How To Connect With Your Community On The Internet – Part#2
The local grapevine has always been a way of finding out what is happening in your community, a mixture of gossip and real information. Churches need to know what is happening in their community so that they can be both proactive and responsive. Facebook groups have supercharged the local grapevine to new heights and they provide local churches with an insight into the pulse of the local community and its needs.
Trust is a huge factor for people and the local grapevine is used for recommendations daily. If you look at the feed on your local Facebook group you’ll see at least a couple of recommendation posts a day. It’s usually for tradespeople or other services but it can be anything. Facebook has recognised this phenomenon and it now instantly converts posts looking for recommendations into a Recommendations post featuring an easy to navigate map and list.
This isn’t necessarily the relevant aspect of local Facebook groups for churches. Here are a few key ways you can make good use of Facebook groups:
1. Establish & run groups yourself.
If your local community does not have the usual range of Facebook groups that many other suburbs have you can launch them yourself. The advantage of this is being able to be the ‘admin’ of the groups and to control the level of civility on the group. You can launch a Neighborhood Watch group or a security group. Valuable intel is gleaned off these sites. Those that are managed well keep gossip and division off the site. Think of ways in which your church can be a catalyst to a range of helpful sites for your local community (swap sites, homework help, etc).
2. Pastoral Care Intelligence
From time to time important information is posted alerting you to urgent needs in your local community. This is an excellent opportunity for churches to step in and help demonstrating practical care to local families and people. Often information appeals about people in distress (house burned down, lifts needed, urgent child care needed, etc) due to critical situations they find themselves in. A responsive church looking for opportunities to provide practical local care can glean much from participating in their community group.
3. Community PR
Local Facebook suburban groups also provide an opportunity for churches to offer their local community opportunities (holiday clubs, surplus bread and groceries, family events, playgroups, youth groups, etc).
4. Community Information
There are new people moving into your community all the time. When you first move in somewhere it’s improtant to find out all the things you need to know about local services. Churches can be very helpful by providing constant help to new settlers by way of information at the very least, if not an offer to help in some way. When notified of someone new to the area (they identify themselves on the group) you can have a ready package of helpful information you can message them with or drop around.
Facebook Groups allow churches to be informed and on the front foot of the pulse of their local community. If anybody follows them closely it should be the local church. It is a respository of information and intellignece that you otherwise would never have access to.
Stan Fetting, Crossover Operations Manager, Sept 2017