Many of our churches have been scrambling over the past couple of weeks as we all try and do our best to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the suspension of our in-person church services. You’re not alone if you’ve recently gone into Google or YouTube and frantically searched up live streaming setups for smaller churches or something similar to that. And look, I get it. Our Sunday experiences generally take precedent here, but what’s amazing about social is that it isn’t confined to a service time like an in-person gathering is. It doesn’t have a start or end time, and if your Sunday service is, let’s say, one-hour online each week, that means there are still 167 hours beyond that service every single week where you can connect to people online using social.
As social media usage spikes because of social distancing measures, those 167 hours are even more rich with opportunity than they were a month ago. What I don’t want us to do is become so fixated on what we’re publishing on Sundays that we forsake Monday to Saturday. So in this podcast, I’m going to outline for you a seven-day social media calendar for your church, the Coronavirus edition, and this calendar is repeatable. So if you choose, you can use it as the framework for your social media content rhythms for the foreseeable future.
Let’s begin with Mondays and Wednesdays. On those two days each week, we’re going to post what I call irresistible questions. These are lighthearted conversation starters that tend to generate a ton of engagement, specifically comments. One fear I have for our churches in the coming weeks is that we’re going to spend so much time talking at our congregations that we’ll rarely get to hear from them. We need to be mindful of this because your social media pages and posts are not billboards. They don’t exist to be looked upon and just admired by others. That’s why the purpose of an irresistible question post, and we’re going to get to specific examples in a moment, is to generate conversation amongst the people connected to your church online. Just think about how important something like this is in a prolonged period of social distancing. This may be one of the few ways we can still rub shoulders with the people in our churches that we’re used to seeing normally on a week-to-week basis.
Consider what your social feed looks like right now because if it’s anything like mine, the vast majority of content you’re seeing is directly related to the Coronavirus. There’s a ton of negativity out there right now. The routines of society have been completely turned upside down and out of that comes uncertainty, anxiety, and even fear. And what’s amazing about a simple, lighthearted question post is that it’s a breath of fresh air for many of our social media timelines. It’s a return to normalcy even for just a moment. Believe me, this is a welcome reprieve for many of us.
So what kind of questions work best? Well there are really three distinctives to consider. Number one, your question needs to be specific. Number two, it needs to be low risk. And number three, if your question can contain an element of pseudo controversy, that’s when your engagement will truly soar. So I got a message this week from a lead pastor who posted an irresistible question post we gave him and the question was true or false: oatmeal raisin is the best-tasting cookie. Within the first 18 hours after this pastor posted this, it got 130 comments. 130 comments. Now, why are people so passionate about cookies? Well when executed correctly, this is what an irresistible question post can do because this question is specific, stating your opinion on it is extremely low risk. This isn’t politics. We’re talking about cookies here, and this question is purposely framed to be controversial. Did you pick up on that? What am I getting at here? Well the majority of people would never consider oatmeal raisin cookies to be the best cookie. So leading with that is what makes the question irresistible. People feel the need to right the wrong they’re seeing.
Now, you might be wondering and it’s fair to do so what business does a church or pastor have asking questions about cookies. What does that have to do with faith or spirituality? To which I would say well why do our churches host potlucks? Why do we take our student ministries snow tubing? Why do we have small groups that go bowling together? Why do some churches have gymnasiums? Why do our VBS weeks contain games and sports? Because church is about doing life together with other people and Christ is at the center of that, but from that foundation comes a diverse tapestry of life experiences. I don’t know about you, but I want to share all of that with the people in my faith community.
With that being said, I do highly recommend integrating faith-focused question posts into your weekly rhythms as well. Questions like what’s a worship song that’s helped you feel closer to God or what’s a familiar Bible verse you returned to in times when you need it most? These are awesome for creating space for the people in your church to share their faith experiences with others in your congregation which is also something we can all truly benefit from right now.
To make these Monday and Wednesday types of posts on your social calendar as easy as possible for you, I’ve put together a Google doc of 39 different irresistible question posts. Now, will you get 130 comments on each of these posts? That might be pushing it, but you can expect to see engagement spikes nonetheless. The link to that Google doc is in the show notes or you can head directly to prochurchtools.com/questions. If you used two of those posts every week on Mondays and Wednesdays, seeing as there are 39 different questions in there, you’d be set for 19 weeks. So that’s taken care of.
Let’s look forward now to Tuesdays and Thursdays. On these days, we are going to host Q&A inspired live streams anywhere from five to 10 minutes in length. Now, don’t get hung up on the tech of a livestream here. The ideal way to do this is to just grab your mobile device and go live on social directly from your phone. Of course if you wanted, you could prerecord these segments, debut them as mock live streams and premieres, but I think there’s actually something more special to the under-produced feel of streaming directly from your phone because it does feel more personal and intimate. That’s what we’re going for right now because we can’t meet in person. Right? So how can we make digital connections feel more personal? Well a livestream directly from your phone, that feels and looks just like a one-on-one FaceTime whereas a prerecorded, perfectly lit produced segment feels more like watching TV. I want to lean into the feeling of a one-on-one conversation right now, not a professional broadcast.
Then for the content, the springboard for these live streams is going to be a question that someone has sent in ahead of time. The question is the driving force behind each live stream, and this again is because I don’t want our churches to just be talking at our congregations. We want to create space for dialogue. So using a preselected question as the motivation for the livestream is a great way to do that. The other reason the livestream is important is because people will get to see your face and it’s another time and place for us to gather together.
So let’s talk about a couple of ways this could go. Your livestream could be devotional in nature. Let’s imagine you get a question from someone in your church and they say they’re feeling anxious or fearful in the face of the Coronavirus and what that means for the economy and their employment and their retirement and future. Your livestream format could be as simple as presenting that question at the beginning and then saying, “Okay. What does the word of God say about this and how does the word of God say we should respond in times like this?” And then jump into a devotional from there.
Another direction you could take could be an ask me anything AMA format. So maybe you get a question from someone in your church that says, “Hey, pastor. How are you and your family handling this period of social isolation?” And then you could show them around your home a bit, talk about what an average day in your life has been like lately. Everyone is working to find a new normal right now. We’re all going through that together. So as a leader in your church, people want to know, “Okay. How is he or she handling this?”
Another idea would be to use a question as a springboard for group prayer over a livestream. So maybe you get a question from someone in your church that says, “Hey, pastor. My hours have been cut at work and I’m really struggling with what the future might hold for me and my family. Could you pray for me?” So as the livestream begins, you read out that prayer request, pray for that person, and then open it up to everyone joining you live for realtime prayer. You can ask for people to post their three word prayer request in the comments and then respond to each one individually.
Now, these are just three ideas, but my hope is that you can see how versatile this format can be. The key is to use a question from a person in your church as the springboard, and if you’re curious on how to gather these questions, there are really so many avenues to consider. You could ask directly using the question sticker on Instagram stories. You can look to your churches email accounts and just mine the emails that have come in since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and find questions in there, the ones that have come in organically. You can do the same with comment sections on your social posts. You can post a question on social on the same day you’re planning to go live just earlier in that day. Say, “Hey, church. I’m going live later today on a Q&A livestream. Ask me anything.” So many different options here to explore and gather questions.
All right. Let’s keep it moving. We’re on to Friday now in our seven-day social calendar, and Fridays I have reserved for highlighting a local small business in your community. You and I both know that local small businesses, retailers, coffee shops, restaurants have all been hit particularly hard by COVID-19 as many have been forced to close or operate with reduced hours or just operate within certain limitations. We want to come alongside those that are hurting and be the church and shine a bright light in our community and say, “Yeah, we’re all going through a hard time, but we’re all going through it together and we’re going to get through it together.”
So as an example, below our offices at Pro Church Tools is a new restaurant called Counterpart. They make some of the best food in the city, but because of COVID-19, they’ve been forced to close their seating area. They are, however, doing family-style meals for takeout. So a simple post idea would be to repost this restaurant’s takeout announcement on social or make it a bit more personal. Grab takeout for you and your family and post a photo of you enjoying a Friday night dinner at home, highlighting the great food from this local restaurant and talking a bit about how we want to support them during this tough time. By doing this, you can foster unity and togetherness in your region and use your church’s social platform for the good of others that are struggling.
So now we’re into the weekend, Saturday and Sunday. Now, I’m going to assume that you’ve got Sunday taken care of with your digital church experience, whatever that may look like. Then for Saturday, I’d recommend just posting a momentum-building post for what’s to come on Sunday. We call this the church invitation post. It’s something I recommend when your church is hosting your in-person gatherings, but I think that it works in this case also, especially because whatever it is that you are doing for church on Sunday right now, it’s still new to many people in your congregation. It’s not yet part of their regular routine. So a Saturday reminder that mentions the time that you’re meeting and what to expect and how to prepare for it is helpful for building momentum and also just serving as a reminder as your congregation finds their footing in this new weekly routine.
Remember through all of this for however long it lasts and for whatever lies ahead, your church’s mission is not to host a service. Don’t mistake method for mission. Innovation thrives in limitation. No in-person gatherings for our churches. The comforts of normalcy are gone. You were made for this, leader. You can do this and lead your church through this period of uncertainty. 10 to 15 years ago, you wouldn’t have even had the opportunity to connect with your congregation online in the ways that you can today. If our churches won’t be assembling in person for an extended period of time, creating content for digital platforms is the way forward. So use this social media calendar as the framework for what to post on social. Sunday is important. Yes, but there are still 167 hours beyond a Sunday service where you can reach people also. So let’s seize that time for the sake of the gospel.
Now to close this out, there is also a download link in the show notes to a countdown prayer post for social that is specifically in response to the Coronavirus. So please feel free to download that, use it on your social platforms, and if you are looking for more done-for-you social posts, head on over to nucleus.social. There, you’ll find 30 more done-for-you posts that you can gain access to and start using right away. There’s no credit card required. Just start a free trial of Nucleus and you’ll get access to each of those posts for free along with their Photoshop and After Effects source file so you can even customize them to your liking. Again, the link is nucleus.social and it’s all in the show notes along with every other link mentioned in this podcast. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll talk soon.