Here are 5 Must-Have Tools for Building Community Online
In a recent podcast episode, we discussed five tools for your church to build community online. Why? Because in churches across the United States, the “church community” has moved to a hybrid space. People have not returned to church on Sundays as many had hoped. Instead, people continue to watch online or find other ways to worship throughout the week. That provides a challenge for ministries. But with a challenge is opportunity.
When your church chooses to embrace people where they’re at, instead of telling people to come to you (like we used to expect), the potential for ministry expands exponentially. Providing a space for community—whether in person or online—is how people will connect more deeply with your church, each other, and the gospel. That means it’s time to embrace the tools available to us!
Here are five tools your church can use right now to build community online.
1. Facebook groups
There are two main features to Facebook for an organization: a Page, or the “storefront” of your church to the Facebook world, and a group, or a space specially created for conversation and—you guessed it—community. Facebook labels groups as a place to “communicate about shared interests with certain people.” If you’re new to Facebook groups, check out these resources:
Podcast (episode 39): How to build community through Facebook groups
Facebook for Churches: A free ebook guide
Believe it or not, Facebook’s Messenger app is an excellent tool for your church to build community with groups of people online. Setting up Messenger for your Facebook Page means that your church can build out its chat with people interested in connecting with your church. You can promote Messenger in your posts and from the Page, and people will begin to send you a message. They’re engaging with your church and providing you the opportunity to engage one-on-one with people interested in a topic that your church’s Page is discussing, learning more about the worship services, or maybe just trying to connect with a pastor. When you monitor and engage with Messenger, you’re building community!
Using the highly visual Instagram, your church can build community in a completely different capacity than other apps. The conversation is not the same with Instagram. Because of the nature of Instagram, your church can share more about what’s happening in your church. You can share testimonies of life change by sharing a video or a picture with a testimony as the caption. You can give a behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming worship night or weekend service. Building community through Instagram means you’re engaging people in a slightly different way, but you’re drawing them in to get to know your church more and find other ways to connect.
4. Text messaging
Most people read text messages within three minutes, and texts have a 99% open rate. What’s that mean for you? Two things: First, text messages are a valuable part of a well-planned content strategy. But, second, text messaging is also incredibly personal. Texting can be a great way to build relationships within your church community by connecting with your church members throughout the week. You can do things like ask for prayer requests, share a testimony, or other personal elements of communication that would be good for conversation. The catch: don’t be spammy! If all you’re doing is sharing the bulletin or announcements by text, you’re not building community, and people will ignore your messages.
5. Video Conferencing
Zoom has undoubtedly seen its 15 seconds of fame, but is it a tool worth keeping around? Absolutely! Video calls allow more people to stay in contact more frequently—meaning hybrid and online-only meetings are sticking around. Platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams enable your ministry to continue serving and building community with people throughout the week while saving time on travel, scheduling, and other elements. Video calls are a great way to connect with people who are sick, homebound, or otherwise can’t make a meeting or service in person. Video conferencing provides an excellent avenue for your committees and other meetings to be more inclusive.
I’d love to hear from you! How are you using the online tools available to build community amongst your congregation? Head over to our Facebook group, and let’s talk!