The digital world is flooded with content, content, and more content. As more people find themselves online than ever, our church communities and organizations must meet people where they are: online.
Having an online presence is not as easy as creating a few social media accounts, throwing together a website, and posting a graphic here and there. Building and maintaining an excellent online presence is vital to our church growth and reach in the modern digital world. Our online presence may be the only way some people are exposed to our church. More importantly, the content we share can be a primary avenue for those in the digital world to hear the Gospel of Jesus.
Before you go forward with scheduling out your digital content strategy or clicking the "share" button, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself when creating online content.
"Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world." Joel A. Barker
This quote is one that we need to continually keep in mind when doing anything for church, both in-person and online.
Vision and action go hand in hand, almost like James would contend that faith and works go hand in hand. You need both to work together to have the most significant possible impact.
Before creating anything, you need to have a clear vision of what your church believes, what the mission is, your values, and how you want to realize these things through substantive content.
Action without a vision just passes the time... or in layman's terms, it is without any purpose.
If we know the "why" and the "how," the next plausible focus should be on the "who." Think about this in a Biblical sense, such as in John 3:16:
"For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."
God is the ultimate example of marrying vision and action. But along with His action, God always has His children in mind. God's vision and purpose were in loving His people, so He took action and sent His only begotten son so that anyone believes in Him would have eternal life. God's focus in His action was on the "who" — the world.
Our vision, actions, and audience are vitally essential to keep at the forefront of our minds when creating content online. As Romans 8:28 says, "God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose."
God's focus is continuously on others, and how He relates to others is through His humble servanthood.
Our focus as the church should not be on our personal preferences but on the preferences of others. We should, as Jesus did, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your interests but each of you to the interests of the others." (Philippians 2:3-4).
What does this look like practically? It means pinpointing your target audience. Are you trying to reach Gen Z, Baby Boomers, Millennials, or a combination of them all?
(P.S. Our digital strategists help you in reaching your target audience and even help you figure out who your target audience also is).
The next thing to focus on is how you can best serve these people once your target audience is figured out. With everything you create for your online presence, consider how this content can help your people. How can it encourage them? How can it spur them to action? How can it motivate them to let their faith become action?
Serving well and leading in humility is one of the primary reasons Jesus was the ultimate leader. People wanted to follow Jesus because He always put others first, set aside His preferences, and went out of His way to make others feel loved and accepted. We should follow His example!
Once you understand your audience and have taken steps to serve them well, you have to consider what your people care about.
If you want to truly reach people with your content, it needs to be relevant, relatable, and stand out in the crowd. When you understand what your people care about, you can have a better idea of what content you need to share to reach who you are seeking to reach.
The content your audience is consuming, and the mediums through which they are consuming it, are vital to be aware of so that you can cater your content to the right context.
Don't be mistaken, this does not mean blindly conforming to the culture. It means creating a culture. Christians have dominated the world of art, music, and literature for hundreds of years - this doesn't have to change just because the method is new and different.
We can share the greatest story ever told with a world that eats up a good story.
Take time to understand the content your audience is consuming, and don't merely replicate it, cater your content to seamlessly fit in the gaps of their digital dialogue.
Once you have figured out your general method to content creation (the why, who, where, and what), we need to move on to our message. Content - video, graphics, and more - say a lot without even using words. These elements, just like any form of artwork, evokes an emotional response. It makes the viewer experience something profoundly significant to them, such as joy, peace, encouragement, a spur to action, and more.
You can not control how people respond to your content, but you can tailor your content in a way that speaks to what your church values and believes. All you can do is be true to your values and trust that your creative team will do the necessary work to get that value across.
When it gets down to the nitty-gritty of content creation, asking yourself what the content says about your organization is huge.
If someone is seeking out a church where they can belong, they will most likely look to your website or social media first. For example, say a potential visitor is a 50-something, empty- nester, and they only see Gen Z represented on your social media. They may not feel they have a place if the only people representing your social sites are out of their age range. The same would be true if a young adult or college student hopped on your Instagram and only saw people their grandparents' age.
This doesn't mean these people will rule out your community, it just means they could feel as if your church lacks age (and even race) diversity.
With every word, image, and video you share, you should always be thinking, "what does this content say about our church?"
This question is a simple one, but what would Jesus do?
Our online presence is not just about sharing content and leaving it from there. It is also about how we interact with our people online as well. Managing and replying to comments and inquiries online is a highly important aspect of creating online content and should be something we are cautious about.
We don't want to be hypocritical in our actions. For example, if we share a beautiful graphic saying, "God Loves You," we don't want to be rude or offensive in any comments on the mentioned graphic.
One of the best practices we can learn from Jesus is when to be silent and when to speak up.
Jesus was accused, slandered, and berated by people, yet He remained silent. We will undoubtedly have "haters" on our social media accounts who will be rude and accusatory. The natural response would be to reply in the comments and give it right back. But what would Jesus do?
We must not only say God loves people but live out that love for ourselves!
There are many questions to ask when creating online content that will make an impression on the world. You must have a clear understanding of your values, target people, content avenues, voice, and maintain a WWJD mentality when creating and managing digital content. At the end of the day, when you make it a point to serve others, share excellent and relevant content, and love as Jesus loved, you will have an incredible and impactful online presence!
Not sure where to start? Our fantastic team can help you out with all things content strategy and creation — it's sort of our specialty and passion!
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