Communicating electronically is crucial, even if your church doesn’t do so on a regular basis. Hundreds of thousands of Canadian and US congregations have websites. People of all ages have access to laptops, tablets, and smart phones to receive personalized information about the world. Whatever the purpose, “there’s an app for that.” Even the most print-oriented grandparents e-mail their grandchildren, and once-stodgy businesses now use e-mails as part of the backbone of their communications.
500 million people use Facebook, half of them logging in every day. Facebook and e-mails are most popular among Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) in the US and Canada, the same persons who dominate church leadership in North American congregations. Pinterest attracts more than four million unique daily visitors who are overwhelmingly between twenty-five and fifty-four, the age range that is missing in most North American churches.
Take social media seriously if you’ve ever heard the complaint, “We need to attract more young people, more children, more youth.” 200 million people consistently use Twitter, which gets 36 million unique visitors each month. The number of tweets topped 300 billion two years ago. In fact, tweets are so popular that several commercial television programs ask for and post Twitter responses during their on-air time. When it comes to Tumblr, a microblogging and multimedia site, 110 million users are registered, hosting more than 180.7 million blogs. Instagram, a photo-sharing social network, has become a massive social network with more than 75 million daily users, primarily teens and twenty-somethings.
It would be foolish not to take advantage of this communication explosion. So, create a social media team for your stewardship campaign. Make sure the team members are the youngest or most media-savvy members, preferably middle school through college age. Have the team chair share the primary messages of your theme and let them generate at least two dozen ways to get the words and pictures out. Even a two-person team can have a huge impact!
Many churches already have an e-mail prayer list or database for highlighting events within the congregation. Name one or two people to generate e-mails to send out on whatever time basis you have determined. Would a weekly e-mail be helpful to help members build excitement? Be sure to send out an e-mail at least to introduce the program and each of the weeks of your campaign. Encourage the rest of the team to use other social media as often as they can. If your church has a website or a presence on Facebook, set up a stewardship campaign page and post photos and interviews as you go along. Have persons tell stories about to share testimonies about how they are called by God to give generously and how your congregation has shaped their lives and encouraged their stewardship.
Organize an audiovisual team. What if just two folks are interested? That’s fine! One person can serve as the interviewer and the other can film it on a tablet camera (iPad has beautiful resolution) or even on a smart phone. Film interviews can be ten minutes or less or even two-minute responses to questions related to the campaign theme.
Initially, an electronic effort may sound like a lot to small churches. At the same time, it will feel natural to congregations that already communicate electronically on a regular basis. Thousands of local churches are located in rural or open-country areas that already depend upon electronic messaging, while millions of people in their thirties and younger depend solely upon Internet technology. If your stewardship campaign is worth inviting people to participate, don’t leave anyone out!
Betsy Schwarzentraub is a consultant in stewardship and generosity and a retired United Methodist minister. She is the author of Stewardship: Nurturing Generous Living and Afire With God: Becoming Spirited Stewards. Find her writing at generousstewards.wordpress.com. She also is a member of the ESC Resource Editorial Team.
This article comes from the center section of the Giving:Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation magazine volume 17, which includes a timeline, articles, and other resources to create a stewardship campaign with the "Live Free" theme based on 1 Timothy 6:18-19 and Galatians 5:1. Use the magazine, corresponding theme materials, and the Live Free Companion Resource to create your "Live Free" emphasis. All are available in the ESC Web Store.