Church leaders are often on the lookout for simple and inexpensive tools to share the good news of the gospel, manage church groups and events, and engage their congregations.
Some Big Tech companies like Facebook offer these kinds of tools for free, making social media for churches more popular today than ever before. In fact, 73% of churches have a Facebook page today compared to 26% back in 2012. There’s also an ever-growing number of church TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.
At the same time, 45% of Americans have considered quitting Facebook and other social media platforms. Despite offering free and helpful tools, any church social media manager can tell you that these platforms also bring many challenges.
So, how should churches use social media, and do the benefits outweigh the real costs? Let’s unpack these answers by looking at the good, bad, and ugly sides of combining social media and the Church.
Social media platforms were created to help people stay connected with friends and family, build relationships, and improve communications. Many—including churches, businesses, and schools—quickly realized they could also benefit from using these popular tools.
Take a look at the potential benefits that draw churches of all sizes and backgrounds to social media.
Most social media platforms offer a free version of their services to individuals and organizations like churches, with options for paid services and features as well.
Registering a church social media account and getting started is fairly straightforward and simple. Depending on the social media platform, you can find helpful tools for posting images, announcements, and church events. Other tools like live streaming, Facebook groups, and archiving church videos such as sermon series are widely used as well.
An incredible 82% of Americans use social media on a monthly basis, making it a very attractive way to reach more people and connect with a broader audience.
The average American spends over 2 hours every day on social media, and 38% of Christians use social media platforms for spiritual growth. This provides a good opportunity to influence people in your church and online community.
With a good church social media strategy, a church can start conversations and attract new people to visit their church.
At first glance, using social media channels to reach, connect, and engage people seems like a nearly perfect strategy. However, some of social media’s biggest strengths are also its largest weaknesses. Billions of people use social media every month, and they have different religious beliefs, backgrounds, and worldviews that often do not align with those of your church.
Let’s take a look at some of the drawbacks to using social media for churches.
Talk with any church’s social media administrator and you’ll learn that their role takes a lot of time and presents some unique challenges, such as:
Managing all of your church’s social media channels can be very difficult for a church administrator. For example, anyone (yes, anyone) can create a Facebook group for your church, without your church’s permission or proof that they’re associated with your church. Unless they give you permission, your church has no control over that group.
Another common situation occurs when the person who set up your church’s Facebook page or group leaves the church. It can be very difficult or even impossible to reclaim admin control.
When a new person visits your church’s social media page, one of the first things they might see are reviews. If those are negative reviews, they can leave a bad first impression and cause people to steer away from your church.
Facebook doesn’t allow page owners to remove negative reviews by themselves, no matter how false or disturbing they may be. Their page administrator can flag fraudulent reviews, but it’s ultimately up to Facebook if they are removed or not.
Church social media pages and their followers are sometimes targets of hateful comments, profanity, or spam. Most social media platforms allow churches to either filter out offensive comments or turn off comments completely. Moderating these threads can take a lot of time and effort as well as frustrate church staff and volunteers.
Cyberbullying is a growing crisis and Facebook has more cases of cyberbullying than any other social platform. Unfortunately, church social media is often the target of such vitriol, and these digital bullies can target not only your church with mean comments, but your members as well.
These challenges frustrate church leaders and cause some people to disengage from social media altogether. However, there are even more impactful issues facing churches today that should cause them to pause and reconsider using church social media as the center of their communication strategy.
Big Tech is notorious for censoring churches. In fact, the Wall Street Journal reported that in 2021, “religious groups and figures have been silenced by tech companies at a rate of about one a week.” This religious censorship is seen in cases such as Facebook and YouTube pulling down a church’s Easter live stream due to claims of violence displayed in their video of the crucifixion.
Much of the censorship between social media and the Church is a direct result of Christians using a secular platform to promote their values and teachings. Social media for churches is subject to each platform’s community standards or guidelines. As a result, people with other worldviews can flag Christian content on social media as offensive, misleading, or hate speech.
Once a church’s account is flagged, this affects their ability to manage, access, or update their content until the dispute is resolved.
Big Tech companies have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure that their social media users are provided with curated content that will grab and keep their attention. This means that when people—especially children and teenagers—open Instagram, TikTok, or other apps to access your church’s social media content, their attention is immediately drawn away with eye-catching ads, videos, direct messages, and other non-church related content.
Many churches don’t realize that the content they upload belongs to the social media companies. This means that if your account is ever permanently banned or deleted, all of your videos, pictures, and other content will be lost forever unless you have it backed up somewhere else.
It’s clear that using social media for churches comes with a cost as a result of subjecting your content to the court of public opinion that often rejects or even attacks Christian values. This can lead to bullying, harassment, or even censorship.
A thoughtful church social media strategy will use these public platforms as simply one part of a broader multi-channel communication plan. Social media can be a valuable tool to reach people already on those platforms, but it shouldn’t be the only way your church connects with your people.
Churches need a safe place online where they can freely share their content, express their beliefs, and provide discipleship resources. Subsplash believes that the truth of Jesus through the impact of the local church is the greatest source of hope and joy in the world.
That’s why we’re dedicated to providing a platform that respects religious liberty and allows churches the freedom they need in order to make disciples. Subsplash provides you with your very own church website, mobile app, group messaging, live streaming, media, online giving, and much more in a safe, distraction free, and welcoming environment for your community.
Fill out the form below to discover how your church can freely engage and disciple your community on the Subsplash Platform.