When it comes to social media, what do churches need most? Hands-on assistance!
Renee McNeill, senior social media specialist at United Methodist Communications, says that when she asks churches about their greatest need regarding social media, the most frequent response is for someone in the church to help them do it.
“Many of the pastors we work with are in smaller churches with limited to no staff, so they’re juggling several jobs and trying to find the time to invest in social media,” McNeill said. “After that, the second greatest need is understanding how, exactly, to use social media to market the church. The flip side of this is when I’ll have a larger church come in that has a dedicated social media staff member, but they’ve hit a wall with ideas and resources and need help getting past that.”
As part of the Local Church Services team, McNeill helps pastors and church leaders understand and optimize their social media.
“We serve the local church by offering select services — everything from an audit, which takes a look at what they’ve been doing and makes suggestions for improvement, to custom posts for events they may have coming up, one-on-one coaching sessions to help with their specific needs and social media marketing, which includes placing ads for them. The service we provide is very catered to the church’s current needs.”
Jessica Poggi, director of digital strategy at Mount Pisgah UMC in Johns Creek, Ga, said, “I have been in social media for over nine years and I volunteered at the tech ministry at Mount Pisgah, before coming into this role that was created exclusively after COVID. I was excited to reach out and see what types of resources were available to us.”
A grant from UMCom helped Poggi target Mount Pisgah’s family life services and student ministries the church was hosting. With schools being impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns, students craved that interaction with each other.
“The grant was great because it helped us be able to reach people during the summer about our youth programs,” Poggi said. "The youth programs were still going on during the summer, sometimes meeting outside, and that was a little bit different than what we traditionally would do. … We did see a great boost in our attendance during the summer for student life.”
Poggi said she found it helpful to have someone with whom she could discuss ideas, such as a photo contest of people serving in whatever city they were in.
“We figured, 'It's summer, it's COVID. People could be volunteering in Hilton Head. They could be volunteering here in Johns Creek,'" Poggi said. "It gave everyone an opportunity to just submit a picture. We highlighted it on our website on social media, on stories. We would do one picture a week, and then everyone got to vote on it.
“Before I started the contest, I did run that past Renee at United Methodist Communications, saying, 'Hey, do you think that something like this would work?' Having that rapport was extremely helpful because I feel something that we're doing differently is we want this to be fun. We want digital to be informative, but we also want people to have it be entertaining and then have them, of course, connect about their faith with other people."
A recommendation from McNeill also proved to be beneficial since Mount Pisgah broadcasts its services on YouTube as well as on Facebook.
Poggi said, “Renee recommended this book — 'The YouTube Formula' — and it's been really helpful, already taking some points from that to really help the YouTube algorithm.”
The Rev. Marilyn Weiler of Pine Grove United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is excited about the role social media plays in ministry and is thankful for the help of the communications team. Weiler had been wanting to offer online services for a while, but finances were an issue. Thanks to a grant from United Methodist Communications, Pine Grove was able to quickly move services online within two weeks after the pandemic started.
“When I saw that UMCom had the portable camera option, that’s the one we wanted because we knew we’d be broadcasting some services from the church, from outside and from other places,” Weiler said. "The quality of the video and the quality of the sound is just so much better than you could get with a phone.”
“What we’re planning to do now, going forward, is hybrid worship,” Weiler said. “I applied for another grant and now we’re getting coaching, training, additional equipment and meeting together in the conference. All thanks to this camera and training we got and continue to get from UMCom, we’re going to be able to offer hybrid worship to expand our ministry. I can’t tell you what a difference it has made — a positive difference — for us to have this camera. … We’re not doing online worship just to do it, we are doing online worship to spread the Gospel and disciple.”
McNeil said, “I love to check back in after our services are completed just to see how things are going, and I also love when they check back in with me. The best feeling is having someone you helped utilize the tools that you worked on together for something in the future, and then show you how successful it was for them. I have some who will check in even a year later just to show me what they’re doing or to show me they’re using something our team sent them for yet another event.”
Need help with your church’s social media?
United Methodist Communications offers free social media graphics, in addition to a range of specialized communications, marketing and web services for your local church. Apply for assistance at ResourceUMC.org/lcs.
*Crisler is a senior public relations specialist at United Methodist Communications.
For more than 80 years, United Methodist Communications has been leading the church in telling inspirational stories of God’s work in the world through The United Methodist Church, reaching new people, supporting local churches in vibrant communications ministry, equipping leaders and delivering messages of hope and healing. This essential work requires financial support. If you believe in our mission, consider a tax-deductible donation to the work of United Methodist Communications through its Foundation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.