What role should social media play in the church's web strategy

I was doing an interview for a conference I was speaking at and a great question was posed to me. The question was "What role should social media play in the church's web strategy?" As I took a second to think about the question, I came to this conclusion. I believe that social media is a great outreach tool for ministry and should be treated as such. The church should use Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Youtube as additional ways to reach people and expand the online congregation, but not as a main focus of the online outreach as the website is utilized. Social Media is a great free tool but it is controlled by outside companies and should be considered as such, an outside tool for ministry. On the other hand, the church's website is owned by the ministry and should be the focus of all online ministry efforts, very similar to how outreach ministries are extensions of the local church. Online ministry efforts should mimic offline ministry efforts and here are great examples. The church's website (online) should be likened to the church's local building. This is the main place where people gather and get the majority of their ministry and information from the church. The online store is similar to the church's bookstore, a source for products that the church creates as well as other products the church considers important. Social Media is similar to the numerous outreach ministries that the church supports and utilizes to reach the people outside the walls of the buliding. When outreach ministries go out and does ministry for members and non-members of the congregation, they are representing the church and attempting to bring people back to the church to join and support the ministry. Likewise, when content from the church is pushed out via social media, it should have links that go back to the church's website so that people that are on facebook, twitter, youtube or google+ can receive the updates and then click a link back to the church's website for more information.

Just as a church would not focus all it's efforts on a single outreach ministry, the church should not focus it's entire online ministry efforts on social networks, they are just extensions of the website and a way to get people back to the website. A good online strategy should be a website, social media, blog, online store, online donations, email blasts, online video, mobile and online learning. These areas are a good start and even though you may not be able to do them all, add in as many as you can and go from there. If you want a great book on how to take advantage of these online tool then check out The iChurch Method: How to Advance Your Ministry Online.