Getting the Most from Social Media


I saw this on Leadership Network’s Digital blog and thought it was worth re-posting. Good stuff!

The following is an interview with Mark Clement founder and president of Big Picture Media in Birmingham, AL, which provides communication strategies and media content for churches and other faith-based clients across the country.

A lot is going on in “social media” today – how should churches define that space?

Churches should view social media as being equally important as their websites and as any other core communication tools they may already be using. Successful churches meet people where they are, and right now the “where” digitally/web-wise is, without question, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other related social media forums. If you want to be part of the conversation on any level, you have to be around the same table as those you’re trying to converse with.

Why does social media matter?

First, social media is a game changer. Right now the community-wide water cooler is social media, predominantly Facebook.

This is where people talk about their lives, their needs, what’s important to them, their struggles and their victories. The church needs to be “hearing” these things and then responding when appropriate. It’s a window into the lives of your people and the people you are trying to reach. No longer are you dependent on someone calling you to deliver news; there’s a constant stream of it right there in front of you.

A second reason is relevance: a relevant church knows and understands the things that impact its people and its community. If you’re in a farming community you should know all about rainfall, government subsidies and all the other things that affect your community. If you’re in a suburb it’s typically all about the schools and the ball fields. Social media is bigger than all that because wherever you live it encompasses every single part of daily life. Being part of that shows you care, that you get it, and that you’re not out of touch.

What are some statistics about the various types of media that churches shouldconsider?

Facebook has more than 400 million active users globally, with over 100 million in the U.S. alone. Women use Facebook more than men and they are primary communicators for their families, especially for church stuff.

The largest segment is people between 18-54 years old. Half of active users log onto Facebook on any given day. On top of that, more than 100 million active users currently access Facebook through their mobile devices.

Statistics get a little fuzzier for Twitter. The word active is important here because more than 60% of Twitter users abandon their accounts within first month. There were just over 20 million active users by the end of 2009, mostly in the United States. That is expected to rise to about 26 million in 2010.

About 10% of the users generate 90% of the content. In other words, there is more listening than talking. It is more of a conduit to you as opposed to from you. It is more of a professional tool than a personal tool in contrast to Facebook.

Twitter can be a great tool if your crowd uses it, but if not don’t expect to convince them on it just because you are tweeting.

How important is it for churches to match their audience with the right media?

Extremely. When you do anything as a church you have to ask “why” and “who are we doing this for?”

If you’re a small, declining church full of senior citizens, social media is probably a waste of time for you. although that may change in years to come. If you’re an “average” church reaching a good mix of all ages, Facebook is for you as it will touch the most people. Twitter is more of a professional tool used by a professional crowd, and even then it’s still used by a small percentage of those folks.

For example, the church where I am a member is about 1,500 in attendance each week, it is very affluent and it’s in an upper middle class area. There are tons of professionals but realistically less than 20% are probably active on Twitter — and that’s being generous. For most churches, Facebook is the best way to go.

What are the first steps in establishing this type of approach?

First, know your audience, what they are using and how they are using it. So survey your crowd. Second, know who is going to monitor and maintain everything and make it part of their job description. If this isn’t planned out it will fall flat, just like most church websites do. And third, if you need help, hire a coach/consultant to come in for a few hours or a day and walk you through everything.

What are the negatives with social media?

In general it can become a huge time sucker. There is a fine line between using it and letting it use you. You need to be strategic and intentional in how you use it. Also if you’re the type of church that is very image conscious, you need to be careful about who is responsible for speaking on your behalf in these forums. It has to be someone you trust to make wise decisions, but it shouldn’t need to be the pastor, who probably already has enough to do.

Should all pastors Twitter? In a recent gathering of our next generation pastors group they said they all do.

“All” pastors should not. But those who are eager to learn and value input from others can greatly benefit from the flow of information that can come to them via Twitter. For next generation pastors it’s a no-brainer. It’s a great way to hear about new books, conferences, trends, blogs, what’s working and what’s not, etc. — it’s a great listening device. And for those who have something of value to add to the conversation, it is the perfect forum to engage in the exchange of ideas.

That jives with what they said. They find it a small part of their communication with their congregation but a big part of communicating with other pastors.

What does your company do to help churches in this area?

Big Picture Media provides all level of coaching/consulting related to social media, from on-site, to web and phone support, one time or ongoing. We can help a church develop a social media strategy as part of their overall communications plan. We can help them create that entire plan or help to incorporate the social media component into whatever strategy is pre-existing.

We also do anything and everything related to media. Branding, market positioning, overall communication strategy development, copywriting, print design, web design, video production, etc.  Our team has 30 + years of church staff experience and all are heavily involved in their local ministries and churches. We speak the language, we walk the talk, and we love what we do.

You can connect with Mark via Twitter at, at his blog at, or you through the Big Picture Media web site which is

This article originally appeared in Leadership Network Advance.

Discussions Continue About SimChurch

My friend, DJ Chuang, posted an article entitled “Can the online church really be the church?” Here it is:

This new book by Douglas Estes, SimChurch: Being the Church in the Virtual World, tackles the brewing questions surrounding the legitimacy of an online church. Many church leaders are discerning and discussing the “what is the church?” question that’s been going for years, and now, growing numbers of church leaders are asking it in the context of online worship experiences and forming relationships and communities virtually.Simchurch

The book’s official website poses the question as: “Church on the Internet? Seriously?” This is the question many people are asking as more and more people chose to congregate online, and more and more churches look to launch internet campuses. But are these internet churches real? Are they healthy? Are they productive for faith? This is a conversation you can’t afford to miss as together we ask, “What does it mean to be the church in the virtual world?”

The official website links to a number of commentaries, including these positive ones: Internet Campuses from A Multi-Site Church Roadtrip, Responses to concerns about online church by Tony Steward, and A lesson from history for doubters by John Saddington; and negative ones:There is no virtual church by Bob Hyatt, Is Online Community real Community? Questions about the Virtual Church by Drew Goodmanson, Limitations of online church by Bobby Gruenewald.

As I’ve started reading through the book, I appreciated the author not taking a cautionary posture, throwing up warnings and fears of how technology could be misused. Estes digs behind the assumptions and cultural lens we have about being present with one another in inter-personal relationships. This is excerpted from page 60-61,

“If we want community to flourish in the virtual world, we’ll need to scrutinize our learned understanding of presence. Most people raised and educated in the Western world think of presence or being present as a physical act… Though defining presence simply as the location of our bodies is one of the foundational bricks of modern Western understanding of the world, itis not a God-given or biblical idea.” [emphasis added]

I think the book makes a compelling case for how relationships can occur through telepresence, and that a biblical community and a biblical church is not limited by the geography of a physical location.

And, last week, a SimChurch blog tour connected bloggers with reviews, commentaries, and interviews:

While I’m not so sure the discussions and reviews will change a lot of minds at this stage of the dialogue, I do think this book is one to be reckoned with. Where are you at with your thinking about the church in the virtual world?

Whole Church Blog Tour

wholechurch book Today  I’m a stop on the Whole Church Blog Tour. I asked author Mel Lawrenz 3 questions and he answered them below. I read this book on two flights a week ago. It’s worth your time to check it out.

1) In chapter 10, you talk about the struggles we all face when it comes to change. In your experience, what’s the first hurdle leaders need to overcome to change their culture from fragmentation to engagement?

MEL: Our biggest hurdle to overcome is our obsession with ourselves. All churches (and especially their leaders) tend to be focussed on themselves. We do that because we’re human; and we have fragmentation in our churches because we human beings are fragmented. We should come back to the question: what really constitutes success in a church? What are we really aiming at accomplishing? Whole Church contains 350 practical ideas on promoting cohesion in a church.

2) Is there a linear path from fragmentation to engagement? Or does each church’s individual context influence the steps leaders need to take?

MEL: Churches, like families, grow and improve in an organic way, not in a linear path, in my opinion (at least, with regard to the spiritual dynamics of a church). Engagement (as God’s resources being brought into contact with human need) happens when, in dozens of different ways, we close the God-gap. For instance, re-tooling worship so that it is a true encounter with God in every element of worship, or shaping small groups so that they produce true koinonia (not just gatherings), or getting a congregation really engaged with global needs by connecting with a school in southern Sudan. These are not a few steps along a linear path, but a pattern of a multitude of cohesive experiences.

3) You end the book with a chapter called “Choosing Wise Leaders” – why did you choose to finish with this?

MEL:Wisdom is a neglected theme of church leadership. Get leaders who are wise (in the James 3 sense), and they will know that engagement with God is where the real power of ministry comes from and they will raise the church above small-mindedness.

Mel Lawrenz

Church Online

Below is a post from my friend, DJ Chuang and the Leadership Network Digital Blog that I thought was worth repeating:

What the church looks and feels like is changing right before our eyes, and on our computer screens.

This article from The Gadsden Times (Alabama), “Now on your computer screen: Sunday services,” tells the story of how the Church Online of is reaching people around the world:

… The 32-year-old [Bobby] Gruenewald is a pastor at, an Edmond, Okla., organization that, with tens of thousands of followers, has created a virtual house of worship, with sermons, prayer and Bible study for an international congregation.Â

… Gruenewald said the average “congregation” at any given time on a Sunday is about 3,000 visitors, but over the course of the 90-to-120-minute services, between 12,000 and 15,000 unique viewers will log on. The services incorporate live preaching, songs and sermons from the church’s physical locations across the United States through a live feed, while viewers can chat with one another or church volunteers.

Lifechurch-capTo further connect virtual users, the site also employs a chat function that automatically translates their language into a language of one’s choosing. Someone in Brazil can type a comment in Portuguese, for example, and it will be translated instantaneously to English for a viewer in Idaho. This feature, church leaders say, fosters a sense of immediate community among people with no other commonalities besides an abiding interest in Jesus.

And, Beliefnet blog entry “How Facebook, Twitter, and Google Might Affect the Church” links over to Mark Brown’s thoughts, How the Digital Revolution Might Affect the Church.

… we need to recognize the utter importance of powerful, transformational preaching. And we need to create systems by which those with such preaching ability and gifting can be widely available. Why restrict a gifted preacher to one community? lead the way in making resources, including preaching, available to more than those who turn up in person for the service.Â

We need to move from appointing leaders based on them completing the right degree to giving more weight to discerning their ability to complete the leadership task.

We need to create the opportunity for people to ‘be at church’ or part of a community at any moment in the day/week. Setting a special time on Sunday morning is artificial and limiting.

Mark also explores other issues affected by the digital revolution, namely, church governance, church leadership, and the institutional church as we know it. Read the full article.

From my vantage point, I’m guessing that changes to how we live out our faith as the church is only beginning. More changes are yet to come. Technology is only a part of what’s ushering in the change. (Aside: there are at least 27 churches with Internet campuses offering church online) What do you think?

// DJ Chuang, Director at Leadership Network //

I just returned from spending the weekend at in Oklahoma City and got to witness this first-hand. It’s amazing what God is doing through them.


I thought I’d follow-up my posts on impotent preaching by calling out one more person: myself. As I’ve traveled the country the last 9 years speaking, teaching, consulting and meeting with Church leaders, one thing I’ve found myself saying over and over to people that ask about my ministry and my personal thoughts about how God is using me – “God uses weak people.”

When you think about it and study Scripture, it’s pretty obvious, but it truly still amazes me. I’m the most weak, screwed up, unworthy person I can think of. As Paul said, I do believe I’m the “chief of sinners”. I struggle with many things, I could definitely be a better husband, father, friend, pastor, person, etc. My flesh is weak and my body is weak with numerous health issues.Â

I struggle with weight/living a healthy lifestyle. I struggle with anxiety and take medicine for it. I struggle with depression and take medicine for it. I have other medical issues which I won’t share on here, but believe me, more medicine is involved. I sleep in a drug-induced sleep and can not even begin to tell you how hard it is to wake up in the morning.Â

When my tech team gathers at 7am on Sunday mornings (meaning I have to get up at 6am) – it is the hardest struggle to be there and be on time. Waking up for me (coming out of the drug-induced sleep) is very difficult – it’s like waking from a coma.Â

I love flying West and speaking because I get more sleep. When I fly to the East Coast, I really struggle with waking up (as my friends and hosts in Atlanta, South Carolina and Boston can testify to).Â

My moods and emotions are all over the map. I bounce from high to low and when I crash, I really crash. Only my family, a few close friends and my therapist really know the depth of my struggles.Â

Why do I share? Because I love to brag on God and testify to his grace and mercy. God truly uses weak people. One of my favorite lines in a worship song is from “Your Grace is Enough”. The second verse says “You use the weak to lead the strong.” I don’t understand why that is. I just watch as it happens.Â

I thank God for his unconditional love, amazing grace and mercy that is new every morning. My first-born child is named Grace because I could think of no better name considering my past and my struggles.Â

I boast in Christ and will continue to until my last breath. Friends, if you’re struggling with depression… if you’re struggling with anxiety… whatever you struggle with – hear me: you’re not alone. God is faithful. Surround yourself with people you trust that can pour into you, lift you up when you’re down and bear your burdens with you.

For me, personally, I want to be a friend to you as well. If you struggle, email me. Also contact, share with and follow friends and people that also understand like DJ Chuang, Anne Jackson and Rhett Smith. They are great people who blog regularly about issues like this and truly understand the challenges that many are faced with. You are not alone!

Come Hear My New Class at Innovation3


I’ve blogged about Innovation3 before, but I wanted to blog about it again.  I’ve heard from so many that are “considering” attending. They know the line-up of speakers is great, Robbie Seay Band is leading worship and it’s at my church (crazy chill with Greg) – but they just haven’t made up their minds, yet.

I’ve got 3 new pieces of info for you to consider:

  1. Register now and use “Church2.0” as the code and it will give you $50 off per person.
  2. I’m teaching a new class (which is born out of my second book – this will be the first time I have spoken publically about what God is stirring in my heart and what my next book will be). My class is Tuesday at 3:00pm and the title is “Unconventional Innovation”.
  3. The people that I do know are coming are great folks. We are going to have a blast. I have 5 pastors from around the country staying at my house. I know of some cool cats that are going to be flying in town for I3 and there are several meet-ups going on. I love hanging out, networking and socializing.Â

Go HERE to register and remember to use the promo code. If you can… be there!

* So are you coming? Let me know. If not – let me know why.

Universal Technology

Several conversations lately have led me to consider the integration and universality of technology in a local church context. To be integrated means “combining or coordinating separate elements so as to provide a harmonious, interrelated whole” or “organized or structured so that constituent units function cooperatively.”

Universal means “affecting, concerning, or involving all”, “used or understood by all” or “present everywhere.” As I continue to chew on this concept, other words that come to mind are total, comprehensive and whole.  

I serve as a technology pastor at a church. For years “tech” was considered one person’s role (the techie, tech director or AV coordinator) – whether volunteer, part-time or full-time. Now in most local church situations there is still the need for this AV/tech role that oversees the sound, video and lights for corporate worship services and often oversees and supports campus-wide AV needs. IT is obviously another growing area in the church world and usually requires a dedicated volunteer or paid staff member or the use of outsourced companies.

I’ll be the first to admit that those that serve in “tech” and IT roles in a church have a unique gift mix and personality. In most situations these servants and leaders are seen more as geeks than pastors or ministers. I see my role as a pastor and shepherd, but that’s a topic for another article.

I bring the idea of universal technology up because we’re seeing a shift in the way the Church looks, functions and ministers to the world. The reality that we are missionaries in a digital age is becoming increasingly more apparent and hard to ignore. This brings the whole concept of “technology” to the forefront for regular pastors and church staff members – including the non-techie.

The conversations that I have regularly with pastors are about their desire to learn, understand, apply and fully utilize technology for ministry. The shift is bringing about what I call “universal technology” – meaning every Church leader is engaged in, using and communicating through technology – not just the tech pastor.

Events, gatherings and conferences that I’m regularly apart of look a lot different. The Church 2.0 Local Forums that I host around the country or the churchtechcamp, happening today in Dallas for example, 3 years ago would have been a room full of “geeks” (not my word, I got that from Mark Batterson) and “techies” (that is my word). Now, one walks into a “churchtechcamp” and it’s full of church planters, senior pastors, bloggers and lay leaders/volunteers that are involved in community/small groups and discipleship.

I’m fascinated by it and am enjoying just sitting back and watching this shift. Of course there are still giant conferences like NAB and InfoComm where us techies get together and talk about all things tech-related and the make up of attendees and speakers looks a lot different, but overall I see a change in the use of the word “tech” and the concept and adoption of “technology”.

This new reality that I’m referring to as universal technology is a good thing and a long-awaited one by me, personally. I’ve always viewed technology as a tool and not a toy, so the thought of senior pastors, worship pastors, youth pastors, communication directors, small group leaders, missions and outreach leaders, etc. getting interested, involved with and captivated by technology is a beautiful sight to me.

What about you and your situation? Are you seeing volunteers and staff members that don’t have “tech” in their title or job description talk about technology, Facebook, Twitter, blogging and online ministry?

New Year

I hope you had a Merry Christmas and would like to wish you a Happy New Year. We left 12/26 to go to visit family in South Carolina. I went to NewSpring Greenville on Sunday (more about that later). We travel today to Asheville, NC to visit more family. I hope we see some snow!

Also, today is my 13th wedding anniversary. WOW – time flies!


I want to remind you that tomorrow is the deadline to get that special discount for Q. Remember to use the promo code (Church20) to save over $150. Also, you can connect via the Facebook Church 2.0 Q event page HERE.

Also, be aware of where you can catch me early in ’09. I’ll be speaking in January and February here:

  • January 8: ChurchTechCamp Dallas – get connected HERE
  • January 27-28: Leadership Network’s Innovation3 – register HERE
  • Feb. 17: Church 2.0 Local Forum – Phoenix (register HERE on Facebook and HERE if not on Facebook)
  • Feb. 17-19: Church Solutions Conference – register HERE
  • Feb. 27-28: The Idea Camp – register HERE

So, early in ’09, I’ll be speaking twice in Dallas, twice in Phoenix and once in Irvine, CA. I hope you can make it to one of those. NOTE: The ChurchTechCamp Dallas, Church 2.0 Phoenix and The Idea Camp are all FREE! More dates and cites to come soon.


Happenings At Bent Tree

Things are busy around my church (Bent Tree). Here’s what’s going down:

  • Last month we had our Grand Opening (pics HERE).Â
  • This month we have our annual Missions Festival. This years theme: GLOCAL. I’ve been using that term a lot lately. Our Visual Arts team is transforming our church for this yearly extravaganza! More info HERE.
  • Saturday, Oct 25: We host the Art+Music+Justice Tour. More info HERE.
  • In November we’ll host the “Hymns of Hope” featuring worship leaders (including our own) from 4 amazing churches. Click HERE to see a sneak peak of them on The Worship Network and hear our worship leader, Scott Dyer
  • In December we’ll have some sort of theatric/dramatic presentation in the early part of the month. I’m told we’ll do something “simple” for Christmas Eve. I’m counting on it!
  • In January we host Leadership Network’s Innovation 3 Conference featuring MANY amazing speakers. Be there!
  • Word on the street is that we’ll also be hosting Catalyst in May ’09.  Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel will be on the Bent Tree stage. Watch out!