Specialized artificial intelligence is taking the internet by storm, especially large language models such as ChatGPT. With a simple text prompt, these tools incorporate huge amounts of data to generate human-like responses to questions.
When ChatGPT came on the scene, many people wrote about how we could — yet shouldn’t — use it to write sermons or Bible study lessons. Turning this task over to AI may be unsettling for some, but there is no doubt that AI can help generate helpful content and even help find the best words to use in response to a question or comment online.
Here are four ways to get you thinking about using this powerful tool. Just remember: It’s all in the prompt you give. The more specific you are, the better your results will be.
Target your marketing posts
Large language models such as ChatGPT can make it easy to create compelling marketing content and target your online audience. For example, if you want to market your fall festival to two groups — let’s say families with children and teens as well as grandparents who could bring their children and grandchildren — ChatGPT can be a great place to start.
For our test, we asked ChatGPT, “Can you write a social media ad for a church fall festival targeted toward families that have both teens and young children?”
In a couple of seconds, ChatGPT gave us a great starter post — complete with hashtags:
“Join us for an unforgettable fall festival the whole family will love! Our church is hosting a day filled with fun, games and delicious food that will leave you feeling grateful for the season. Bring your teens and young children for a day of family-friendly activities and entertainment that will make memories to last a lifetime. We have something for everyone, from pumpkin carving to face painting and hayrides! Don't miss out on the chance to connect with other families in our community and celebrate the beauty of fall together. See you there! #FallFestival #FamilyFun #CommunityLove”
Because we have two audiences, we followed up by asking, “Can you write the same ad but targeted toward grandparents bringing their children and grandchildren?”
ChatGPT did a great job of retargeting this ad with this response:
“Grandparents, make memories with your children and grandchildren at our fall festival! Our church is hosting a day filled with fun, games and delicious food that will leave you feeling grateful for the season. Bring your family for a day of intergenerational activities and entertainment that will create memories to last a lifetime. We have something for everyone, from pumpkin carving to face painting and hayrides! Don't miss out on the chance to connect with other families in our community and celebrate the beauty of fall together. See you there! #FallFestival #FamilyFun #IntergenerationalLove"
We asked ChatGPT for a headline and got “Fall Festival Fun for the Whole Family: Join Us for a Day of Food, Games and Memories!”
But what if you are limited to 60 characters?
We asked and ChatGPT responded, stating that we could try something such as “Celebrate Fall With Family Fun: Join Us!”
Break your writer’s block
There is nothing like needing to write a newsletter article only to find yourself 30 minutes later staring at a blank screen, unable to come up with anything.
If you just need some ideas, ChatGPT can break that writer’s block.
For this example, we asked ChatGPT, “Can you give me four article ideas for a United Methodist Church newsletter?
Its response was great. It didn’t just write a stock article, it gave ideas that could be fantastic and contextual:
“Sure, here are four article ideas for a United Methodist Church newsletter:
“Living the Methodist Faith: An Interview With a Longtime Member” — This article could feature an interview with a longtime member of the church discussing their experiences with the Methodist faith and how it has impacted their life.
“Caring for Creation: How Our Church is Making a Difference” — This article could highlight the church's efforts to care for the environment, including any green initiatives or community service projects focused on sustainability.
“Youth Group Spotlight: Building Community and Faith Among Our Young People” — This article could feature an overview of the church’s youth group, highlighting recent activities, events and the impact it has had on the youth and the church community as a whole.
“The Power of Prayer: How Our Church is Supporting Members in Need” — This article could focus on the role of prayer in the church community, including personal stories of how prayer has helped members during difficult times, as well as any prayer programs or support groups offered by the church.”
Craft a good response quickly
You may not have to manage your church social media page for long before you will most likely find yourself needing to respond to a comment. If you don’t know where to start, coming up with helpful phrasing is where large language model AIs shine.
We prompted ChatGPT with this: “Can you give me a couple of options for how to respond to this comment on our United Methodist Church's Facebook page: ‘I used to go to church, but it’s just filled with a bunch of hypocrites. No thanks. I'll stay home.’”
It gave two great starting points and even riffed on the official UMC tagline in Option 2. Here is ChatGPT’s response:
“Yes, here are a couple of options for how to respond to this Facebook comment:
“Option 1: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. We’re sorry to hear that you’ve had a negative experience in the past. At our church, we strive to create a welcoming and inclusive community where everyone is accepted and valued. We understand that the church is made up of imperfect people, but we believe that through God’s grace, we can work together to grow in faith and love. We invite you to give us another chance and experience the difference for yourself. You are always welcome here.
“Option 2: We appreciate your honesty and respect your decision. We understand that church is not for everyone, and we want you to know that our doors are always open if you ever decide to return. In the meantime, we hope that you find peace and fulfillment in your spiritual journey, and we wish you all the best.”
Help with summarizing
It can be difficult to summarize and shorten complex statements or paragraphs, but that is another area where large language model AIs stand out.
We took a paragraph from one of our articles and asked ChatGPT to break it down for us.
We asked, “Can you summarize this paragraph in one sentence: Millennials have grown up in a world where their name and email address grant access to nearly everything. Then, the visitor card at church asks for their mobile number, the names and ages of their children, their home address. It can feel like an invasion of privacy to these data-collection skeptics. Take a moment to consider only what’s essential for your follow-up ministry strategy and simplify your card.”
It gave us a great sentence: “To avoid invading the privacy of millennials, churches should simplify their visitor card by asking only for essential information for follow-up ministry strategies.”
Then we asked to make the response 100 characters or less, and it came back with, “Simplify visitor cards to avoid invading privacy: Ask only essential info for follow-up ministry strategies.”
Specialized artificial intelligence can be a huge help. While you may not want to turn to AI for preaching or Bible study lessons, ChatGPT can be a great asset when you need to generate a broad range of content. Consider using this powerful tool to help you create content and engage with your audience even more effectively.
Jeremy Steele is a writer, conspirator and spiritual entrepreneur who refuses to give up on Christianity. He spends his time resourcing the dreams of the next generation and helping it discover paths to spiritual enlightenment and connection with God. He lives in Arlington, Virginia, and is associate pastor at Chesterbrook UMC. Find more about him and his work at Jeremy-Steele.com.