If you’re like most churches in America, you’ve likely “been on Facebook” for awhile now. And for good reason! With over 1.45 billion daily active users, Facebook dwarfs all other social platforms.
That said, there’s big a difference between having a presence on a platform and actually using that platform to create community and advance your mission. While many (maybe even most?) churches have done the former, precious few express confidence about Facebook’s ability to help them with the latter.
We could point to a host of factors that contribute to churches failing to capitalize on the potential of Facebook, but often it comes down to simple confusion. Confusion about the types of content churches should be posting. Confusion about how to measure the results. And even confusion about which Facebook “products” they should be using. Profiles? Pages? Groups? All of them? None of them? It’s enough to make even the most tech-savvy heads spin.
It’s that third question (Pages or Groups) that I want to talk about today. Facebook is a powerful tool, but it’s also complex. How much your church gets out of it will depend largely on whether or not you’re using the right tools in the right way.
And so, before we answer the question whether you should be using Pages or Groups, let’s take a look at the unique role each can play in your church’s social ministry.
When to Use Pages
In a recent webinar we hosted with Nona Jones, Facebook’s Global-Head of Faith-Based Partnerships, Nona described your church’s Facebook presence as a house. Using that metaphor, think of your church’s Page as the front porch. This is where people come to meet your church, to learn about your community, and to get information about upcoming events or ways to get involved. Think of it as a social extension of your church’s website.
Facebook pages are publicly searchable—whether someone is on Facebook or not. This makes them a great tool for sharing announcements, outreach opportunities, impact stories, sermon snippets, and other pieces of content that will appeal to people both inside and outside of your congregation. When managed well, we’ve seen churches with ten times as many followers on their Facebook Page as they see in attendance on an average weekend.
However, given their public nature, Pages aren’t necessarily the best places to elicit engagement from your congregation—apart from the occasional like or comment. Pages are great avenues for individuals to learn about your church. But when it comes to connecting with your church (and each other), you’ll want to leverage a different tool. Like Facebook Groups!
When to Use Groups
Whereas Pages are meant to be public and open, Facebook Groups are usually private and closed. If your Page is your church’s front porch on Facebook, think of your Groups as your living room. Pages are excellent tools for sharing content and increasing awareness. Groups, on the other hand, are better suited toward fostering community and increasing engagement.
The other great thing about Groups is that they can be as specific and as numerous as makes sense for your ministry. You can create unique Groups for different ministries, age groups, Sunday School classes, or even interests within your church (e.g., rock climbers, movie buffs, veterans, engaged couples, etc.).
The private, specific nature of Groups creates a path for online interactions that are more transparent and intimate than most that will ever happen on your church’s Page. While people may hesitate to post a response to your “how can we be praying for you” post on your church’s Page, that same post in a private Group for single moms might surface previously-unknown ministry opportunities. This is the power of Facebook Groups.
If you’re looking to extend your church’s social presence beyond mere content distribution and event announcements, Groups is just the ticket you’re looking for
When to Use Both
So as you can see, when it comes to Facebook Groups or Pages, it’s not a question of one or the other. It’s a question of which tool is right for the specific goal you’re pursuing on Facebook. If you’re trying to fill your sanctuary for your Easter Service, posting and boosting an announcement on your Page is the way to go. If you’re trying to create more opportunities for your twenty-somethings to connect online, Groups will provide a level of interaction that Pages simply can’t match.
And if you’re trying to leverage Facebook as a platform where meaningful community can be created, where your members and visitors alike can connect with each other just as they would if they walked through your front doors, you’ll need both Groups and Pages to get there.
To learn more about how America’s most innovative churches are leveraging Facebook as a true “online campus,” checkout our recent webinar with Facebook’s Nona Jones, and Life.Church’s Alan George. It’s available on-demand by clicking the link below.