Churches and other ministries and businesses are among the almost two billion people who use Facebook every day. During the 2020 pandemic, many churches relied heavily and successfully on Facebook Live for their sermons.
While there are lots of reasons for churches and ministries to use Facebook, there are reasons to consider alternatives.
Facebook users are becoming increasingly frustrated by the limited customization and branding available, the increased number of advertisements and continuing privacy concerns. Volatile political discussions and insensitive online behavior are also turning many people away.
While there is much to be said about Facebook’s wide audience range, it does little good when their algorithm limits your posts to a fraction of your audience (1% to 2%). Since Facebook has the right to ban content or do away with features you may rely on, users are beginning to understand they actually have very little control of their content.
If you’re interested in looking for an alternative, here are a few things to consider:
- Does it allow you to customize/brand your information?
- Is the alternative free? If not, how much will it cost? Is the cost worth it?
- Is it available on both the web and as a mobile app?
- Is this a space your congregants will like and use? How hard will it be to migrate?
- Will this space help you draw traffic (new guests/users) to your ministry?
Consider the primary reason you use Facebook. Most likely, it will fall into one of the following features of Facebook. Knowing which of these is most important to your organization will help you find an adequate replacement.
Community engagement features (posts/comments/groups)
Facebook has long been considered one of the best places to create an online community. Through posts and comments, people have the opportunity to engage with others in virtual conversations. Facebook Groups also offer members the ability to share confidential concerns and conversations in a more private online environment.
If your organization can afford it, create your own mini Facebook-like community on your website. With this option, you also can control content, branding and create your own rules of engagement. Kajabi and Mighty Networks are programs that provide this service. Website builders such as Weebly and WordPress offer plugins for private members-only areas. (BuddyPress and Youzer are two options.)
Of course, there are other social media platforms that may meet your needs. Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest are well known. Forums such as Reddit, Slack and Discourse are widely used by distinctive audiences. Lesser-known alternatives such as Disciple, groups.io and Band or one of the Christian social media sites may be worth investigating. Just remember: Each alternative to Facebook comes with its own set of pros and cons.
For example, some sites will have more users, offering the potential for expanded outreach. Most sites retain the right to delete information that goes against their community policies, but some define those policies more clearly than others. Some services may offer more freedom but may be harder to monitor. Consider each option carefully to find the best fit for your ministry.
Even if you disable your Facebook page, you can still use Messenger. To completely disengage from Facebook, you’ll need to find another way to send personal or group messages. Fortunately, this is usually the easiest feature to replace. Bulk texting services and apps such as WhatsApp or church management software programs like Shelby Next or UMConnect can help fill this gap.
Perhaps more than any other tool, Facebook Live has become an integral part in the ministries of many churches this year. Moving away from it may seem impossible or, at least, very risky. However, there are other tools to livestream your event. Most notably YouTube Live, Instagram Live, YouNow and Periscope are a few of the Facebook Live alternatives.
Each of these services allows users to record and share live content, but, again, there are differences. Periscope videos are viewable only for 24 hours before automatic deletion. Of course, YouTube and Vimeo are avenues for publishing prerecorded video. Compare online video platforms to determine what will work best for you.
If Facebook is no longer an option for your church, the good news is that there are alternatives. The bad news is that you’re unlikely to find one service as comprehensive as Facebook, at least not in a streamlined way. If it’s a move you still want to make, don’t get discouraged. Do your homework, and be patient. Though you should anticipate a learning curve, there are workable alternatives.
Social media is more than being social. It’s a ministry. United Methodist Communications is using social media to inform, encourage, motivate, inspire, and engage followers of Christ--and we are resourcing churches to do the same. These efforts require 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.