An underlying theme for the Life Threads blog this month is social media. Although not every post fits into that category – several of them do.
Maybe you would like to start an online presence for your club/church or ministry but are hesitant.
Here are some important rules to consider when expanding your ministry to social media. (I’m sure there are other rules, but these are five I’ve come up with during the nine years I’ve been involved in social media.)
1. Be Current. Nothing makes your ministry look more out-of-date than having a landing page promoting registration for the Children’s Christmas Program – in December 2011. Just like you wouldn’t leave a poster hanging in your church for a church softball tournament that happened three years ago (we hope), don’t have your landing pages announce something that is long past.
And if you decide after a few weeks, that you don’t have the desire to do a blog or Facebook page, take it down (a few minutes of your time) rather than abandon a blog with one post talking about all the things you’ll be doing in the future (but never actually get around to doing).
An exception to this would be a blog that has several years worth of posts (say your pastor has blogged on his Ephesians sermon series) that people could still find valuable. That kind of undated information can sit as long as people can still use it).
2. Be Concise. Seriously. No one wants to read a 2,000 word blog post single-spaced with no paragraphs. (A tendency of new bloggers.) Most bloggers keep their posts around 500-600 words with an occasional longer one. But even longer ones have short paragraphs with a lot of white space – making it readable.
3. Be Clear. Does what you say make sense to someone who does not attend your church or club? If you use (with permission) personal names, make sure you clarify who they are. Statuses such as “Mary is so thankful about Sunday night’s surprise” are not important or meaningful to the average reader. Only if you know that Mary is the commander of the club and all the leaders surprised her with a cake – would you understand that status. If you want to put up a status about Mary, explain it. “Sunday night the Awana leaders gathered together to surprise our commander, Mary, with a small “thank-you” party. She spends long hours preparing for club.
Oh, yeah, make sure your church name and address is VERY visible. Nothing’s more frustrating than to be on a church site and not know if the church is in California or Maine … or maybe Ireland.
4. Be Consistent. Maybe you post or put up a status only once a week – on the day your ministry meets. Then post consistently on that day every week. Think through the purpose of your post or status – is it to challenge parents or to remind kids what they’re supposed to bring or a little of both?
When I was Sparks director, I posted on my personal blog every Wednesday with a Sparks post. Parents/leaders knew that they could check the blog to find out what the theme was for the night or anything else they would need to prepare. As soon as I got home from club I got on the blog again and gave an outline of what the Sparkies learned in Large Group Lesson – so parents could ask kids questions about the lesson (and I also told them the answers). But be consistent. If you post just one day a week – be consistent on that day. My parents/leaders knew that on Wednesday my blog would focus on club.
5. Be Legal. Seriously. Seriously. If you don’t remember any of the other rules, please, please, please remember this one.
Some “legal” absolutes.
*Never EVER put up someone’s health situation on the web – even if it’s a sincere prayer request. Saying that Leader John is in the hospital for heart surgery is absolutely illegal. (Unless – Leader John gives you specific permission to do so.) If you aren’t aware of the HIPAA privacy laws, you need to look them up and read about them – they absolutely affect churches and even well-meaning prayer requests.
*Never EVER put up a child’s picture unless you have parental permission in writing. Tell your leaders this, too. A lot of leaders take a lot of pictures of crazy hair night and have them all over Instagram and Facebook the next day. You can’t do that WITHOUT permission.
Some churches smartly include an online permission form with the regular registration material at the beginning of the year. That way you get the permission on file (or find out who doesn’t want their child’s picture on the web) right away.
Being online is a great way to let parents and clubbers know about special guests, club cancellation, verse quotes or simply fun facts – but be smart and think through what you’re posting.