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5 Fall Facebook activities that lead to real life engagement

Most likely, you have been on Facebook. You may have even wrestled with how to increase engagement on your church's Facebook page. Here are five ideas for using Facebook this fall to engage your congregation and other people in your community online. You may discover that face-to-face encounters also result!

1. What did you do last summer?

Think of this as that standard grade-school activity where the children bring pictures and souvenirs from their summer adventures to school and tell what they did during the vacation. Adapt this by inviting people to share their photos of summer activities on the church's Facebook page. Add an extra incentive with a contest that awards for categories, such as "Traveled the Farthest," "Most Unusual," "Probably Needs a Vacation after This Vacation" and others. Have fun with this idea. As people upload photos, tag them or have members share their own photos with the church location. This helps to spread the name of the church among everyone's networks. Here are some other vacation challenges for churches.

2. Scavenger hunt or hide-and-seek

Tony Hawk, a world-famous, championship skateboarder, does a regular "Twitter Hunt," using his Twitter account and network of followers. Tony will hide skateboards, signed items or whatever else he can dream up all over the world. Then he tweets written or photo clues as to where items are. The only rule in this global treasure hunt is that the person finding the treasure must take a photo of himself or herself with the item when it is found. You can capitalize on this idea by organizing a monthlong scavenger hunt. Hide an item each day or once a week. Offer clues, partial photos, video clues and written notes from the hidden item about where to find it. The person who finds the hidden treasure claims the prize.

Another fun idea is to hide your church staff around town. This game really appeals to youth and young adults, so choose the appropriate "hiders." Promote the game a couple of weeks in advance on Facebook and highlight a specific time for when the person(s) will be hiding. It's no fun if the clues are too easy, but the "hiders" can't wait all day. Therefore, it may be a good idea to make the clues difficult starting off and easier as the hiding time approaches. Here are some good hiding spots (the prize should be obvious):

  • ice-cream or coffee shop
  • rollerskating, roller-derby, laser-tag or paint-ball arena
  • CD/record store, bookstore or mall location
  • outdoor concert, art festival or public event

3. Surprise destination!

Know of some cool places to hang out around your community? Maybe you enjoy some hiking trails or community centers in your area. Pull together a mission, hiking, walking or visiting group that gathers regularly and goes to a surprise or secret destination.

When participants arrive, invite everyone to use the Facebook "check-in" function and tag other members of the group who are with them. This will spread the activity and destination throughout the networks of those people's friends' list. Facebook users will comment on each other's check-ins and how much enjoyment they had together. Others who see this may become curious and want to jump in for the next get-together. If you go on a hike that does not have a check-in point already, make one with a group photo attached to it. The check-in destination could then become a version of Geocaching.

4. A new-fashioned hymn sing

For most of the fall, we are in the Ordinary Time on the liturgical calendar. This offers quite a bit of room to experiment with worship. Have a week or two, maybe a month, where you invite people to submit, via Facebook, suggestions for hymns to sing on the next Sunday. People can help a hymn be chosen by "liking" it or commenting why they love a particular hymn. You will learn some of the congregation's favorite music – and you may notice more people showing up for worship to see what was chosen. Try not to choose hymns from the same contributors each week.

5. Online meditation

Maybe you have started some artist communities at your church. Commission them to create meditations for the season of Advent or a Bible study. Photograph or scan the art pieces and post them on the church's Facebook page as a meditative photo album. Have a new item for each day or week.

All of these ideas can lead to the next step in social media communication, which is to make it a conduit to real life experiences. People will connect with others in the congregation with whom they might actually be friends on Facebook but have never shared a real-life experience. Have fun with these activities and share how you adapt them for your community. While you are at it, be sure to plug in the Top 10 UMC Facebook posts for your church to keep conversations going on Facebook.