Haley Veturis has been the social media manager of Saddleback Church, an NAE member church, since 2011. In her role, she writes and implements social strategy and policy across Saddleback’s regional and global campuses, runs the main Saddleback brand accounts, and leads Saddleback’s social media team. Haley also trains and equips pastors and leaders across the country on social media strategy. She is co-author of “Trending Up: Social Media Strategies for Today’s Church” and co-founder of Social Ecclesia.
How did your interest in leveraging social media for kingdom impact develop?
I’ve always been interested in every aspect of the media. I did five internships in college: journalism, public relations, advertising, television production, and my final internship was with FOX 6 News in San Diego. I thought I would pursue broadcast news as a producer, but God had other plans for me. He quickly closed those doors and introduced me to church ministry. It was through pursuing a calling to ministry that I realized the value of social media platforms as an avenue to spread God’s word. Jesus’ ministry was all about people, and it still is. In an era of connection, it’s our job as the church to connect people to Christ.
How does your social media strategy connect to the mission of Saddleback Church?
Our social media strategy was birthed out of Jesus’ ministry. God put it on my heart during my New Testament class in seminary. We were asked to read through the gospels twice, and I saw how simple, practical and profound Jesus’ ministry was. He connected with people on a personal level, taught them life-transforming lessons, and gave them ministry opportunities, creating the best advocates to carry on the message of Jesus. That’s also exactly the mission of Saddleback Church: We believe that Great Commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment will grow a great church.
Why should churches consider being on social media?
God called his disciples to be fishers of men. If you want to reach people for the kingdom of God, you have to fish where the fish are. Right now, the fish are on social media. Seventy-nine percent of American Internet users are on Facebook. On any given day, Snapchat reaches 41 percent of 18-34 year olds. Sixty-nine percent of adults use at least one social media site. On average, 1 billion hours of video is watched per day on YouTube. People in your church’s community have never been easier to reach. If you have a church right now — at such a time as this — why would you pass on the opportunity to reach at least one more for his kingdom? Use the tools at your disposal for the global glory of God’s kingdom.
What advice would you give a church — particularly a small church with limited resources — that wants to get started on social media but doesn’t know where to begin?
You don’t have to be a large church to use free social media platforms. If you own a smartphone, you’re qualified to run a social strategy on any social media platform. Start by finding a volunteer who is a member of your church, who loves your church and who is responsible, reliable and responsive. Make sure you have a staff member monitoring their posts to ensure they are aligned with the values, mission and voice of your church. Give the volunteer insight as to who your church is specifically trying to reach and then select the social media platform where that target primarily resides. Don’t feel like you have to be on every social media platform.
What steps can churches take to ensure that social media engagement benefits their church and doesn’t harm it?
Clear communication is key. Communicate what you value, make your expectations clear and set up a social strategy and social media guidelines for your staff/volunteers to follow. I recommend conducting quarterly metrics just to make sure that you’re on the right track. Most social platforms have their own metrics available, but if not, some of my favorite tools are Sprout Social, Union Metrics and Iconosquare.
How can churches use social media to foster true community?
Jesus was the absolute best at fostering community, because he put God first and people at a close second. Since social media is an online platform and you’re a screen removed from face-to-face contact, churches need to help people forget that they are a screen away. Respond to comments, posts, tags, etc. Show people who you follow that you’re actually following them and that their church cares about what they care about. Encourage someone when they post something that shows they are having a rough day. Wish your members a happy birthday when they post that they are out at a birthday dinner. The idea behind true community is surrounded by love.
Does Saddleback Church also try to reach beyond those that go to the church with your social media platform?
Our social media platforms are built for the community, crowd and congregation. This complements the vision that Pastor Rick Warren has set for our church, as described in “Purpose Driven Church.” The community is anyone in the community we live in, beyond our church walls. The crowd is made up of our weekend attenders, and the congregation are those who have taken the first step of commitment into church membership. Knowing this helps inform how we craft our posts. Social media has been one of our best platforms to leverage when promoting events made for the community. Facebook and Instagram ads allow you to target exactly who you are trying to reach. A $5-$10 budget can go a long way. Be strategic with your posts and know whom you are trying to reach when posting them. It all pretty much comes down to that!
This article originally appeared in Evangelicals magazine.