SOCIAL MEDIA: A POWERFUL MPD TOOL
As a missionary, you have so many people in your life to care for and communicate with. In fact, most staff have 4-6 more circles of people in their life than the average person. And your circles will just keep growing the longer you serve.
Social media allows you to easily communicate the day-to-day activities of your ministry, as well as cast vision in bite sized pieces. It also allows you to know how your ministry partners are doing, how you can pray for them, and gives you easy and up-to-date ways to communicate with them. If you learn to use it well, it allows you to do these things quickly and efficiently.
Though you may know the ins and outs of using social media for your personal life, learning to use it for MPD can be a new frontier. There are three key things to keep in mind:
- The same principles of MPD that you follow in all your other MPD activity also apply to digital media. “Every man’s ask is no man’s ask.” Just as standing in front of a large group and asking people to join your team has proven to be ineffective, sending out group emails, facebook messages, creating a facebook group, posting on facebook, creating a pic and sharing it on Instagram, etc. to ask people to join your team of monthly partners is not the way to go. Not only are you unlikely to see a lot of results, those messages preempt individual conversations, weakening the opportunity for you to connect with people one-on-one. Your number one goal in using digital tools is still to move toward connecting personally with people, casting the vision, and asking them directly to join your team.
- A truly rounded, full communication plan can be a full-time job. If you are trying to send a monthly prayer letter; write a regular blog; post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; and email your partners with vision and stories of what’s happening in your ministry, you will be overwhelmed and most likely not have time to do the ministry you are on staff to do. Companies hire people to do this full-time. Be realistic with your plan and choose the things that you are most likely to stick with regularly. There is so much you can do, but you don’t have to do it all.
- What you share online can easily become public. Set your privacy settings on Facebook based on the needs of your ministry. Learn to share appropriately with different groups of people. But in all cases, use discretion and be professional in your interactions online. Remember that you are representing Cru and more importantly, are an ambassador for the Kingdom. Even something that is sent as a private message can be copied and distributed. Be wise.
Create an Online Presence
In our world, we look up most things online before we “try them on” in person, such as restaurants, stores, and churches. However, it is not necessary to create a website or a blog. All you really need is a digital presence that gives you credibility and allows people to easily look you up online. The simplest and most effective tool to establish an online presence is your giving profile on give.cru.org. A profile is automatically set up for you. You can edit and tailor it on the staffweb as you desire to help craft your online presence.
If you would like take the plunge on building a website or blog, Cru has created an MPD Site template powered by WordPress, but hosted by Cru (this way you can make it private and password protected if you desire). Go to GCX.org, sign in with your relay account and then go to site creator to get started. They even have an MPD site theme built for you! You can find out more on the Creating an Online Presence post.
Create Lists on Facebook for MPD
Lists are the secret to using Facebook well for MPD. You can send status updates to just your ministry partners asking for prayer, sharing a story or highlighting a resource. You can set your privacy settings so that only certain groups of people can see or do certain things. You can make any post, picture, article, etc. visible to only a certain group of people. You can also view certain groups at a time – like potential ministry partners – or only chat with people you are trying to connect with for MPD.
On your Facebook homepage, go to the bottom left section called Friends. Hover over the right side and then click on “more.” In the top center is a button called Create a List. Press this and make your lists. You will want to start with a list of people to receive MPD updates. You may also want to create lists to ask for appointments, referrals, or to cultivate relationships with.
Additionally, some of the Facebook-generated lists can be helpful – close friends, people you work with, networks you are a part of, and the school you graduated from. My favorite is the location based list, which can help as you plan MPD trips. To use that one, just change your current location to the place you want to make a list for (then don’t forget to change it back).
Communicating About Your Ministry
The Power of the Prayer Letter
The most proven form of consistent communication with your ministry partners is snail mail, in-the-hand, on-the-refrigerator prayer letter. People don’t get a lot of mail they actually want to read from people they actually know. When communicating the vision of your ministry, the most appropriate and effective way to have that message read is to send a monthly, paper letter. Email and Facebook are not places that we read page long messages. We file those away to a “read later” box, which never gets read.
While sending your partners your prayer letter by email is cheaper, in the long run it’s a lot more costly if you end up losing a partner because they don’t stay connected to the vision of your ministry as your email prayer letters pile up in a “to read” folder in their email. When partners ask me to send my letter by email, I usually say something like “I actually get a number of emailed prayer letters from staff friends. I notice that I have great intentions to read them, but rarely end up doing so. The letters I get in the mail get read and prayed for every month. It’s totally worth it to me to pay the postage if it means being able to connect with you about what’s going on in our ministry.” I have yet to receive a response that is not along the lines of “yeah, that is probably exactly what would happen!”
How to Send your Prayer letter by Email Using MailChimp
If you do send your letter by email in addition to the hard copy, do not send it as an attachment. Instead, use a service like MailChimp. MailChimp is free, you can track who reads your emails, and it looks great! MPDx also syncs with MailChimp, so you only have to manage your email prayer letter list in one place.
Do send an email version of fund appeal asks a few days after the paper version. Since many people give online, it serves as a reminder, and has the link so they can make their gift then and there. More people give from that link than send me a check.
Check out the post for more details on how to set up and your prayer letter through mailchimp, including some ready made email templates.
While email is not the most powerful way to send your prayer letter, it can be an incredible tool to engage with your ministry partners. Sharing about something that will be happening in your ministry they can pray for, updating them on the outcome of something you asked them to pray for in a prayer letter, or sending links to videos or stories that enhance your prayer letter can be very effective. Make sure email you send has a “real time” feel. Include stories or information no older than one week. Using words such as “tomorrow” or “yesterday” are signs that your email is relevant and will increase the reader’s attention. Do not put yourself on a publishing schedule. Communicate (in addition to your printed monthly newsletter) when you have something to say or something to be prayed for, not on a time frame.
Use social media streams in the same way. Share a video about your ministry, a real time prayer request, or a picture of something exciting that recently happened in your ministry. A picture is worth a thousand words, and this is especially true on Facebook. People scan information on Facebook, they do not read it. Keep your updates as short as possible and use a picture as often as you can.
On Facebook, lists allow you to customize your posts to only be seen by your ministry partners or others you want to see these updates. Because of the way Facebook chooses the posts that people see in their newsfeed, it takes a great deal of work to create and maintain a Facebook Page where your posts will actually end up being seen by your ministry partners. It is much more effective to post updates on your personal Facebook account and customize which of your friends can see those posts than to create a Facebook Page.
Cultivating Relationships with Your Partners
Sending out email on a regular basis to ask your partners how you can pray for them or just letting them know you appreciate them can be very effective. One idea is to use MailChimp to set up a year’s worth of monthly emails to your ministry partners. Each month, send a short email asking them how they are and how you can pray. I get more interaction from this short email than from any other communication I send! You can also use email to send birthday, anniversary, or holiday cards (like Christmas and Easter) or to send messages of appreciation.
Use social media in the same way you use it in regular life: to stay caught up on your ministry partners’ lives, to have regular interaction with them, and to share things like videos, pictures, and fun parts of your own life. If you are a Facebook user, use Facebook. If you tweet, tweet. If you are an avid Instagram user, post lots of pictures. Find your partners in these places. Many more will be there than you think. Make lists so you can easily check in on them. Comment on their posts, reply to their tweets. Interact with them. Share things about your ministry. Chat with them when you see them online.
Lists are the secret to using Facebook well for MPD. Here are just a few ways that you can use them to cultivate relationships.
Use Lists to Pray
Take time to scan through your MPD lists and pray for your ministry partners and your potential ministry partners. When appropriate, comment on their posts or send them a message and let them know you prayed for them, or ask them for prayer requests regarding a post.
Use Lists to Stay in Touch
Scan through your lists to see how your ministry partners are doing. Comment on posts as you normally would, “like” pictures, send them quick messages. Start up a quick chat conversation asking how they are. It is quite amazing how much you can pick up from someone and develop a regular connection with him/her through these simple things.
Filter Chat with Your Lists
Go to your chat options (the little wheel on the bottom of your chat box) and then go to advanced settings. Click on “Only some friends see you…” and fill in the names of the MPD lists you want to connect with. Now only the people you are trying to connect with for MPD can see that you are online, and the only names you will see in chat are your MPD contacts.