Social Media

Social Media Policy For Churches: The Definitive Guide

Brady Shearer
August 25, 2020 11 min read

This is a complete guide to social media policy and strategy for churches.

In this new guide, you’ll learn exactly how to build a social media ministry from scratch, including:

  • The 7 rules of church social media policy
  • How to determine what deserves a social post and what doesn’t
  • What’s needed to build momentum on social and start growing
  • Common mistakes churches make and how to avoid them
  • How to manage social in a global pandemic and post-pandemic world

Let’s get started.

Free Bonus: Click here to download my Social Media Policy For Churches [Customizable Template] – share it with leadership and get everyone on the same page

The 7 rules of church social media policy and strategy

Here’s the bottom line:

Even though platforms like Facebook have been around for more than ten years, social media as a cultural force is still very new.

And the rhythms of social are always changing. This is why it often feels like it’s impossible to keep up online.

But here’s the good news:

The seven rules you’re about to learn are not reliant on the latest trends or the newest social platforms.

On the contrary, the principles you’re about to learn will serve you for years to come – while also helping you navigate the ongoing evolution of social media.

Rule #1: Our efforts on social must be informed by Christ

I think this is an important place to begin:

What does the Bible say about social media? And should churches even be using social in the first place?

Perhaps you’ve encountered resistance in the past from senior leadership on the topic of social media because they’re uncertain how it aligns with the mission of a church.

For my part, I look to The Great Commission. Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” [Matthew 28:19].

So the mandate here is to *be* where the people are. And social checks that box.

Consider this:

In 2005, just 5% of American adults were using at least one social platform. By 2011, that rate had risen to 50%. And now? Pre-pandemic, almost 3 out of every 4 American adults were using at least one social media site.

Social media usage over time [Pew Research Center]

Moreover, as social media usage has grown, it has also become more broadly representative of the greater population. Like most cultural shifts, it started with young people but now is widely used across different ages, income demographics, education levels, gender, and race.

As if that’s not enough, social media isn’t just widely used – it’s also frequently used.

In fact, across each of the major social platforms (except for Twitter), the majority of users are checking in at least once per day.

How often Americans use social media sites [Pew Research Center]

And this shows no signs of stopping.

Gen Z (the generation currently in high school and college, responsible for the rise of TikTok) is the first generation to be raised in a world where social media always existed.

Yes, it’s crazy to think about…but social is still in its infancy.

Embracing The Great Commission means taking The Good News to the people. And in the scope of human history, we have never seen anything like social media in terms of attention and scale.

But now, we must confront a follow-up question: How should churches use social media?

Again, let’s look to Jesus. Because here’s what I see:

When Jesus spoke, he often used worldly ideas accessible to the average person as springboards to talk about the Kingdom of God.

A few examples:

  • Agriculture (Mattew 13)
  • Farming (Matthew 21)
  • Baking (Matthew 13)
  • Economics (Matthew 25)
  • Labor (Matthew 20)
  • Wine (Matthew 9)
  • Sheep (Matthew 18)

The idea here is simple:

Find the intersections between faith and culture. Where can The Good News cross paths with the lived experiences of the person you’re trying to reach? Use Jesus as your example. And then go and do likewise.

Rule #2: Use social media to *do* ministry – not just *promote* ministry

The reason most churches struggle with social media? The majority of our posts are promotional in nature.

What makes a post promotional?

  • Is there a link to click?
  • Are you asking a user to go to a different platform?
  • Is the purpose of the post to make someone aware of an upcoming event? Service? Ministry? Church happening?

Here’s the bottom line:

Social media *is* a ministry. It’s not a vehicle to *promote* ministry.

So what does this actually mean for you? Let’s look at two examples.

In the first example, we have a church using social media to promote an upcoming in-person prayer event they’re hosting. And this is a prototypical example of how most churches use social media.

To manage social properly though, your first impulse should be to do ministry on social, rather than promote ministry.

So instead of inviting people in your church to pray soon, why not invite them to pray now?

Let’s look at a second example.

In the second example below, you’ll find a countdown prayer post.

And the idea here is simple:

Because people are already on their phones, mindlessly scrolling through their social feeds, let’s invite them to make better use of that time and begin to pray…right now.

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Social media has completely changed in the last couple of years. And traditional tactics like consistent branding and promotional posts don't work like they used to.⠀ .⠀ 🤷‍♂️ So…you might be wondering: what DOES work on social media? And how can my church use it best?⠀ .⠀ 🤔 This simple question is something I've been obsessing over for the last couple of months. So here's what I've got for you…⠀ .⠀ 📺 Rather than just TELL you about principles for social media, I actually want to SHOW you examples. So each day this week, I'll be revealing a brand new social media archetype for churches.⠀ .⠀ ➡️ And let's be clear, this kind of stuff is unlike anything you've likely seen churches post on social media before.⠀ .⠀ ⏰ Today…I call this template…'The Countdown.' And I love this countdown template because, we all know how much of a time-waster social media can be. We mindlessly scroll through our feeds, just looking for something that will interest us for a second or two. But what if we could redeem some of this time? That's what 'The Countdown' template does.⠀ .⠀ 🙏 As someone in your church is scrolling through their social feed, they come across 'The Countdown' – and all it asks them to do is STOP. Stop for a moment and take the next sixty seconds to pray for your spouse. Or pray for your kids. Or just sit in silence and do nothing.⠀ .⠀ 🙌 Think about it…this is social media being used to PROVOKE spiritual practice. Being used to disciple your congregation and community. Now, normally, we'd ask our congregation to come to a service or a special prayer event and THEN we can initiate prayer – and there's nothing wrong with that – but if your church is already gathered on social for a full 4-7 hours every single week – why can't we prompt them to prayer there as well?⠀ .⠀ 💒 Like I said…this is just one NEW archetype for social media I've been working on. And I'll be revealing a new one each and every day this week. So stay tuned!

A post shared by Brady Shearer (@bradyshearer) on

This is what it looks like to use social to do ministry – rather than promote ministry.

And while it might feel a bit foreign at first, once you’ve established it as a pillar in your church’s social policy, I’m confident you’ll start thinking creatively here.

Because, yes, it sure is easy to use social to promote, but it’s not effective.

NOTE: Balancing promotion and doing it the right way is generally the biggest struggle churches have on social. So that’s why I published a separate post on church comms policy as a whole. It’s titled 7 Rules Of Church Communications Strategy [Policy Template].

Rule #3: Find a sustainable pace for your church

Social media is a long game. And there’s really only one key to success.

Ready for it?

Post content that is valuable to your church for the next ten years.

Why ten years?

Because ten years is a really long time! And that’s what relationships demand. Years and years of meaningful investment.

Think of it this way:

Social media is like exercise. One amazing post won’t accomplish much – nor will one workout. The key to progress is sustained effort over the long-term. Don’t get distracted by the specifics (especially at the start). Instead, find your sustainable pace and stick to it.

This rule should also inform how many platforms your church is active on, along with how frequently you publish to those platforms.

Just because a platform exists, doesn’t mean you need to be on it.

So here’s my advice for managing multiple social platforms at your church:

  • Pick one social platform where the most people in your church are active
  • Generate momentum on that platform
  • Ensure you’ve found a sustainable pace that you can keep up for years to come
  • And then consider expanding to a second platform
  • Repeat

And then when it comes to posting frequency:

You don’t need to post every day on social. Platforms are too saturated nowadays to give anything less than your best. Throwaway posts may fill a quota. But they’ll punish your long-term effectiveness.

So here’s what you need to do:

Find a posting frequency that is sustainable for you and your church for the next ten years. And then just keep showing up every single week.

That’s the secret. That’s how you build meaningful relationships online. So set your expectations accordingly.

Free Bonus: Click here to download my Social Media Policy For Churches [Customizable Template] – share it with leadership and get everyone on the same page

Rule #4: Reach publicly; connect personally

You have two responsibilities as the social media creator/director at your church:

  1. Reach publicly
  2. Connect personally

And if you aren’t doing both of these things, your church’s social presence will always be incomplete.

Now, most of our churches understand the reach publicly element of social. That means publishing posts on your pages and profiles that be seen by the world.

And the reason most of our churches understand this is because this is the part of social that is visible. So we can simply follow the cues of what others are doing.

The connect personally element is where we often struggle.

But here’s what you need to know:

The organizations and individuals that are building vibrant communities online are doing so by connecting personally behind the scenes – that means direct messages, emails, chats, etc.

This may surprise you, but I spend considerably more time on social connecting personally than I do reaching publicly.

We get hundreds of messages and DMs every single week and we put in the work to get back to every single one of them. Because we know that by connecting personally we can create meaningful points of contact with people that will last.

Rule #5: Stop the scroll

You are sharing the greatest story of all time – The Good News of Jesus Christ.

But it doesn’t matter how amazing your message is if no one is listening, right?

And this is why every smart social media strategy needs these three words: Stop The Scroll.

Now, why is this so important?

Well, because that’s how you and I use social media!

We open up our phones and we take our thumbs and we flick, flick, flick! We scroll, scroll, scroll!

And so if you want to get someone’s attention – you first need them to stop scrolling.

And if you’re curious about how this can actually be done, one of the best ways to stop the scroll is to use photos of people in your social posts.

Not stock people, mind you, but real people that are connected to your church.

This is a timeless technique. And it makes a huge difference because we as humans are a social species – we connect with other humans on an instinctual level.

To make a point, a few years ago, Georgia Institute of Technology and Yahoo Labs researchers looked at 1.1 million photos on Instagram and found that pictures with human faces were 38% more likely to receive likes than pictures with no faces. And 32% more likely to attract comments.1

Stop the scroll.

And then, once you’ve stopped the scroll, you have the opportunity to share The Good News with someone. But you gotta get them to stop scrolling first.

Rule #6: Repeat the best; forget the rest.

Here’s a social media secret you won’t hear very often:

Nobody knows what they’re doing.

Talk to any person you look up to online and they’ll tell you about all of the times they posted content they were super excited about – only to see it fall flat.

Inversely, they’ll tell you some of their most popular posts were pieces they thought were sub-par and they never could have envisioned them taking off the way they did.

This is because social media is tremendously difficult.

Social is a combination of:

  • Copywriting
  • Photography
  • Graphic design
  • Videography
  • Communications
  • Customer support
  • Branding
  • Storytelling
  • Theology
  • …all rolled into one!

It ain’t easy.

Here’s the good news though:

Social platforms do a superb job of showing you (in exceptional depth) how your audience is responding to your posts.

So this is where rule number six comes from: repeat the best; forget the rest.

When you stumble upon a post type that resonates with your audience…use it again. And again. And again! And keep pulling from that well until it runs dry.

For example, if you see great engagement on quote posts – give them a permanent spot in your social calendar. On the other hand, if you keep posting quotes and you don’t see them resonating, don’t keep forcing it.

Now, you might be wondering: what constitutes good engagement versus bad?

The answer? It’s highly individual.

You should be comparing your posts to your posts. Not one of your posts to a similar post from a different church.

Here’s a simple equation you can use to give each of your social posts a score: engagement divided by reach.

So count up all your likes, comments, shares, saves, etc. and divide that total number by reach – the number of people who actually saw that post.

And then do that for each of the posts you’ve published on social for a given platform in the last 90 days and see what your top performers are.

Rule #7: Offline and online ministry must work together as allies, not adversaries

Now, I haven’t addressed this at all yet – I’ve saved it until now.

But, there will be people that read this post that think to themselves: “Social cannot replace in-person gatherings.”

To which I would say, “Correct. I fully agree with you.”

But here’s what I’ll also say: “What we do offline can never replace what we do online.”

And listen, you might balk at that claim. So allow me to explain a bit further.

Your week has 168 hours. For most churches, roughly one of those hours is dedicated to an in-person service. But that still leaves 167 hours beyond that where you won’t be meeting in-person with your church.

(this also assumes your entire congregation attends service every week – which is unlikely)

But…you can still connect with them: online.

And this is why, fundamentally, online ministry and offline ministry need to work together.

Because the mission of our churches is not to host a service. Nor is it to post on social media.

The mission of our churches is to affect life change. And both offline and online ministry play a unique role in making that happen.

Download this policy as a written document below

Below you’ll find a link to a Google Doc where this entire policy is written down – rule by rule.

So make sure to download that and formalize it in your own church. It’s freely available to you so you can share it with leadership and get everyone on the same page.

Use this as the foundation for your social media ministry. Return to it frequently to ensure you’re on the right trajectory.  And bring The Good News to a world that needs it!

And remember, this is just one of four posts in this series on policy and building a church comms ministry from scratch. Make sure you read through the other three posts – each is linked below:

  1. The New Rules For Church Growth In A Post-Pandemic World
  2. 7 Rules Of Church Communications Strategy [Policy Template]
  3. How To Write Better Church Email Newsletters (7 Rules)

Free Bonus: Click here to download my Social Media Policy For Churches [Customizable Template] – share it with leadership and get everyone on the same page

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