Web Strategy for Church Planting – Go Local

You have decided to plant a church. Maybe you have moved to a new place or perhaps you decided to stayed put. Either way you want to put your church plant on the Internet. Excellent move. Relationships now work across multiple platforms, whether that is online, over the phone, over the dinner table or in a café/pub. Churches are exactly the same, and church planting is an exercise in networking and relationship development.

So a church plant needs to exist online. The main reason is to help you find people, interact with your community and learn about your city.

But before you throw yourself into the social media bear pit, can I politely suggest you put together a strategy? Ask yourself who’s your target audience? What do you want to say? What do you want to achieve?

Audience

I try to think Local, Global and Missional. For this blog I will cover a local strategy, and will look at Global and Missional on other posts.

By local, I mean your town/city/village/estate. What is the geographical catchment area of your church plant? This is a decision based on vision. If you are a church in a city, do you want to aim at your whole city or just a particular area? If you are planting in a town, do you want to aim at just one estate or the whole town? Be realistic about what you can achieve and how you are going to grow.

Also, it’s worth considering the sort of person you want to reach. Different age groups and tribes use the web differently.

In the beginning, don’t go for non-Christians. There are missional things you can do with social media and I will cover this in a later post. This is purely pragmatic, but it seems to me that a church plant's growth in the early stages is through Christians joining. There are always stories of non-Christians desperately googling for something and finding a church website, but I don’t think these events are the norm.

In Manchester, we have hit Christians who have no church, have just moved into the city or would like to join a church plant. We have never gone after Christians who are settled happily in a church, and we haven’t really had anyone join who was happily settled somewhere else!

What do you want to say?

Firstly you need an identity! Usually it’s best if you are yourself.

At the very beginning, when there was only my family and me in the church plant, I decided that I would exist online as myself and wouldn’t work through a church twitterfeed or facebook page. I thought that personal accounts worked better than an organisational account because people seemed happy to interact with you.

In terms of content and tone, I decided just to talk honestly about our success, failure and everything in between. I saw a few church planters who would only talk in glowing terms about their wonderful church plant and then they suddenly went very quiet. A good realistic tone and consistency will make you friends and gain you influence.

I like blogging, so I set up a personal blog and wrote everything there. It wasn’t very tidy or coherent, but it was honest and people started to read what I had to say.

Twitter and Facebook became great ways to meet and talk with new people. I had many coffees with people I met online. Some of them I never met again and some joined the church.

What do you want to achieve?

I simply wanted to make contact with people who lived in Manchester. It’s a mistake to view your online presence as a brochure, an info point or even as a loud hailer for your church plant. You want to meet, greet and befriend. So when we got to Manchester, all I used the net for was to learn about the city, understand the people and make some friends.

Finally, get online quick.

If you are planting a church get yourself a website, an email list, a twitter account, and a Facebook page as quick as you can. I don’t even think you need to be on the ground before you get yourself online. If you view the site as a means by which you can network and not an info point then you’ll find it a useful tool for growing the plant.

Tweet me if you have any questions.

@tsimmonds


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