The Church and Facebook
How to Start a Social Media Presence
Now that social media is ever-present in the lives of most church members, many people expect that churches have a Facebook presence – and many of them do! Anyone can set up a group on Facebook. A group page provides a common place for users to meet and share information.
Questions to consider
Before you set up a group page for your church or church-affiliated group, consider these questions:
1) Do you want to enable the discussion board and wall? Enabling these options will create an opportunity for members to have online discussions. But, there is a downside: The page administrator loses control over some of the content.
2) Do you want to enable pictures, video, and links? If so, do you want whoever comes to your page to be able to post them? Or, do you only want administrators to have these rights? Again, the upside of allowing anyone to post is a more lively, well-rounded page – but less content control. Do you want individuals in pictures to be tagged (identified)? What about minors?
3) Do you want to require new users to be approved by the administrator before they join the group? Do you want the group to be invite-only? What will you do if someone in the group posts offensive or incendiary material? Administrators may allow anyone who asks to join the group and remove those who behave badly.
4) How will you deal with privacy issues? For example, should prayer requests be listed on the discussion board or the wall? What information may users inadvertently disclose if they post prayer requests – about health or about whether individuals will be away from their residences? Consider asking people who post to limit the information they provide.
Start a committee
If your church administrator (or whoever will be running the Facebook group) is not already experienced with social media, it may be a good idea to form a committee to discuss how the group will be used and to answer the questions above. Specify any restrictions and guidelines for everyone to see on the group page.
Committee member volunteers may also serve as group administrators, who will monitor the group daily to answer questions, approve users, and remove inappropriate content. Committee members can also make regular visits to the page to add pertinent information. If users see that the group is active and helpful, they will be more likely to participate.
Let church members know that you have started a Facebook group. This can be done through Family Night programs or small groups in the church. This is a wonderful opportunity to also teach about general internet safety precautions associated with social networking.
Those precautions are:
- People should never post anything online that they wouldn’t want everyone to see. Once you post something, you lose control over it.
- Never assume privacy settings are perfect: Facebook has had security breaches that allowed unauthorized users to see private photos and information.
- People are not always who they say they are online. Use caution when adding friends on social media.
Having a church group page on Facebook can be a rewarding experience that deepens connections between church members and provides good information to those seeking it. Take a few precautions, stay consistent and follow the guidelines your church puts in place – and you’ll begin to see how Facebook can broaden your church’s reach.