Because you guys, it just ain’t necessarily so.
First of all, social media and blogging has been an important part of professional marketing for years. Years. People have been blogging for their companies, Tweeting for their nonprofits, and Facebooking for their churches since as long as those platforms have existed. Please stop treating these practices as something new, or something to be viewed with alarm, amusement, or thinly veiled derision.
It’s how marketing and communications is done now. It just is.
And there are fully grown professionals (yes, I am one of them), who have been using these tools to get real work done for years now. We’ve built businesses on the backs of blogs and social media. We’ve rallied people and money to our causes. We’ve set and met revenue goals, gotten trained and certified, written — and trained others in the use of — social media policies that can help prevent bad things from happening in your name online.
This is not rocket science. And we are not necessarily kids. I’m in my early 40s, for crying out loud. So the days of hoping that you can find a teenager in your parish to help teach you the ways of Twitter, to ghost-blog for your rector, or to tweet occasionally into the void are long gone.
Using social media and blogs for church communications is a core practice now, and should be treated as such. Which means that it makes sense for parishes to seek out professional help and support when they decide they want to use these tools successfully.
Of course not every parish is going to have the resources to hire a professional. Or to be lucky enough to have a marketing professional on hand who feels moved and able to donate their time and expertise to the cause. Or if they do, they might not know how best to make use of that person’s time.
Here’s my question: If we can organize groups of seasoned business professionals to give Episcopal church leaders sound advice on matters financial and fiduciary, then why can’t we do the same with marketing and communications? A communications service corps for the church. Made up of all of the folks out there, lurking in pews and coffee hours across the nation, who already know a thing or two about making yourself heard on the web. Professionally. Effectively. And for a very good cause.
This could have beneficial effects across a number of areas, of course.
First, churches that lack the internal resources needed to build a robust and sustainable online communications plan would get access to the professional help they need. These professionals would be dedicated volunteers who have been trained for this specific ministry under the auspices of their own diocese. Parishes could request help from the diocese, who would refer it to the Communications Corp, who would then deploy the volunteer most suited to the job. Volunteers would go in for a limited engagement, and focus on training parish leaders (staff, clergy, lay, youth, etc.) how to be great online communicators themselves. Education, strategic planning, and training for long-term execution would be the focus. Follow-up consultations after a set period of time would also be grand.
Second, a dedicated communications service corps would provide a means of engaging a demographic that has traditionally been difficult to reach in the church. Social media and online communications is no longer the purview of the spotty teenager. Instead, your average church-going marketing and communications professional is likely to be a 25- to 40-year-old man or woman who is seeking a way of supporting the church’s mission in a way that’s uniquely suited to their skills and gifts. Writing, technical know-how, teaching adults how to act like adults on the social web — this is what we do every day. Use us.
We might be less likely to volunteer for some of your more well established ministries. We might not have kids, and so don’t feel drawn to helping out at church school. We might not be free on weeknights, and so can’t get involved in your study groups.
But we might jump at the chance to contribute meaningfully to the outreach and evangelism of the parish — because that’s what this is, really — by using the knowledge we’ve already got at our ready disposal.
And frankly, we’d love to meet other churchgoing people like us.
So: Small, poor, or otherwise underserved churches get the help they need; young professionals find a way to get involved and contribute time and treasure to the mission of the church, while finding fellowship with each other at the same time; and the church as a whole gets markedly better (“levels up,” as the gamer kids would say) at telling the world who we are and what we’re all about.
Win. Win. Win.
Why doesn’t every diocese have a communications service corps?
Why don’t we start now?