It’s a battle that many pastors are facing — competing with social media networks to shepherd their flock.
Many pastors only have an hour each week to hold their congregation’s attention, while social media may influence church members every day. With the increase of social media usage and the influence of algorithms, pastors must look for ways to shepherd their flocks to reflect Christ rather than what is being placed in front of them online.
According to the Digital Marketing Institute, “Algorithms are used on social media to sort content in a user’s feed.” These “digital rules” organize a person’s social media feed based on which content the algorithms predict will be engaged with the most. Algorithms are ranked based on popularity and different types of content, as well as the user’s relationships and recently viewed posts.
Because of the nature of these algorithms, content that is more captivating — and more polarizing — is pushed to the top.
Especially in recent years, many people have found family members and friends distracted by social media platforms and falling for conspiracy theories. Many are getting tangled up in a web of pushed content, leaving families, churches and society increasingly divided.
While your congregation may be unknowingly “discipled” by social media’s algorithms, pastors can counteract social media’s harmful effects with biblical truth and shepherding. As tech giants compete to “shepherd” their users, here are four practical ways pastors can combat the negative effects of social media to shepherd their flock.
As N.C. Baptists, prayer is our first and primary strategy. As James 5:16 states, “The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.”
Pray and allow God to intervene. Pray fervently that your congregation would not find their identity and truth through social media but through the Almighty God and His Word.
Shepherd from the pulpit by preaching intentionally on how your congregation should be aware of tactics on social media. Teach your members how to recognize these tactics, how to avoid them and how to focus on content that is true and pleasing to the Lord.
One way to combat social media’s harmful effects is to develop content that is encouraging and Christ-honoring rather than divisive.
As a church, look for ways to post creative content to engage with your congregation and the community. Post clips of your sermon throughout the week, daily scripture graphics and prayer points. You could suggest to your congregation that if they unfollow something negative on social media, they could replace the page by following two positive accounts.
For more resources and suggestions for creating social media content, here are four essential elements of social media for your ministry.
How do you, as the pastor, use social media?
Be deliberate in how you use social media personally. As you seek to imitate God in everything you do, set an example of respectful engagement and obedience to God.
Pastors and church leaders, N.C. Baptist staff are praying for you. We want to be on mission together with you as you shepherd your flock.
Editor’s Note: For more suggestions and advice, consider reading Patrick Miller’s article ‘I Lost My Mom to Facebook’ from The Gospel Coalition. Visit our communications toolkit page for more resources on church marketing and communications.