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Facebook for Churches

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Facebook is all the rage in our culture. Facebook usage seems to be jumping in leaps and bounds. With its popularity is it a place your church should be active? If you church decides to setup a presence on Facebook how should it do that? In this weeks episode we try to help you answer these questions while talking about statistics, culture, and the technology powering these solutions.

An example of Facebook being used to build a congregation

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http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=50530652130

Check it out, this is a great example of success using Facebook and Twitter.

Dean P. Simmer
Youth minister, barista and IT guy for a small Catholic high school.
http://dsimmer.com (me)
http://newwaycorktown.org (my missional project)
http://detroitcristorey.org (my employer)

Niche social medias

I just heard you guys talking about how future social networks maybe will be alot of small niche communities... someone should totally make a social niche network for the "poke"-feature on Facebook ;)

Sometime the lag will get you...

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It's kind of amusing that Facebook launched their redesign (which somewhat imitates FriendFeed, which, in turn, imitates Twitter) since you recorded this. Facebook and Twitter might not be complete opposites any more, but they're still distinctly different services, and I'm not likely to change the way I use either just because of the recent changes.

I've been rolling this episode and the recent Lullabot episode on OpenID around in my mind in terms of our small community church website.

While using Facebook Connect for authentication on our website would exclude users of other ID services, that might not be a big deal in the short term because Facebook is the social network of choice for so many in our church. However, like you said, Facebook probably is a trend, and building exclusively for Facebook is probably a mistake in the long run.

The big thing that I see emerging now is that the big social networks like Facebook and MySpace are working towards opening up their walled gardens. Chances are that it won't be long until I can share things with my Facebook friends, and my small group of MySpace friends will also be able to access them, and vice versa.

The smart choice is probably to only do limited integration between local church sites and the big services like Facebook for a while. I like the idea of using Facebook Connect so people don't have to remember their passwords, for example. I think I'll wait and watch for a year or more while the big players decide how they're going to talk to each other. As those APIs emerge, someone in the Drupal community will begin playing with them.

I think that in a couple of years, it might not matter as much which is the trendy, popular site of the moment. The whole concept of distributed social networking will probably make that question less relevant.

Micah

Changes to Facebook

Perhaps you recorded this episode before the changes, but Facebook pages now behave a lot more like profiles and show up in peoples feeds.

Also, an important aspect of Facebook is the ability to do inexpensive targeted advertising for your church. I was actually quite surprised that you didn't touch on this. Setting up an ad is really easy and you are able to target the ads to specific age groups, geographic locations, and lots of other variables because Facebook has all this information that people give them for their profiles.

we were behind the curve

We recorded this episode before they launched the update. We got bit by our lag. Oh well.

I'm not a big fan of advertising on facebook. Sure, it helps existing Christians learn about your church. But, the goal according to Matthew 28:19-20 is to reach non-Christians. An ad about your church isn't going to be a cost effective way to share Christ with them.

I, also, wonder how many people are actually looking for a new church. Sure, a lot of people are switching churches. According to Barna and others about 97% of church growth is Christians switching from one church to another. This does not work towards what Matthew 28 talks about. So, that's why I don't typically bring up advertising. It isn't really a cost effective way to work on the Great Commission.

But, that's just my 2 cents...

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Facebook For Church's Rulz

Hello,

I love that you did an episode on Facebook for churches my church has been having groups on facebook forever.. Each of our ministries and the main church have there own groups and we use them not only to communicate with people and friends of our church but we use it to communicate to other churches and the community what we are doing.. Almost each and every event that we do has an event page our current event starting today even has a related event off our main church group.

You mentioned that the average church size in the US is 200 people.. at my church is over 600 people and we love to use Facebook to tell everyone what is going on. On my personal facebook friends list I created a list of people that is Young Adults, Youth Group & Main Church and then when I setup an event I have a list of people that I click on and boom they all get notified.. This also allows me to already have it devided by Age, Ministry and Whole Church.

Your thing about duplicated information is so true.. We do a monthly All Night Prayer and some months we don't put a related event on Facebook because it gets forgotten but our main sites are updated. I find that sometimes we just forget or it is low on the priority list. I know for myself as a Young Adult Leader who is a techy and it is the first thing I think about for ministry I still forget to put things on our facebook group. I don't agree with replacing your site for a facebook group. I think the - out way the the + and we need to use all the tech that the Lord has given us.. If you know my comments on the site then you know my church has a website for each ministry and now a FB group. I totally agree that FB does not provide most of the stuff that you need for your site.. I love that you mentoned podcasts.. FB allows you to link to mp3 files with an mp3 app but no place to upload or setup a podcast. Your own Website allows you to have what you want and then you can link or intergrate your fb into your site.

Anyway I am rambling.. but again thank you so much for brining to light the power of facebook for churches.

Check our Groups/Events Out (The Embassy of The Kingdom of God, Church)
Main | Young Adults | Youth | Elementary School | Current Event Page

Be Blessed!

Visit These Great Websites
www.embassyonline.ca (Young Adults)
www.embassystudents.ca (JR & SR High)
www.theembassyofgod.com (Main Site)
www.embassyworship.com (Worship Teams)
www.durhamhop.com (Durham House of Prayer)
www.matthewdykstra.site90.com

I was hoping for something a bit different

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(Since Mr. Feature was wondering why this show may have received a low rating...)

You guys presented a big picture view of how to work with Facebook.
1) Website replacement - Bad idea.
2) API integration into your website - Perhaps ideal, but unrealistic for every church that I work with and perhaps short sighted if FB is a trend.
3) Link over to FB - Although flawed, in my opinion the only realistic approach.

You may have presented an interesting macro analysis, but nothing that really helps me know how to use Facebook with my ministry. What I was hoping for from this episode was tips/techniques for how to best use the tools that FB provides to promote community, publicize your ministry, etc.

For example, there is a local church here in NYC that posts pictures after every event they do. They take time to tag all the people in each picture. So, not only those who attended the event, but also everyone that is friends with them gets to know about that event and has the opportunity to see pictures of it. In addition to being nice for your own community building, this is a way to communicate to the larger community what your church community is doing.

I was hoping for lots of ideas like these and analysis of them.

-Brad Wade
Project47 - Drupal Website Development
http://p47.project47.com

Worship Director and Elder
http://www.astoriachurch.org

Ignited Student Ministries Front Line Facebook Testimonies

Ignited is the ministry program for 7th through 12th graders at Cornerstone Church in Highland, Michigan. One of Ignited's programs is Front Line, which equips students to go into their communities and schools to be salt and light, sharing their faith, proclaiming the Gospel, and inviting their classmates to Ignited Outreach events.

One of the challenges to Front Line this month was to post a video of their testimony on their Facebook account. Some have tagged all of their school friends in the video to make sure it gets noticed. While a few of the kids have written their testimonies and posted them as notes, a few videos are starting to turn up as well. Here are some examples. These should be viewable from any Facebook account:

re: Facebook for Churches

My church, King's Church Portsmouth, has a Facebook group that is used as a base for sharing videos used in our services and social events, as well as for inviting people to church based events. I wouldn't claim everyone at church is on Facebook, or a member of the group if they are, but there are enough to make it worth while. I know of at least one family who joined the church as they saw how many people were members of our Facebook group!

Personally, I've found the best way to deal with the information overload, especially with the new design, is to remove anyone from your friends list who you are not genuinely interested in. If you really don't care about finding out about them: remove them. The same goes for groups and applications: if you don't have a real interest in them, just get rid of them. I also find it useful being able to block invites to applications I have no interest in. You can also block invites to applications from certain people, which I have also found useful.

When it comes to groups for messaging: I set up my cell group's Facebook group, and have now found it is only useful if everyone in the group is made an Admin, as then they can post messages for the whole group to get in their inbox. (This isn't too much of a problem as they are all trusted!). I've considered just using a Google group or something like that, but given that almost all of the cell group is on Facebook already, it just seemed to make sense to do it this way. (I think there is only 1 non-facebook user in the cell group).

Currently, I as a pastor use

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Currently, I as a pastor use Facebook just to keep up with what's going on in people's lives. When one of them has a rough day, I can say, "Praying for you." When one member I don't see often was talking about moving in with her boyfriend, I sent her a note encouraging her to make the right decision. I also interact with a lot of non-Christians who respond to my Christian updates. That last one has probably been the best part of my Facebook experience: dialog with people with whom I already have a relationship.

I agree with Brad that the info in this episode wasn't all that practical, but it was interesting. I was really excited about the API idea until I heard the huge caveats; then I was disappointed.

I posted on my blog a while back about using Facebook in ministry: http://www.crossfeednews.com/blog/pastordale/faceb... (It needs to be updated, as I wasn't on Facebook long when I wrote it.)

Left me hungry for more

Hey there!

I too enjoyed your show on Facebook, however I was looking for a little more meat on this topic. I was hoping you might cover best practices and highlight how others use social networking within a congregation.

I’m the web servant for our church and when our Pastor asked for a FB button on our website I thought “Great, Now what?”

+ john

So I'm thinking Facebook

So I'm thinking Facebook Episode, Part 2 should be on your "To Record" list, now that you guys have a wishlist. :)

re: So I'm thinking Facebook

Do you mean with a "now this is what we think about Facebook since they made the changes" style to it?

No, they kind of already did

No, they kind of already did that on the listener feedback. I'm thinking an episode on how pastors & churches can connect and use FaceBook for ministry. Maybe a social networking episode covering FaceBook, Twitter, etc., or was there already one? Can't remember.

re: No, they kind of already did

They have done a Twitter episode. The question I'd like answered, especially with the new redesign: what is best for a church to have: a Facebook group or a Facebook public profile?

Facebook groups v. pages

Here's Facebook's explanation

Pages can only be created to represent a real public figure, artist, brand or organization, and may only be created by an official representative of that entity. Groups can be created by any user and about any topic, as a space for users to share their opinions and interest in that subject. Pages can be customized with rich media and interactive applications to engage Page visitors. Applications can't be added to groups.

Pages are designed to allow Page admins to maintain a personal/professional distinction on Facebook, while groups are a part of your personal Facebook experience. If you're a group admin, your name will appear on that group, while Pages will never display their admins' names. Additionally, when you take actions on your group, such as posting on your group's wall, these actions will appear to come from you as an individual. However, if you post or take other actions on a Page you own, it will appear to come from the Page.

As long as a group is under 5000 members, group admins can send messages to the group members that will appear in their inboxes. If the group exceeds 5000, admins can't send messages to all members. Page admins can send updates to fans through the Page, and these updates will appear in the "Updates" section of fans' inboxes. There is no limit on how many fans you may send an update to, or how many total fans a Page can have. It's also possible to restrict access to a group, so that new members have to be approved, but access to a Page can only be restricted by certain ages and locations.

Here's my assessment...

Groups -

  • Can only be viewed after logging in to Facebook
  • Cannot add other applications
  • Display the group admins profile information
  • Currently have a layout that is different than profiles or pages (no tabs)
  • No statistics are available for groups
  • Groups have different privacy settings - 'Open', 'Closed', 'Secret'. With Open groups, anyone can join without approval. For Closed groups, they need administrator approval to join. For Secret groups, the group cannot be found in any searches and you can only become a member by invitation. You can also limit membership by network

Pages -

  • Can be viewed without logging in
  • Can add other applications
  • Page administrator's identities are masked
  • Page layout similar to profiles
  • Statistics are available
  • All groups are public and there are no controls over who becomes a 'fan', except for age and country restrictions

My recommendation is to create a page.

Facebook Page, Group, or Profile?

I see lots of discussion about PAGES vs. GROUPS for a church. How about create a regular user profile for a church? I just set up a group for our church but it seems so limited compared to a normal user profile. Here is my thinking:

- The group is now only accessible via that little link at the bottom of the page. I keep getting complaints from church members about how they "can't find it" after they join
- The group's updates don't show up in your regular NewsFeed
- A profile can organize photos into albums, a group cannot
- A profile can sync its "Notes" with an RSS feed (from our regular church website)
- A profile can sync with Twitter

Now here are the downsides:
- Profiles don't have "Discussions" like groups
- Profiles have a 5000K friend limit (though I doubt our church would hit that anytime soon)
- We would only have one username/pass for a Profile and couldn't assign "Officers" like in a group
- What happens when the person logged in as "SoAndSo Baptist Church" starts posting comments on people's Walls & Photos (we probably want to avoid that)

Bottom line is that a Profile seems to be something people are more used to interacting with on Facebook. If they "friend" their church (instead of being a "member" or "fan") it will be more involved in 95% of what they do on Facebook.

Any thoughts?

re: Facebook Page, Group, or Profile?

Using a personal profile for an organization violates Facebook's terms of use. Proceed at your own risk and decide what kind of example you want to be.

Upsides
- Your pages show up on your profile - info page and on your wall
- The page's updates do show up in your regular NewsFeed, if you're a fan
- A page can organize photos into albums, a group cannot
- A page can sync its "Notes" with an RSS feed (from our regular church website)
- A page can sync with Twitter

(These are no longer downsides):
- Pages do have "Discussions" like groups
- Pages don't have a 5000K friend limit (though I doubt your church would hit that anytime soon)
- You can assign more than 1 admin to a page (like officers for a group)
- No chance of logging in as "SoAndSo Baptist Church"

In my experience, pages are better for me as a user and as an organization.

No longer

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Yeah, Pages are now almost identical to personal profiles. There's really no advantage to violating the TOS. It used to be the case, but that all changed about the same time this episode came out.