In previous posts, we’ve discussed social media and how ministries can engage with their congregation and even grow their church membership, especially through Facebook. Twitter is my favorite social media channel because I prefer the quick take nature of the network. If you follow all the online sites you frequently visit, you’ve essentially created a curated internet experience without opening a browser.
However, for ministries a Twitter account is beneficial only if you carve out time to tweet out your own messages and respond to followers. Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church updates their followers regularly with inspiring messages and notes. And while it’s unlikely your ministry has the resources of a Lakewood, Twitter can help smaller ministries deliver timely information and thoughtful inspiration to your congregation. Even if your ministry decides to ignore Twitter, you’ll want to understand how it works and you may be surprised at the opportunities that you uncover.
Twitter Basics & Definitions
One of the biggest barriers to engagement using Twitter is confusion surrounding how it works and the lingo people use within the network. To help alleviate any confusion, here are my plain spoken definitions for Twitter:
Tweet: This is a message you write which could include a photo, link, hashtag (we’ll get to this soon) or a combination of all. Must be 140 characters or less and will be posted on the news feeds of everyone who chooses to follow you.
Following: The people, brands, entities and organizations that you choose to listen to will appear in your news feed. These are the accounts that your ministry is following.
Followers: These are the people, brands, entities and organizations that choose to listen to you. Your tweets will appear in their news feed.
Retweet: When someone decides to share your tweet, it is called a retweet. This will often appear with the RT acronym in your news feed.
Finally, be sure to fill out your church’s profile information correctly (church name, city, website). Additionally, you’ll want to craft your ministry’s message and include a photo of what your church looks like from outside. You may find someone who wants to attend services there and this will help them to find you.
#s Are Your Friend
I’m old enough to remember when this was a pound sign but in today’s culture and especially with the Twitter audience, it’s more commonly referred to as a hashtag. The overuse of hashtags has been playfully roasted by Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake but hashtags are actually a great way to find new followers (#opportunity). By using hashtags, you can surface people who are not following you to discover you. For example, you may be planning a sermon series on gratitude during Thanksgiving week. If you were to tweet out your latest sermon during the week, it would be beneficial to utilize both the #gratitude and #Thanksgiving. Now your sermon is posted in the feeds of members following #gratitude and a more general audience who is following #Thanksgiving.
What to Tweet?
Now that we’ve gone over some basic definitions, what should your ministry tweet about? It’s really up to you and what you feel your congregation will interact with, will find helpful and will ultimately better serve them on their journey of faith. The following describes the types of tweets I most frequently see from the ministries and organizations I follow:
Scripture: Your congregation as well as your other followers will be receptive to your selected quotes and verses. Besides, spreading and sharing the gospel with others is part of our duty as faithful stewards.
Church Events: Informing your congregation of upcoming events, registrations and even scheduling changes provides a utilitarian purpose to your members. Also remember that these types of tweets are intended to not only inform, but also to excite your members about upcoming events.
Prayer Requests: These are self-explanatory, but I wanted to note that these are essential and probably the most frequent tweet type that I see from specific ministries and from others such as Pope Francis.
Follow Ups From Sunday Message: Though not as frequently seen as prayer requests and upcoming events, follow up readings can help your members in recalling and solidifying your Sunday message. To track your interactions, you can record which sermons you follow up on through your church management system.
I do not believe that every ministry should have its own Twitter account. This doesn’t make sense given the reach of Facebook and the effort required to maintain a good Twitter account. I do think, however, that understanding how Twitter works as a ministry communication tool can be beneficial to all churches. It’s valuable to understand how people communicate online and especially with millennials who interact with Twitter at a higher rate than any other age cohort. By following some of your church members’ Twitter feeds, you’ll also learn more about brands, voices and organizations that they like which can help inform some of your future event promotions and even your Sunday message.