[This article was written by Reed Shoaff, a recent addition to ITC's writing team. I look forward to many more great articles from him! — Dave]
What if half your church’s people were cut off from a place where the other half could gather, minister and be ministered to, learn, and connect?
[Scroll down to watch a video version of this article.]
Now consider: According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, roughly half of all the members of mainline protestant churches are age 50 or older.
Once again, it’s likely that somewhere around 50% of your church members are 50+.
With such a significant number of our church members within the senior and soon-to-be-senior demographics, we should carefully consider the steps we can take to help keep our older members connected with their church in the 21st century.
Why do seniors want to use Facebook?
In a word; relationships.
If we were to take a look at the 20 million Facebook users in the U.S. over the age of 55, we would find that they have an almost singular use for Facebook—to stay connected to family and friends.
You’re just not going to see this demographic growing digital crops on Farmville or posting about what they ate for lunch.
As a church, we want Facebook Pages that allow seniors to feel easily connected with their church. Here are a few ideas to make your church’s Facebook Page senior-friendly.
Note: While there may be virtue to establishing a “seniors only” Facebook Page for your church, it may prove more beneficial to simply adhere to a set of tenets that make your main Facebook Page “senior-friendly”. This will help to keep a sense of togetherness online, similar to what is felt inside the physical church. If anything, it might be more appropriate to create a youth page instead, because younger people tend to be more adept with social media than their older counterparts. They will easily be able to navigate to their intended destination.
Seniors have been around long enough to know whether you’re being sincere or not. Being affronted by “hyped-up” language and flashy graphics will turn off your older readers. If you’re a pastor or layman representing your church online, write the same way you would act in person; genuine, caring, and helpful. They are not looking to be sold to.
Keep it simple. Keep it tidy.
Your church’s main Facebook Page or “wall” should be easy to navigate. Whatever you post on the church’s wall, make sure it is written to clearly convey the post’s intent. In the case of seniors, a good rule of thumb is the less navigation required, the better. (That’s actually a really good general rule of thumb, too.)
For your church Facebook Page to be successful, it must speak to its audience’s needs and be well-balanced in terms of content. Concentrating mainly on youth or another group may alienate an older audience. Include content relevant to the whole congregation. Include content that resonates with the various demographics within your church.
Refrain from using “geek speak”
Keep jargon out of your church’s Facebook Page. Updates from your church should arrive as straightforward, easy-to-understand posts. It would be unfortunate to alienate or confuse older members of the church because they aren’t “in the in.”
Content, content, content
Know your seniors’ interests. Post relevant news, create conversation starters, and share inspirational stories that will interest and excite your senior members.
Generally, these readers are going to be looking for content. A story or devotion they can read and mull over for a time would be ideal. During seasons like Lent, posting a forty-day devotion series can be a daily touchpoint between seniors and your church.
Your Facebook Page isn’t in a vacuum; it’s just one part of your ministry as a church. Your church’s online presence should be inseparable from, and be a reflection of, its physical counterpart.
Many of your older members may be sick, recovering, lonely or simply in need of a visit from someone. You can offer pastoral care (to an extent) with your Facebook Page. Demonstrate that your church cares for its members in many ways, and loves every opportunity to minister in this way. Include an easy way to contact your church.
A bridge to connect us
A church Facebook Page that caters to the needs of seniors is a Facebook Page that will cater to everyone, because it connects everyone. Incorporating these simple ideas will help bridge that gap, so the 50% over 50 are able to stay connected to their church.
How have you considered your seniors’ needs in your church’s online efforts? We would be very interested to hear. Comments are always welcome!
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