What's in this session?

  • 58% of American adults wish they read the Bible more often (1:35)
  • Provoke spiritual practice (2:19)
  • #1: Long-form passages of Scripture (7:33)
  • #2: Stop the scroll (7:55)
  • #3: Keep users engaged (8:02)

Show notes and resources

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The Transcript

Alex Mills: If you’re a church you should be using social media for so much more than just promoting events and services. In fact, your church should approach social as you would any other ministry like small groups or missions.

Alex Mills: One way you can use social to help those connected to your church online grow in their faith, is to provoke the spiritual practice of Bible reading. How? Well, there’s actually a framework for this I call The Bible Reading Template, and in this podcast you’ll learn exactly what that is and I’ll show you a handful of real examples of what it looks like.

Alex Mills: Well, hey there and welcome to Pro Church Tools, the show where in 10 minutes or less you’re going to get a dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus while we navigate the biggest communication shift in 500 years. I’m your host Alex Mills joined, as always, by the boss man Brady Shearer.

Brady Shearer: Alex, we have a social program for churches that gives the churches in the program a new social media, video, and still post every single day.

Alex Mills: Every day.

Brady Shearer: We give them the Photoshop file. We give them the After Effects file.

Alex Mills: Pre-written caption.

Brady Shearer: Pre-written caption. And we now offer unlimited customizations.

Alex Mills: Yep.

Brady Shearer: So if you want to change the post language, you want to change anything we’ll change it for you. Text, video change, we’ll make it. Why are we saying this? We’re saying this all because the social program is closed and you can’t join, but-

Alex Mills: Too bad.

Brady Shearer: But if you’re not in it we still want the content that we release every single week in these podcasts and videos to be super helpful, and so we want to do a deep dive into one of the template, archetypes, frameworks, that we use in the social program called The Bible Reading Template.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: The foundation for this template is the fact that reading the Bible is good. We all know that, but what you may not know is that, according to Barnum, more than half of Americans, not just Christians, but more than half of all Americans, 58 percent to be precise, say they wish they read the Bible more often. This is so true of Christians as well.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: How many Christians start the new year and say, “I’m going to read the Bible all the way through”?

Alex Mills: Front to back.

Brady Shearer: Front to back this year. Your version, help me, thank you Lord. What you can do with social is actually provoke the spiritual practice of Bible reading. This is what makes social so great. You can look at what you’re trying to accomplish as a church and actually do it through the social media ministry that you have.

Alex Mills: Well, we’ve started talking about social as more than just another channel to broadcast what you’re doing at church, and we’ve actually started to look at it as a ministry in itself, this social ministry, and that’s one of the tactics behind this specific strategy is inspiring spiritual practice and growth through these social channels and devices because you know we’re all on our phones so often. We all know that we should be spending less time on our phone scrolling through Instagram and more time probably reading the Bible, but we know that to be true but we just don’t do it. So here’s an opportunity to kind of infiltrate that space and say, “Hey. We know you’re in this space. We know that you’re using these devices at these times. Why not do some spiritual practice here and now.”

Brady Shearer: We’ve been doing this social program for our churches for about half a year now, and so we have been creating a number of these, dozens of these, specific Bible reading templates.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: So we’re going to show you a ton of examples. Before we do that allow me to define The Bible Reading Template. Essentially, what we do is we take a long form passage of scripture, put it into a video that allows the user to read that long form passage of scripture. What makes this different is that it’s not just a single verse in an image. We’re leveraging the medium of video to help provoke a long form reading of scripture.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: It’s really easy to share a nice pithy out-of-context, perhaps, Bible verse that gets a nice double-tap, a nice like, but what we’re trying to do is stop the scroll and then have three, five, 10, an entire paragraph of scripture text that they can read. You can’t really do that with images.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: Because when people see a giant, large form of text it’s like, “I’m not reading that”, but when using video you can go bit by bit. You can hook somebody and then, before they’ve known it, it’s been about a minute and they’ve read through the entire passage.

Alex Mills: Exactly.

Brady Shearer: So let’s dive into a number of different examples. This first one, you’ll probably recognize the UI interface of Microsoft Word, or actually I guess that’s Internet Explorer. Pardon me. It’s not the Word one. We did do a Microsoft Word one. That’s Internet Explorer from back in the day and we’re sharing The Lord’s Prayer there. This is a technique that we actually use a lot, using familiar design in unfamiliar places.

Brady Shearer: This next example is another perfect illustration of that. This is using the Notes application native to Apple computers where you probably recognize the UI. You’re like, “Wait, I’ve seen that program”, but now you’re seeing it on Facebook or you’re seeing it on Instagram.

Alex Mills: Right. You’re scrolling through your feed, it’s Kardashian, Kardashian, Kardash … Wait, pages? What is this?

Brady Shearer: That’s unusual, and that’s how you get someone to stop the scroll.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: And then you begin typing the verse in. Here’s another example we did with iMessage. So you see an iMessage UI, you’re like, “This is weird.” You stop the scroll and then the first iMessage comes up with the first element of scripture, but the sentence isn’t complete. Wait. This isn’t all that there is. There’s another message, and then the second one comes up, well this still isn’t complete. Now they’re reading. This is using the human psychology of once we start something we have to finish it.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: Type Form does a great job of this. They said, “Why do we have giant single page forms?” They’re not very fun to fill out. If we make you fill out one thing at a time, if we paginate that form the conversion rate increases dramatically. We’re taking that same principle and applying it to social.

Alex Mills: This next one’s one of my favorites.

Brady Shearer: Here we’ve done it inside of the actual iMessage interface. You have a text message from James, the author of the Book of James, and he’s sending you message by message a passage of scripture. Here we did it inside of Gmail. Here you’ve got a new message from Paul. The email is being sent to the church at Corinth. The subject is First Corinthians 13 and in your email [crosstalk 00:05:48]. You guys need to stop acting so whack. Then, we actually type out the entire email so you’re reading that as well. That’s using familiar designs in unfamiliar places.

Brady Shearer: One that we’ve recently experimented with was this sensitive content, ‘This video contains sensitive content some people may find offensive or disturbing’. Look, every person is stopping on this scroll.

Alex Mills: Oh, yeah.

Brady Shearer: Oh, it’s something offensive. I must watch it to know if I will tell my friends not to watch it.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: But someone stops and then what happens? Oh, it comes in a scripture verse and then we use the caption of that post to talk about, you know the Bible is outlawed in so many countries around the world. So it’s not just a gimmick but it actually plays into the overall message.

Alex Mills: So good.

Brady Shearer: Here we’ve taken a passage of scripture where Jesus is talking with another individual. They’re going back and forth. So we take the iMessage design and we have Jesus bubble comes up, and then the response from the person, Jesus’s bubble, the response from the person.

Brady Shearer: This one I really like. This is a Tetris UI example where we take a Bible verse, Matthew 6:34 and we talk about how, “Look. You can’t worry about tomorrow. You’ve got to just focus on today”, and then we show the Tetris interface where, of course, you only get one little Tetris piece at a time. You can’t worry if you’re going to get a single line next. You’re probably not. Just focus on what you have right now.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: I like to do this where we take scripture, the universal truth, the recognition that all truth is God’s truth, and then we pair that with something in real life. It’s just a fun new way to see scripture in a light that you probably never would have seen before. There is just so many different ways that we’ve been doing this.

Brady Shearer: Why is The Bible Reading Template so important? The first thing that you need to know, and really the most important thing that you need to know, about The Bible Reading Template is that it will not get you as many likes or comments as a lot of other types of posts. It’s a video. It’s long form. It’s not going to get as many sexy vanity engagement metrics as others and that turns a lot of people off from this post, but it does something that very few other types of posts do. It makes people stop the scroll, which all posts should, but then they hover and stay for a long time as they read through the entire maybe 60 second video. This signals to the algorithm, “Oh, this person really liked this post”, and that’s why we use the mechanism of showing bit by bit of scripture so people start reading and then they feel like they have to finish. Now they’ve been there 60 seconds and now they’re that much more likely to see the next post that you publish.

Brady Shearer: Alex, you have a great story of using these posts as well.

Alex Mills: You know Brady, I spend a lot of time looking at insights and metrics on how posts perform. Whether it’s your Instagram account, my Instagram account, Facebook, our church’s Instagram account, I’m always looking to see how are people responding and reacting to this kind of post compared to something else. My church’s account, we are part of the social program, so we’re posting these videos as well, and we have a small following. We’re a small local church of about 150 followers. I was looking at this insights for one of these posts just the other day, and if you have a business profile on Instagram you can see all these insights for free. We posted one of the videos of Jesus having a dialogue with somebody else, kind of that iMessage type of UI-

Brady Shearer: Exactly what we shared earlier.

Alex Mills: Yeah. So, back and forth. I open the insight and I’ve never been shocked by an insight like this before in my life. It reached about the same amount of people. It reached about 150 people, had a similar amount of likes to every other post, it had 52 shared by direct message shares.

Brady Shearer: So someone saw the post, they clicked that little paper airplane and was like, “I need to send this directly through a DM to somebody else”.

Alex Mills: 52 times.

Brady Shearer: I think when we checked it had 107 views. So like a 50 percent conversion rate.

Alex Mills: I could not … I have almost two thousand followers on my personal account. I don’t think I’ve ever seen double digits before on my personal account of people sharing something. 52 times. That makes that 52 individual people saw this long form scripture passage, thought about the truth that it contains, spent those 60 seconds meditating on it, reading it, following along that story, and one out of almost every two people who engaged with that post said, “I need to share this with somebody else.” That’s the kind of engagement, that’s the kind of metric, that we’re looking for when it comes to using social as a ministry. Inspiring that spiritual practice that results in spiritual growth through our iPhones, through our desktops. It’s kind of a weird world we’re living in, a weird time, but using social as a ministry in this way is just an incredible opportunity that we have as a church. These results really speak directly to that.

Brady Shearer: You might be wondering how we create these types of posts. We’ve got a team of animators, designers, videographers, drone pilots, copywriters, content strategists, it takes a lot of people. Even the big churches that I’ve spoken to. Last time I asked Elevation. They said, “Look, we’ve got a team of about five that does our social”, and they do social exceptionally well which is why the social program is so valuable. Again, it’s not open right now, but if you want to learn more about our social strategy this is just one part of it.

Brady Shearer: How do we approach social as a whole and why our take is like, “Look. This is how most churches do it. Here’s how you need to do it.” We’ve got the new social media checklist for churches, that’s really the starting point. We’ll have it linked in the show notes or you can also go directly to the URL: checklist.church and download that. Hopefully you found the examples helpful. If you’ve been listening make sure you go watch and watch through the examples.

Brady Shearer: That’ll do it for this episode of Pro Church Tools. We’ll see you next time.

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