#PrayFor ______. We see the graphics all the time now. Love ’em or Hate ’em.
The church social media communications community recently saw a nicely assembled #rant post by Justin Dean.
It is a good post.
In his article, Justin points out that the recent string of #PrayFor_____ opportunities create scenarios that feeds a superficial publishing machine.
Seeing how church comm directors scramble for cool looking #PrayFor____ graphics, asking others to share their raw image files, etc can lead one to the conclusion that these churches are worried more about looking like they’re being responsive than being concerned authentically regarding how to mobilize and do something about it.
I just don’t agree with Justin.
Well, sort of disagree.
I fully back the sentiment that we can’t be just lip service as a church.
“Churches should set the trend for how to take action during a tragedy not just post cute graphics on social media,” is spot-on.
BUT, I do think there are very tangible reason why church communications managers should keep posting hashtag prayer graphics as various crisis and mournful events happen around the world.
1) When we do, it serves as acknowledgement that our concerns as a community go beyond the holy huddle.
If all you do as an org and brand is post about me, me, me then your stream messaging becomes boring, boring, boring. And it clearly indicates that you have no awareness outside of a conceited self absorbed existence. No one wants to be “friends” with that on Facebook.
People in your community, in your congregation, want your church (and thus your content) to have relevance to today’s world and their personal lives.
In fact, people who have some affinity to to an affected population group, cause, etc become vocal when the church doesn’t address, mention or acknowledge these events at all. These crises take on a much larger meaning and identity for many these individuals in our communities. We need to hear their pain and help them feel heard. Publishing something like a hashtag prayer graphic on a major comm channel like the church’s Facebook page helps them feel supported, heard and cared for.
2) These hashtag #PRAYFOR ____ quote card memes work.
When breaking news happens and the world sees how the events unfold to become becomes authentically tragic, seeing the flood of various versions of the prayer hashtag quote cards serves as a reminder and also comfort to those who come across them.
Church members as well as non-church goers who end up seeing the slew of #PrayFor ____ content encounter a persona of the church which is in alignment with what Jesus’ church does stand for. Loving the hurt. Grieving a broken world.
It is good to reinforce and reiterate aspects of your church’s online persona and established identity, especially for the unchurched who become exposed to it. The 10,000 foot view by the public? The church cares and is a sanctuary driven by love.
3) as social media managers, we are on the front lines of online chatter, and thus need to activate “the scramble” whenever an event occurs in real-time.
As the rare and often misunderstood breed, church digital communications managers are the ones that need to engage, publish and live in real-time mode on behalf of the brand and platform. Your jobs role is not focused upon next Sunday. It is focused upon what people are talking about right now.
So the scrambling you might see behind the curtain, in closed Facebook Groups or Church Communications Slack Channels is actually kind of expected.Shoptalk by church communicators in private forums provides accountability to each other. Click To Tweet
The end result is making sure we are presenting and publishing in an appropriate manner.
At the end of the day, from my POV it is refreshing to see both the comfort some have in asking their peer church leaders freely for help (with designed graphics / content), and those community members that contribute and share freely.
In fact, that’s why two current projects I am working on are www.Insta.Bible sharing the entire Bible (33k+ verses) visually — and the Church Butler social media content subscription service www.butler.church.
Church communicators don’t have the time and resources to do it all. Resources like these will help provide high quality professionally designed graphics and media already “done for you” to make your job easier and overall impact more effective. Who will argue against that?
4) with time decay for social media posts being oh so real, these static quote cards have a very limited lifespan.
So the validity of Justin’s #rant actually diminishes at a quicker rate all the more as time passes as a whole.
These posts aren’t as annoying to audiences as you might think. Single status update posts disappear into the ether very quickly.
5) In today’s always-connected T.G.I.F. world, non-responsiveness becomes equated with intentional ignorance or disregard.We need to be aware that omission sometimes seems worse than plain poor stewardship. Click To Tweet
If you are on a social platform, there are expectations for you to be “on” as well.
Lack of care or concern clearly isn’t what’s intended in most cases, but we should begin to own the increasing need to be “on” 24/7 as we expect our audiences online to give us their attention and engagement outside of the one hour people give the church on Sunday morning.
If we expect to be able to go out and engage with our people at any time and any day, we also need to be a part of that on-all-the-time public square as well.
Ok, so overall I get the gist of the original rant post against all these pretty pray for social graphics that we see come across our feed in times of tragedy and crisis.
But I think we need to be thoughtful and discerning on both sides of the equation. Before you throw out this tactic and theme from your social media toolkit, I think you need to consider what you would be missing out on if you do.
And there’s no right universal answer of course.
Your church is different than the one across the street as well as the one across the globe in any of the online church communication forums.
But hopefully these five points above will stir some discussion amongst your own internal team to help you land in the right place.
I invite you to chime in on this discussion with the comment below. It is far from binary and can be a helpful exercise for everyone involved.
Kenny Jahng is a content marketing advisor and communications strategist who helps nonprofit, cause-driven and faith-based organizations / churches. You can connect with Kenny on Twitter @kennyjahng
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