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Social Media Tips for Ministry

Online Outreach Nashville pastor Pete Wilson uses social media to build community both online and in the church body.

Pete Wilson started Cross Point Community Church in Nashville, Tennessee just six years ago—and now 2,500 people come to Cross Point’s four campuses every week where “everybody’s welcome because nobody’s perfect, and anything's possible.”

In addition to being a pastor, speaker and author of a new book called Plan B, Pete is active in the social media world. While he started it all just for fun—and continues for that reason—his highly-trafficked blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts draw people to Cross Point week after week. “Every Sunday someone comes up to me and mentions that they came to Cross Point because of Twitter,” Pete said. ”It continues to amaze me that these random thoughts from me and my staff on Twitter bring people to our church on Sundays.”

It’s been almost two years since Pete started his blog, to share some funny stories about his three kids and ministry. “It kind of took on a life of its own when I found out people actually were reading what I was writing,” he laughed.

But it’s the quick and easy-to-use Twitter that is Pete’s social media outlet of choice—as well as the one that most people from the church seem to prefer. “More and more are joining Twitter every day,” said Pete, who has more than 50,000 followers. “I like Twitter the best, but you only have 140 characters to get your message across, so sometimes your message can be taken the wrong way.”

In navigating the ins and outs of the social media world, Pete has developed some rules of thumb for blogging, Facebook and Twitter to pass on to other church leaders, staff members and volunteers who are looking to incorporate these online avenues into their lives and ministries.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Whether you‘re just getting started using social media or you want to take your efforts to the next level, here are some important big-picture questions Pete suggests that you ask yourself:

  1. Is this a personal account or a professional account? Are you going to tweet/Facebook /blog funny random things about your life, or keep it to church activity, Scripture and encouragement?
  2. How open do you want to be? Will you follow everyone back who follows you? If you do, that opens you up to Direct Messages from people who will be expecting a response.
  3. Can you be yourself? If you aren’t funny, don’t try to be funny. If you aren’t a theologian, don’t try to be a theologian.
  4. Is this something you will be committed to? Twitter can be a lot of fun, but you don’t want it to feel like work.

Although Pete’s online presence has grown far past what he imagined at the start, his objectives really haven’t changed at all. “I still talk about the silly things my kids do and also share stories that happen in ministry, but now there’s an outlet to get information out to a lot of people, too,” he said. “We have organized emergency serving opportunities just by using Twitter—it allows us to get messages out to a lot of people very quickly.”

Why Pastors Should Blog

Pete mentioned that another benefit of using social media is that it has seemed to make his staff and him more accessible to the congregation. In his blog he explains how church leaders can create community and establish relational influence through this online outlet. “I’m tired of being a talking head,” Pete said. “Blogs allow us to turn our sermons into conversations allowing people to interact, question, discuss, and debate. I so value the conversations that take place in the blog comments every day.”

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Pete says that people no longer want to follow someone just because they have "Pastor" in front of their name. "As a matter of fact, this automatically puts us at a disadvantage," he wrote. “They want to know if we’re authentic.” Pete says he has been learning that influence is directly related to relationship. “In the future, church leaders will have to exchange control for collaboration, individualism for community, and affluence for influence.”

Social Media and Your Mission

The mission of Cross Point church is:

“To continue to grow as a community of believers radically devoted to Christ, irrevocably committed to one another and relentlessly dedicated to reaching those outside God’s family with the gospel of Christ.”

The openness Pete and his staff offer online has helped to further that mission by building community both online and in the body of the church.

How could you use social media reinforce your church’s mission?

Connect with Dave Ramsey on Twitter @ramseyshow.

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