Because of the way our church management software provides socially-driven leadership tools, church leaders frequently ask me, “Why have another social network exclusively for my church when everybody already uses Facebook?” That's a legitimate question and one worthy of some further conversation.
Let me paint the big ‘why’ before I drill down...
Supporting your church engagement strategy with Facebook becomes problematic because the church can't control or anticipate what Facebook will do next. Further, your church won't be able to measure much in the area of online activity through Facebook's built-in but limited analytic tools.
Here are a few observations for further discussion:
- A church management system (ChMS) should be more than a glorified Rolodex.
It can also be a way people connect in a safe, protected environment. My small group has conversations in our private, online community we would never have on Facebook.
- As doing church becomes more decentralized, it becomes even more important to measure and monitor involvement.
It's important to make it easy to connect people who aren't already engaged with your church and to monitor the activity of existing individuals and groups. You can't assess church involvement and engagement on Facebook or any other disconnected data silo.
- Rather than compete with what Facebook does, your church management system should be used in tandem with your social network(s) of choice.
Facebook can serve as a worthwhile outreach tool where church members can easily share what is going on within your church community with those in their own personal networks. Use your ChMS to catch the measurable activities you need to track (event registrations for example).
- Your leaders need tools to help them do ministry, not simply communicate.
As a church leader, I need tools which allow me to plan events, meet needs, share resources, connect people to serving opportunities, and communicate. Facebook can do the last one pretty well, but not the others. This means I have to find other tools to meet those needs or rely on church staff to do it for me. That's neither efficient nor helpful.
Facebook is not a church management system, nor is a ChMS a complete alternative to social networks. The best approach is to find ways to link the two so that Facebook helps you reach people and your ChMS helps you measure the engagement of those you reach.
Does your church rely on Facebook as its primary online community engagement platform? How well is that working?