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If You Build It: Social Media for Congregations

In this month’s guest blog, Lisa Schnepp, a Session member at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, IN, shares her congregation’s transformative journey. Leveraging a grant from the Center for Congregations, they harnessed the power of social media to forge deeper connections with their community. Read on to uncover valuable insights and recommendations from their experience.

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Like many mainline congregations, for Southminster the 21st Century has been a challenge – cultural, social, demographic shifts compounded by a terrible pandemic. In one way, it is nothing new. Our roots go back to 1833. Southminster has served as a faithful witness for Christ through many ups and downs, challenges, and changes. However, the speed of change coupled with the explosive population growth has turned an isolated, quiet farming community into the fastest growing township in Indianapolis. Today, countless new housing developments, a booming educational system, and mega-churches dot the landscape and reshape the challenges Southminster faces at a very basic level: How do we meet our new neighbors? How do we let them know we are here? That we are a welcoming church, a caring community of believers with a deep commitment to be bringing Glory to God as a worshiping, serving community of Christ? Clearly a steeple, a beautiful campus, and an ample parking lot are not enough. What do we do? 

These questions led us to the Center for Congregations for help. Our pastor of 10 years had retired. Our Interim Pastor stepped aside due to a death in his family. So, we had a “Bridge Pastor.”  We were not welcoming new members and the congregation was growing older. These issues forced us to think about things we had not considered:  the need for money to fund new, improved technology, an effective website, and the need for modern marketing strategies. But thank God, the Center opened a new path. We were introduced to Fishhook who told us what was possible. Our Session prepared a grant proposal which was funded by the Center and our church. Fishhook was amazing. They helped us adopt a new vocabulary such as “branding,” “marketing,” “logos,” “messaging.”  We organized 2 new working groups consisting of tech savvy members AND friends of Southminster for the purposes of working through this new and more visionary approach to outreach, and communication.

Today we have a fabulous new website, a new logo, new messaging plus an outreach plan. All of this is still in the early stages. But it has turned us around in so many ways. We are now considering a technology upgrade as well as a “hit the pavement” strategy. We are making plans to hit the pavement by walking new neighborhoods near the church, and by participating in more community events such as the Wanamaker Old Settler’s Day Street Fair. We used to think about how we get people through the door. Now we are beginning to think the challenge is finding ways to take US outside our doors. 

We have a long way to go if we are to build the church’s engagement with our 21st Century community. We will continue building our techno-infrastructure, with our congregation’s support, while continuing our commitment to Christ. And we continue to pray for a new Pastor to lead us in Word and Sacrament. We will build it, trusting God to handle the rest.