I am very pleased and excited by the number of congregations in our synod who now are using Facebook and other social media for outreach and community building.
Some congregations have created groups on Facebook instead of a page. Some congregations have both a page and a group. And some are unsure about the difference or which one they should use.
So let’s review the differences, strengths, and weaknesses of having a Facebook Page and a Group.
A Page is the public face of your congregation.
It is where people can find what they need to know about your church. When people “like” your page, your updates will show up in their feed.
A Facebook group is a page that fosters discussion and interaction.
You must “join” the group. If you are a member of a group, posts to that group will show up in your feed.
What are the advantages of a Page?
- A Page has a more effective reach because it is easier to “like” a page than “join” a group. It is easily searchable. It also can be seen by anyone, even if they don’t like the page.
- A Page is indexed by search engines. If someone googles your congregation, the Facebook page will come up. Groups will not show up in a search.
- Content is controlled by the Administrator. You can decide who can post to the page. Even if you allow anyone to post to the page, their posts can only be seen if someone clicks “Visitor Posts”.
- You can use analytic tools to track how many visitors you have and what posts get the most engagement.
What are the Advantages of a Group:
- Because any member can start threads that are seen by all group members, groups are much better for discussion than a page.
- You can control who is part of the group, and have a less public atmosphere.
- Groups can be set to three different privacy settings:
- Public – anyone can join or be added to the group. Anyone, even non-members can see what is posted in the group and who is in the group. Only members can post to the group.
- Closed – People need to ask to join the group or can be added by another member. The group can be seen by anyone. Anyone can also see who is in the group. Only members can post and see what is posted in the group.
- Secret – Members can only be added or invited by another member. They cannot ask to join. Only current members can see who is in the group. Only members can find the group in a search.
As you can see, the question of Page or Group is not really an either/or question, as they each serve different purposes.
My recommendation is that every congregation should have a page. If you are only going to have one presence on Facebook, it should be a page, rather than a group because a page does a better job of reaching out and getting information out about your church.
However, there is no reason why you should not have both a Page and a Group.
In fact, you can have more than one group. You can have a group for members that serves the purpose of fellowship and asking if you can trade coffee making duties. You can have a group that is centered on bible study or a book study. You can have a group just for young adults. Any group in a church may find it helpful to have a group.
For most purposes, the “closed” setting will be the best one for a church group, as it affords some privacy. For the sake of transparency, I do not think it is a good idea for a congregation to have any secret groups.
Also, understand that there is no real privacy on the internet. People can always copy and screenshot posts and Facebook groups should never be used to encourage sharing of extremely confidential information that would cause distress should the information become public.
Technically anyone can create a group and call it whatever they like.
It will be helpful for the church council to create a policy about who can create a group on behalf of the congregation and set policy about how the groups are administrated that are followed by all groups with the church’s name.
Church council and church staff should be aware of all church groups and for transparency sake, they should be listed publicly in church publications.
In the end, when I am asked “Should we have a Facebook Page or a Facebook group?” my answer is, “Yes!”
About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-HansonThe Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.
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