The Heart of the Matter
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If social media has become a “to-do” relegating it to a drudgery, you might be looking at it the wrong way. It’s a huge opportunity for those of us in ministry. In fact, it has me wondering if Jesus would have used it in some way. Then, you’d have to have smartphones and of course Steve Jobs would have had to arrive on the scene around 40 B.C. I digress… The fact is we’re in ministry to reach others with the Gospel and Jesus accomplished that in simple, normal ways — quite often just showing up where the need was. I don’t know what your Facebook feed looks like, but it’s usually a three-way tie among very proud parents, photos of overly-spoiled pets, and wannabe politicians. There’s a need and an opportunity for us. Social media is like a modern day Sea of Galilee — a place to hang out and reach real-life, Gospel-hungry people. Our influence, presence and injection of God’s Truth into social media sheds light to a darkened world.
Would you miss this opportunity?
So, back to the drudgery part — here’s where I hope to shift your thinking. What if you could walk into a crowded coffee house and talked with 50 people. What you had to say was so moving that those people then shared what you said to their friends and family. They told their friends who told yet other friends and so on. When all is said and done, you might have reached 1,200 people from a simple, humble crowd. Well, not sure where you worship, but 1,200 people would max out most of our churches. What an opportunity! So, now imagine if your words met a need. Imagine if your posts visually represented a Scriptural truth that resonated with someone void of hope. Social media then becomes a “Church” of sorts — a platform to reach the lost or prodigals that might never otherwise enter a sanctuary.
Cast your net.
Look as social media as the wide part of a funnel. With Jesus at the narrow end. Our job in ministry (and for any Christian) is to point people to Jesus. Social media has the potential to cast a wide (and relatively cheap) net to boost awareness of your ministry and ultimately lead people to the Lord. All off a sudden, that “fishers of men” metaphor Jesus used comes to life with social media! It’s OK that your logo/website url is on your posts, promoting your ministry in some way. Ultimately, that might be the way they get in touch not only with new projects, but perhaps it opens a door for conversation about faith.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Prepare your social ahead of time — think through what you want to say and how you want to portray it visually. Don’t wait until last minute, but rather carefully craft your messaging and how it’s visually portrayed to maximize the attention it draws. Do this for a month at a time, giving staff and others you trust time to speak into it. We do this regularly for our clients in what we call a “content calendar.” You can see an example of this on our home page at ImageStudios.net/social-media. “What do you want to say? What events can you invite the public to? Be strategic in what you say and how you say it, then shape it into a social-friendly, visually appealing post. Then track it using “Insights” and analytics to see what’s impacting and engaging people the most so you can accentuate that in future posts.
Make sure it meets a need.
Don’t always “preach,” but rather offer hope. What themes are you using in Scripture to encourage your Church community that can spill out into social media? Think of something that will resonate or that is timely they would be likely to share with others. That’s where you get the most traction when, like the coffee shop, they share with their friends and their friends share as well. Before you post it, ask yourself: “Is this something I’d be likely to share on my timeline or retweet/repost?”
What a great opportunity we have! Could it be that God has placed at our fingertips social platforms that are the lifeline for hundreds in your community? That’s a pretty cool perspective to have and one that I hope will give you a renewed sense of the potential your social media has to reach others. After all, the Gospel was meant to “share.”
- The Connected Church by Natchi Lazarus
- The Social Church: A Theology of Digital Communication by Justin Wise
- Getting the Word Out: How to Market Your Ministry by Bunnie Jackson-Ransom
Does your ministry stand out from the crowd? What is your unique mission and purpose? What is it you do that makes a special contribution to the world? The answer to these questions is your branding.
Branding is a vital part of a successful ministry. It represents who you are—not just to your congregation or clients, but to the entire community—and is actually one of the best tools we can use for getting repeat business. Through consistency, integrity and repetition of color palette and imagery, branding helps people connect emotion with experience. To use an example in the world, it’s what separates an everyday shoemaker from Nike. Even though they might both have comparable products, the value of Nike wins because of how they’ve seared, or branded, perceived value through advertising and representation of their brand on virtually every athletic star out there. They’ve also spent countless dollars to get to that point. Assuming you don’t have millions to spend, here are four easy ways you can build your brand on a budget and ensure you create value in your community:
1. Logo. This is the first thing people think of when the word “brand” is mentioned. It’s the anchor, so, it’s important to evaluate what your logo says about your ministry. Is it old and tired? Then your ministry will be judged in that way. Are your colors dated? Then you might be perceived as “not with it.” Are your fonts current?…You see where this is going. Create a logo that communicates who you are, and that you are relevant to your community. Protect it, too, by ensuring it’s used correctly. The best way to do this is through a brand standards guideline booklet, to ensure all your staff and external partnerships are utilizing it consistently and correctly. A brand standards guide will point out the correct color mixes, fonts, ways to use/ways not to use, as well as acceptable imagery for your advertising and communication pieces.
2. Color palette. We touched on this with the logo, but it extends into your foyer or sanctuary (if you’re a church) as well. Are your colors welcoming, or cold and sterile? Ensure that from the moment you walk through the doors, a balanced palette of warm tones create a feeling of fellowship and friendliness. The warm tones can be contrasted with splashes of current, trendy colors.
3. Experience. Put yourself into the shoes of the first-time visitor to your ministry. Little things matter here: How are they greeted? Is there plenty of coffee or water to offer? If you’re a church, do the greeters appear genuine, or uninterested? Is worship inviting, helping them feel included as you approach God’s throne together? Do you collect visitor information so you can follow up without any obligations, to let them know they were noticed, appreciated and welcomed back? Do you take time to hear about their day and relate with your own experiences? This shows they are a name and not a number.
4. Staff. This is what can really set you apart. From how you answer the phone to face-to-face interactions to protocol on answering email—all of these communicate to the client or visitor their importance. Be genuine and take time to understand their needs. Respond with solutions and a smile. It’s tough to find businesses that truly are friendly or are interested in the people. As a ministry, this is at the heart of who you are; it just needs to be communicated and solidified to your staff through training, and even a manual of expectations and best practices.
Perhaps you’ve gathered from this that brand extends beyond just the logo. It’s the entire experience. It’s how people perceive your ministry. Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” (NIV) Branding is simply conveying your mission into a tangible representation through visual media and experiences, with cohesiveness and integrity. Protect it, maintain it and watch people continue to come back through your doors.
Earlier this month, as a friend and I were driving to another town, we passed through a forest with trees flanking the road on either side. The sun was shining brightly, almost blinding me as it sliced between branches and leaves. But suddenly, when we crested a hill, we were surprised to see a thick fog in the distance. As we approached, the clear streaming rays of sunlight vanished and we were engulfed in the haze.
I see metaphors and object lessons in many situations, and this was no exception.
As is the case with many of you, I am constantly seeking to do God’s will. I pray, and make plans according to how I believe the Lord is leading me, and I move confidently forward in the brightness of God’s favor for that endeavor. But, inevitably (here’s where the metaphor comes in), as I move down the road, my perception becomes murkier, and I don’t see my way as clearly. And then I begin to question and second-guess whether anything was ever clear at all.
But Jesus, like that road, is still there. And, as long as I keep my eyes on Him, I’ll get through it. I may not see as far ahead into the distance as I’d like, but I can see the ground that is still solid, right there immediately in front of me.
The question is: once the fog sets in, how should I respond? Should I slam on my brakes, causing a wreck in my panic? Should I continue to speed ahead with no regard to my impaired vision? (Who else might I put at risk if that is my approach?) Or do I have the faith to slow down and move, prayerfully, purposefully and confidently through the fog?
Those of us in ministry go into it wanting nothing more than to do the Lord’s will. We have a clear vision, and move forward in faith. And then, it happens: we are somehow slowed down or hindered, confused about whether we are doing what we’re supposed to be doing. And we become frustrated by our dimmed vision and lack of momentum. But Jesus is still there. He may have slowed you for His purposes. Perhaps to pave the way ahead of you in His perfect timing. Perhaps to strengthen your faith. But He is still there and this is no time to give up. He will tell you if it’s His will for you to change course but—until He does—press on. Confidently. Through the Fog.
In the past, when I encountered the fog, I worried about whether all my effort in ministry was even in the Lord’s will. What if I had made wrong choices somewhere along the way? What if I had chosen the wrong ministry? What if I wasn’t even on the right road at all?
I have come to know that, if we are leading people to Him, we are in His will. Because, regardless of the specific details of our ministry, there is one thing we know for certain: we are here to share the Good News of Jesus with the world. As long as we are doing that, we are clearly doing what we were called to do.
Ministry can be tough. The fog will come, but Jesus is there. So, as a fellow worker, I encourage you—press on through the fog, to the Light.