What Google+ Knows And Your Church Ought To Know

Tuesday, July 28, 2015 7:50:00 AM Categories: Communication Leadership Ministry & Technology
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Google, the multinational corporation specializing in information worth billions of dollars, understands something every church should understand:  circles.  Google’s social media arm called Google+ has a unique approach to social networking allowing users to group all of their contacts in “circles”.  With Google+ you can organize your relationships by creating any kind of “circle” you want: immediate family, cousins, work friends, co-workers, sci-fi lovers, BBQ fanatics, football junkies, New Mexicans, college friends, neighbors, fishing buddies, etc.  The list is as limitless as your imagination.

What does this have to do with church?  It’s all about how we think about organizing people.  Most churches use some kind of system for organizing parishioners. Hopefully your church has ditched the spiral-bound attendance books and has moved on to some kind of is software.  In any case, the systems we use for organizing people reflect how we think about people.

Google+ has a way of thinking about people that can be paradigm-shifting.  It starts with two fundamental beliefs:  1)  Everyone belongs to some kind of group.   2) Every group needs uniquely targeted communication.  On my Google+ account I have circles for ministry colleagues, small group pastors, life-long friends, Star Wars fanatics, family, and so on.  It’s a hard pill for me to swallow, but I have to recognize that not everyone I know wants to read my Star Wars related posts.  So when I share anything about Star Wars on Google+ it’s posted so only people in my Star Wars fanatics circle will see it.  This is different than the Facebook or Twitter style of communicating with simply blankets all of your friends or followers with the same message.

This way of thinking can be a powerful concept for Church leaders because it forces us to think both strategically and personally at the same time.  Let’s face it, people are inundated with too much information today.  And no matter how important we think our church programs are, not everyone in our database wants every morsel of information we want to send them.  That’s where circles come in.  Let’s examine the two beliefs I mentioned earlier in a church context.

1)  Everyone belongs to some kind of group - At the church I pastor, we are trying to think about people in circles rather than database columns.  We call these circles “groups”.  No I’m not referring to only to people who attend “small groups”; it’s much broader than that.  Every person is a part of some kind of group.  In our church management software we have groups for anything we can come up with: first time guests, 2-year-old ministry volunteers, greeters, band members, office volunteers, small group leaders, small group coaches, actual small groups, staff members, elders, high school students, food pantry volunteers, etc.  Many people are in more than one group and that’s okay.  In order to help make sure no one falls through the cracks, everyone in our database belongs to a group of some kind.  Everyone belongs.

2) Every group needs uniquely targeted communication - By “grouping” or “circling” people it helps us strategically organize and target our communication.  The word “strategy” sounds very official and business-like.  But targeted communication is not simply a matter of strategy; targeted communication is personal.  By only sending relevant content to each group, we protect the people we serve from over-information.  This allows us as church leaders to demonstrate “You matter to me, so I’m only going to send you stuff that matters to you.”

Here’s an example from the church I pastor:  we have a group on our ChurchTeams database called “the radical”.  This group is made up of the people who are radically passionate about our church and who have leadership influence with others.  Some of them are “officially” leaders in that they lead small groups or serving teams, but every one of them are “practically” leaders in that others listen to them and follow them.  When our church is rolling out any new efforts we announce them first to the radical group.  They usually get an email with a private video explaining what’s coming at New Life Bible Church.  This group loves getting these emails because they hear about things before everyone else.  Then they begin to virally influence others before the official news is passed along to everyone else. 

Now this is important, so don’t miss it:  the people in my Google+ “Star Wars Fanatics” circle don’t know they are in that circle.  They just know I like to send them Star Wars related info from time-to-time…and they enjoy it because it matters to them.  Likewise, the people in the “radical group” I mentioned in the last paragraph don’t know they are in a group called “the radical”.  They just know that I like sending them sneak previews from time-to-time…and they enjoy it because it matters to them.   

The reason I’m writing this is simple:  learn to think differently about the people in your church and how you communicate with them.  Make sure the systems you have in place make this kind of targeted communication easy-to-execute. 

Do the people in your church enjoy getting the information you’re sending because it truly matters to them?

Do your church systems make this kind of communication easy?

Does your church software help or hinder in this regard?

Alan Danielson is the Senior Pastor of New Life Bible Church in Norman, Oklahoma. Previously he served as Central Team Leader for LifeGroups at LifeChurch.tv in Edmond, OK, where he led over a thousand small groups on LifeChurch’s thirteen campuses in six different states. He then founded 3Threat.net to help leaders master three essential leadership skills: vision-casting, creating strategy and fostering relationships. Alan is a popular conference speaker and consults regularly with ministries and leaders on topics relating to small groups and leadership. Learn more from Alan at http://www.3Threat.net.