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Why Most Churches Greet You Like It’s 1999

So your church has a website and a Facebook page. The adventurous have perhaps added Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Or maybe you’ve gone all out, even podcasting your messages or building an app for iOS or Android. (The links are to Connexus Church sites, where I get the chance to serve!)

We’re still in the early days of social media and everyone’s trying to figure out what ministry online means.

Whatever your church might be doing, my guess is you’re trying to connect with people online in some way, which is awesome.

Here’s the question though.

When you welcome people to your church, do you still behave like it’s 1999?

Strangely, most churches do.

I’ve been to very large, high budget churches who have a digital presence everywhere and—for whatever reason—still welcome people like it was back in the day when the cassette ministry was booming.

I even caught myself doing this earlier this year.

The good news, the fix is quick simple and free for all of us.

Is My Glaring Omission Yours Too?

So what do you say when you welcome people to your church?

For years, our hosts (including me) have said something like:

Welcome to Connexus! We’re so glad you’re here. If you’re new here, we’d love to connect! Drop by our guest services desk. We’d love to connect with you there.

Today, we’ll be here for about 70 minutes, sing some songs together, open up the bible to see what it means to us today and pray together. (Then we share one or two announcements we want everyone to know.)

See what I missed there?

Did you catch it?

I said ZERO (as in nothing at all) about our online presence.

Nothing about our social media. Nothing about our app. Zippo about our podcast. Nothing.

Yet 80% of the people (or more) are sitting there with their phones in their pocket.

During the week, we try to behave like it’s 2014. But Sunday morning, I was behaving like it was 1999.

This is the Opportunity You’re Missing

If it was actually 1999, people would have to drive to your church or to someone’s home to connect with someone else from the church.

Or they would have to buy (or pick up) a cassette or CD to listen to a message or series.

For the most part, in ministry you would show up in peoples’ lives occasionally at best.

Now, you can show up in a person’s life every time someone checks their phone courtesy of social media, email, your app, your podcast and more.

I realize that’s a double edged sword. There are definitely people you don’t want showing up in your life every day.

But I’m guessing there are some people you’d really appreciate hearing from regularly.

What if your church became one of them?

What if people were genuinely thankful to hear from you during the week?

See…you and I have moved from a world in which we had the ability to encourage people once or twice a week, to a world in which we can connect daily.

This isn’t just a promotional thing (don’t miss our big cheesy dinner Tuesday night!), it’s a discipleship thing.

Seriously, you can gain permission to speak into people’s spiritual journey regularly.

Publish helpful, useful content, and people will sign up to follow you. Don’t, and of course, they’ll unfollow you. The online world gives you instant feedback on whether you’re helping people or not. Just check your stats.

The Fix is So Simple

So don’t miss this simple fix.

If you’re publishing helpful, online content (and I realize we’re all growing in this and trying to figure out what that means), then just make sure you mention it Sunday morning.

Behave on Sunday morning like you can help someone during the week.

And the easiest way to help them, encourage them, inspire them and inform people during the week is via social media and your online presence.

So talk about that.

This is what we say now when we welcome people at Connexus:

Welcome to Connexus! We’re so glad you’re here. If you’re new here, we’d love to connect! Drop by our guest services desk. We’d love to connect with you there. Today, we’ll be here for about 70 minutes, sing some songs together, open up the bible to see what it means to us today and pray together.

We’d love to stay connected with you this week. The easiest way to do that is by following us on social media. You’re welcome to take out your phones right now and follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (we show the links on the screen as we say them). We also love hearing from you and this is great way to keep up the conversation.

Then, during the week…help people. Encourage, inspire and occasionally inform.

If you hand out a program or bulletin, make sure you include how to connect with you online.

And if you have a website, have a prominent place to follow your church on social media. People will connect with you 100x more on your social media platforms today than they ever will on your website.

Bottom line?

If you’ve got any online presence, talk about it on Sunday morning. Strangely, so many churches still don’t.

The change is free, easy, instant and everyone can do it. Just change what you say when you welcome people.

We’re All Learning

Want more? I’m not sure anyone has cracked the code on how to optimally use social media. But here are some resources that have helped me and some churches I like to follow online:

Cross Point Church

North Point Church 

Lifechurch.tv

New Spring Church

Elevation Church

Casey Graham and I also talked about how to connect with people using email marketing in Episode 3 of my leadership podcast.  (Subscribe for free here to hear feature length interviews with Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, Casey Graham, Kara Powell, Jon Acuff and more.)

Finally, nobody writes better stuff on church announcements than Rich Birch. Make sure you mine his site at Unseminary.com for posts like this that will change your announcements from a few minutes people tolerate to a few minutes people will anticipate.

So…what are you learning about connecting with people online during the week?

How do you highlight your social media on weekends?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

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  • I visited Waterline Church a few weeks back, a newer church plant (5y.o.), near Indianapolis recently at their new facility and they did an AMAZING job of doing just this. Oddly enough, it really stood out to me as a different way of doing a welcome/announcements opener, for the very reasons you mention.

  • Tomi Jacobs-Ziobro

    Duh!? This so helpful– and easy to do. Thank you!

  • Craig Pesti-Strobel

    Carey: I’m going to be moving to serve two small-membership churches that don’t even have webpages yet. The membership is older (I’m 59 and I will probably be the youngster of the crowd) and probably limited in their social media usage. I will have no other staff, secretary, or media personnel to help me. How much time on average does it take to utilize all these suggestions you are making? How much time to get them up and running? How much time to maintain them each week? Churches often talk about wanting to try these things, but they don’t realize the time involved to set them up and keep them running. As a pastor of two part-time churches, I have limited time to do these things, and no immediate guarantee of someone(s) being available to do them for the church. Any thoughts on this?

    • Craig…love your question. You’re taking me back to when I started out. Tiny churches. I was 30, but completely solo. No help. No money. I think you can start really simply with a Facebook page. Follow a few good churches you admire and get a sense of what you’re doing. Or better, yet, find an older member’s kids or grandkids to run it. They’ll know what to do. Start small and branch out from there.

  • Ben Hedgspeth

    Carey,
    Every Monday morning when I come in the office, I open up Photo Booth and record a 3 to 5 minute video that I call the “Sunday Sum up” where I hit the main point of the sermon again, and maybe promo an event or our midweek studies. I then post that on the church Facebook page, which in turn posts to the main page of our church website.

    I have found, by looking at our stats, that pictures/images and video get a lot more traction than plain text posts. If you use apps like Over, Pic Stitch or Instagram and create visually appealing content, people are a lot more likely to read and share what you post. Plain text is fine for Twitter, but the visual nature of our culture tends toward a visual way to pass along information.

    • Ben…that’s awesome. Thanks for sharing the idea! Agreed on the image over text click ratios. We find that people will watch 30-60 seconds of video, but drop off after that (unless it’s a sermon). What’s your experience with your 3-5 minute video? Do people watch and watch to the end?

  • Gail Goodwin

    I love face book and other social media sites to keep up to date with friends, famly and yes church but if one of my friends or my church invaded my busy life daily on social media it would freak me right out and they would be blocked and I would probably move on.. Create an atmosphere where I will want to choose you, don’t you bug me. Maybe it’s my age but that’s the way I see it anyway.

    • Wow Gail. Thanks for your honesty. I wonder if that’s a sign that your church and friends aren’t the positive influence they could be. I know I’m grateful for many church/friends who show up on my feeds. Interesting.

  • Brett A Crowell

    Well guess I’ll be the first to say something different, social media sucks! Yes I do see the irony in where I’m saying this. Although come on, what happened to a handshake and hi my name is …. now I can get your life story with one click or touch on my cell phone. There is a place for sm, but there still needs to be a personal connection or eventually people just feel distant and feel there time is better spent elsewhere. I miss just hanging out with a group of friends at a coffee shop or going to look at Christmas lights. Sadly these are really old events from youth group and small groups I’ve been a part of but it worked. I felt like we were living life together not just paying our dues showing up at church because we’re supposed to. Just to go home get through another work week to do it all again and nothing changes

    • Brett I’m sorry to hear that. That’s a tough place to be in. I think SM makes a great supplement to great relationships, but nothing replaces personal friendships. My prayer for you is that you find some life-giving ones.

  • Gabriel Ayo Aggrey

    Thank u for this article. Ur post sums my thoughts about the church how to connect with youth of this generation. Well done sir

  • Josh

    Hi Carey,

    Thanks for this article. It is a great read for encouraging us to think along lines of connection through the week. A big one for us has been a plug in that we use for prayer on our website. We encourage folks to go there and pray for the requests that are listed (they are moderated) and to add their own as well. Folks feel connected and they go to their phones in service to connect with us. Check it out here at:

    http://allnationschurch.ca/prayerwall/

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  • meghan howard

    Great Article. I had tweeted that this one of the main focuses of my Doctoral work – how the church can play a vital in the digital world. One of the biggest and hardest parts of social media ministry is being intentional about everything, as well as being consistent. Looking at how businesses structure their social media strategy as well as market, has been a huge help in what we do, and the method in which we do it online.

    • Meghan…thanks for this. So glad you’re blazing a trail in research in this area. 🙂

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  • OjaDavid

    Yet in spite of all the technological gadgetry and social media savvy, in spite of all the “cool” pop style music, many churches are still preaching a message like it’s 1899…a misery in a fictional place called Hell for the “unsaved”, homophobia, abrogation of women’s rights, evolution being a hoax, The Bible as innerent, and so on.

  • BTW, when I visited Shoreline Community Church in Monterey, CA, I was impressed that during the announcements they had the name of the church and the website on every slide.

    If our people are bringing their friends, it’s entirely possible that our guest may not even know the name of the church they are attending. And as compelling as announcements can be, minds can tend to wander. When they wander, let’s reinforce our identity and brand.

    • That is a really great, practical idea Kevin. Thank you!

  • Great points, Carey. Thanks. Your post got me thinking about two points.

    1. Occasionally, I miss the days when we used to have services on Sunday mornings and evenings and Wednesday nights. Not that I miss having extra meetings (at all). However, sometimes I regret that we only have so little time together to really impact people who are immersed in society’s influence the rest of the week.

    But your post made me realize that even though we have fewer corporate gatherings, we can have 24/7 access to our key people and those who are hungry to grow. We need to be more strategic to know how to use brief tweets or posts to reinforce truth, the fruit of the Spirit, and to stimulate devotion to Christ.

    2. The other thought was that when we welcome newcomers, they have probably been to our website before. Their first in-person visit is a continuation of a relationship that had already started. Let’s build on that rather than viewing that “first visit” in a vacuum.

  • Matt Van Peursem

    We are planting a church in 2 weeks outside of Sacramento and for all of our previews we did a thing called the “social media minute”. We throw up a slide of all our soch meeds and give everyone a timed minute (with music of course) to check in, tweet us, join our groups, Instagram an in-service selfie, whatever. I was AMAZED at the feedback and how aggressively our stats jumped after each service. I don’t intended on ditching the social media minute anytime soon. Good encouragement Carey. Love your stuff.

  • Phillip

    Oh good word here. I am a children’s pastor but can see where we fail to get our social media info into the hands of our parents intentionally every week. Great suggestions that I will be trying.

    • That’s a code we’re trying to crack next year Phillip. We have SM for our family ministry, but it doesn’t have the momentum we want. We think Pinterest will be the key to reaching moms.

  • david manafo

    great insight here Carey, so easy to miss out communicating those online connections when we spend so time preparing them.

    • I don’t know how I missed it for so long. Thanks David!

      • david manafo

        we’re doing this tomorrow, seriously, already set it up 🙂

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  • This post made me really think again. We have a new satellite campus, and we thought we were doing a good job by promoting our website, Facebook, and Twitter connections on the announcement slides and including these in our Sunday bulletins (both paper and eBulletin). That all went out the window when a 20-something who’s been attending for about 8 weeks recently said to me, “Wait, we have a Facebook page?” Her comment caused me to experiment with something. Thanks for the post, Carey.

    • Thanks for this Brent. I always find the challenge as a communicator is to figure out the gap between what I think is connecting and what’s really connecting. 🙂

    • Brent, when I was in radio, we used to say that when we were sick and tired of hearing a commercial, the average listener is hearing it for the first time.

      I used to think that was just motivational fluff until I spent a three day weekend painting with my very sharp and well educated wife. On the third day, I really had heard a particular commercial so much that if I were not on a ladder, I would have changed the station. My wife said, “Oh, Kevin, did you hear that?”

      • Thanks, Kevin. That perspective really adds to this discussion.