So you want to facilitate a thriving online community for your church. You understand the value of having a private place to ask big questions as a church or for small groups to share curriculum. You know your church wants to talk about the Bible more and share what they’re learning with the rest of the congregation.
Related post: Take Your Church Beyond Handshakes and Hellos
Sometimes getting your congregation to do anything new might feel like crying out in the wilderness. But it doesn’t have to. With the right perspective, and the right strategy, you can be the catalyst that helps propel your church into a vibrant online community they’ll keep coming back to—because it’s your church, online.
Here are four ways to grow your church’s Faithlife Group:
1. Optimize your group for new people
Your online community should immediately reflect the identity of your church. When you invite your congregation to join your Faithlife Group, they should know exactly what they’re getting into. Going somewhere that doesn’t immediately identify itself can feel sketchy, or unofficial, even if someone you trust told you to go there.
Related post: Customize Your Faithlife Group
There are several ways you can make your Faithlife Group feel like a familiar face when church members get there:
*Set your church’s logo (or a picture of your church) as the profile picture.
Your group will look and feel more “official,” and posts from the group will appear more like important updates. Visually, it’s like confirming that you showed up at the right address.
*Add a cover photo of your church staff, your congregation, the inside of your building, or something else that can be clearly associated with your church.
Without a clear cover photo, arriving at your group is like pulling up to an empty building with no signs. People will ask, “Are you sure this is the right place?” And they may just keep driving.
*Have a clear, useful tagline.
When someone first arrives at your Faithlife Group, the tagline is like your greeter (and it’s only visible to new people). A good tagline could include your church’s mission statement if it’s brief or—you guessed it—your church’s tagline. But that’s not all it should say. The tagline is your chance to cast the vision and set the tone for your group.
What do you want people to do when they get there?
How is your church going to use the group?
This is your pamphlet, your order of service, or your handout.
*Model the community you want to create.
Nobody likes to feel like they’re the only one who showed up. And it’s hard to make the first move to be vulnerable in front of others. If you want people to feel like your group is a place to share prayer requests, then share some prayer requests. If you want people to use the group to discuss what they’re reading, then discuss what you’re reading.
*Put your website, YouTube channel, or other official church links in the sidebar.
Your group’s sidebar is completely customizable. If your church has your own YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, or audio channel, the sidebar can show the rest of your online presence. If your church doesn’t have its own channels, you can also link to other biblical organizations you trust—their videos and links will appear right in the sidebar. It’s a teaching tool that follows your church members wherever they go within the group.
You can also use the sidebar as another way to show people where to go and what to do. You can add reading plans, Community Notes, prayer lists, and calendar events, so people always know what’s going on in the group.
2. Invite people directly from the group
Right inside your Faithlife Group, there’s a button to “invite friends.” If your group’s privacy settings are open enough, any member of your church can invite their friends to join using email.
You don’t have to know the emails of everyone in your church (but if you have an email list, this is the perfect time to use it). Invite small group leaders or staff and volunteers and encourage everyone to invite everyone else that they know. You can also include a personal note with the invitation.
3. Use the Join Group plugin
If your church has a website or a blog, the Join Group plugin is an easy way to steer people towards your church’s group.
Go to Faithlife.com/plugins/joingroup and enter the name of your group. You can change the plugin size to make it more subtle or more prominent.
After that, Faithlife produces the code you need to add the plugin to your page. It comes in two pieces: a
<div>, which you can put wherever you’d like the plugin to appear, and a <script>
to tell your site what to do with that <div>, which you just need to put somewhere below the <div>.
Here’s how it looks:
Note: The “large” version of the Join Group plugin will show your group’s tagline.
4. Put an invite in your regular announcements
If you’re part of the church staff, and your staff is committed to creating an online community, then you have to put your greatest communication tool to work: the service.
You may find that the best strategy is to work it into your pamphlets, or to include the URL of your Faithlife Group in a small card you can easily distribute as people enter or leave the building. Wherever you would include your church website, take the opportunity to tell people about your online community.
Or, since your congregation is presumably somewhat mobile (that’s kind of the point here), you may find that it’s best to put an announcement slide in your pre-service loop: “Take a minute to join our Faithlife Group! Faithlife.com/YourURL.”
As always, you can also just tell people about it. Whether it’s before the sermon starts, or an invitation to continue talking about the sermon online, taking a minute to direct people to the group is huge. It helps reinforce that this is something your church is committed to, and if your service ends with an invitation to continue the conversation from home, it can provide the perfect next step towards spiritual growth as a community.
So what are you waiting for? Start growing your Faithlife Group today.
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Not sure what to do with your mobile Christian community? See how other churches use Faithlife Groups.