hashtag. You can even do this outside of the context of an actual event: If you know a large portion of the congregation is reading the same book or Bible passage, start a hashtag for the reading and spark a discussion on Twitter!
Finally, if the pastor of your church doesn’t mind the audience tweeting during church, create a hashtag that sums up the themes of a particular sermon. Then members of the church can use the hashtag to tweet quotes they find especially thought-provoking and photos of the service. This can be a nice way to reach out to members who can’t make it to service.
Hashtags can thus be used for community building, inspiration, and evangelization. What’s not to like?
Ready, Set, Follow!
Make it even easier for people to follow your Twitter account by setting up a “Follow” button on your website, which church management software can help you manage. Then get ready to amass a steady following on Twitter and widen your church’s network.
Has your church had success using Twitter? I’d love to hear your insights in the comments below!