Member participation is absolutely crucial for effective digital ministry, and yet there is very little guidance out there for people in our congregations. Most of the advice focuses on the role of professional ministry leaders.
Member engagement helps puts the "social" in social media by extending the community, amplifying the Gospel message, and helping move away from a one-person one-message model of broadcast media.
Here are five ways members can participate in and extend the digital ministry of their congregations:
1. Be a Graceful Presence
You don't need a Facebook account or smart phone to do this. We all belong to a range social networks, both face-to-face and digital. Whatever social networks you belong to, seek to be a graceful presence. Celebrate milestones. Communicate blessing and prayerful support when appropriate. The language doesn't always have to be overtly religious. A caring, compassionate presence goes a long way, and over time will point to the source of that grace - God.
2. Friend and Follow Fellow Members
Help build a stronger congregational community by connecting with other members online. The more connections and interactions we have, the stronger our communities will become. Social networking can give us insights into one another's lives and interests that might not normally surface in church conversations or meetings, providing avenues for discovering commonality and deepening relationship. Engage with each other. All those small encounters have a cumulative effect and help build community.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to recommend your congregation is to check-in when you come to church. This check-in automatically appears to your friends in Facebook - or, if you use Foursquare, to both your Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Without saying anything or sharing any particular content, you can let people know about your church. If the congregation has linked the location to its Facebook page, your friends can quickly discover more about your church. It's best to include a picture when you check-in to generate more interest.
4. Share Content
Hopefully your congregation is making available quality share-worthy content like videos, pictures, sermons, web pages, or links. Occassionally share this content within your social networks, either publicly or through direct messages to friends who you think might benefit from the content. It might be sharing a link on Facebook or Twitter, or just sharing a prayer you heard at church. You can add a short comment on the content when you post, or you can just share it without any comment. People do both and both are effective.
5. Celebrate Your Church
There are so many negative messages about church today. Social media gives us a great platform to can tell positive stories about the church and the difference it makes in our lives, community, and the world. Share a picture and tell people about something fun or meaningful that happened. Share your joy about your church!
Question: What other ways do you as a parishioner participate - or, as a professional ministry leader, encourage involvement - in your congregation's digital ministry?