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Image from Wikimedia Commons and adapted by Darby Jones

How to use social media to restore trust in the church

 

By Dan Wunderlich

Trust is central to every relationship, whether it is with family and friends or institutions and organizations. The good news is that your church’s online presence is a tool you can leverage toward building that foundation.

As a guide for reflection and action, we will use Ken Blanchard and Cynthia Olmstead’s “ABCDs of Trust” framework found in their book Trust Works!: Four Keys to Building Lasting Relationships.

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Able — Demonstrate competence and skill

The first step in building trust is showing ability. Are you good at what you do? Can you solve problems that matter? Does your skill and experience inspire confidence?

We demonstrate ability through how we talk about ourselves. Rather than using your website or social media channels primarily as a place for announcements, use them to tell your church’s story. Show your community what you’re doing and the impact that it is having.

Practical ideas

  1. Fill your website and social channels with photos of real people from your church having fun and building friendships. Learn a few simple photography tips to capture ministry moments.
  2. Share videos or photos that feature church members sharing the story of the transformation God has worked in their lives through the ministry of the church.
  3. Share the impact your church is having through the giving of your time, talents, gifts/donations and service. Ask the local organizations with whom you partner to consider filming a video or writing a post about your impact from their perspective.
  4. Use Facebook Live to broadcast from a service project. If it is a local project with room for more volunteers, invite people to come join you.
  5. Post 30- to 90-second video clips from a part of worship or the sermon that are compelling and make sense to someone who doesn’t attend church.

Believable — Act with integrity

The second step in building trust is cultivating believability. Are you honest, respectful, and humble? Can you admit when you’re wrong and work to rectify mistakes? Do you walk the walk?

We demonstrate our integrity through our interactions with others. If the church is truly about building community and sharing God’s love, then we must use our online activity to engage our community in conversation — not just promote ourselves. It is called social media after all.

Practical ideas

  1. Read and respond to incoming messages in a timely manner. Don’t forget to check the general church email address and the Facebook Messenger inbox for your page.
  2. Read and respond to comments, replies and reviews. When you encounter negativity on Facebook, respond with humility, grace, and a willingness to apologize and make amends if necessary.
  3. Reveal the authenticity of your church. Don’t hide it through slick, impersonal posts, and don’t try to manufacture it either. Young adults especially have a radar for authenticity.
  4. Craft posts that ask questions and encourage input from others.
  5. Develop a “brand voice” that helps your organization feel less institutional and more like a group of real people.

Connected — Care about others

The third step in building trust is fostering connection with others. Do you build relationships with other people and organizations? Do you share the spotlight? Are you in touch with the concerns of your community?

We demonstrate our connectedness by showing that we care about what goes on outside of the church grounds. Let your community see your heart. Use your social channels and the blog on your website to add value to people’s lives.

Practical ideas

  1. Learn how to listen to your community. Then follow, like, comment on, and occasionally share posts from other organizations and companies in your community.
  2. Create and give away resources like a local events guide for your city.
  3. Create a 30- to 90-second video that shares the mission of your church using language and themes that connect with people who do not attend church.
  4. Post invitations to pray for local figures, organizations, and even other churches.
  5. Mix in lighthearted and funny posts on occasion to show that your church loves fun and has a sense of humor.

Dependable — Maintain credibility

The final step in building trust is remaining dependable over time. Does your level of engagement extend throughout the year? Do you remain committed to the relationships you have built? Is your outward focus a permanent shift?

We demonstrate our dependability by showing up and participating online every week. Many churches are active around Christmas, Easter and back-to-school time but then seem to disappear the rest of the year. Instead, be a consistent voice of hope and a source of value year-round. This strengthens your relationship with your community and increases the effectiveness of your outreach at those special times.

Practical ideas

  1. Create a sustainable posting schedule and keep to it. You can always ramp it up later.
  2. Create an editorial calendar of topics and themes to help guide your content creation and curation.
  3. Schedule regular social media time in your calendar like other tasks or appointments.
  4. Recruit and train a team of web and social media volunteers.
  5. Use free scheduling services such as Hootsuite, Buffer or Facebook’s native scheduler to post your content automatically.
     
Dan Wunderlich

Rev. Dan Wunderlich is an extension minister focused on worship, communication, and creativity with the goal of helping ministries and their leaders better connect with their communities. Find out more about his work and his podcast "Art of the Sermon" at DefiningGrace.com.