How to Use a Group Chat System for your Church
The case for a church-wide group chat, and some best practices.
The case for a church-wide group chat
What if it was more than a weekly gathering, a building, or midweek events?
What if, at its core, the Church was a family?
It’s not hard to make the case for this understanding of “church,” and it may not even be a new thought for you. But what we want to do is bless your community with a modern day tool that we believe can help churches deepen these types of relationships.
A “group chat” is basically a technology that allows for a group of people to engage in ongoing written conversations from different locations. Think of it like a group text, but for potentially dozens or hundreds of people.
As we’ve seen churches adopt a group messaging system, and steward it well, we’ve seen:
- The general sense of connectedness between members grows
- People have an outlet to post midweek prayer requests and prayers
- Leaders have an outlet to communicate out regular encouragement
- Communities can more easily coordinate and distribute announcements
In an increasingly digital world (and a COVID-19 world at the time of this writing), tools and methods of helping our communities connect relationally are more important than ever. If the Church is to be a family, we need to have depth like a family, and a group chat is one small way to help achieve that desire.
If you and your community are hungry for deeper relational connection, then read on to learn our best practices for developing an effective group chat.
We’ve been using group chats for years, and the following is a summary of what we consider to be best practices. These are listed in no particular order, but our hope is that you can take these and launch a new group chat in your community successfully.
Build a culture around group chat
Oftentimes new things are hard to get buy-in from a large group of people. Before launching your group chat, we recommend asking 5-10 people to help establish the culture around the group chat. Their job will be to post, reply, and generally build engagement in the chat for the first couple weeks and months. As the larger community sees engagement from this group, they’ll be more likely to engage themselves.
Set some ground rules
Anytime you bring a group of people together, whether digitally or in-person, it’s a good idea to lay some ground rules for how things will work. We’d recommend writing up a list of 5-10 “rules” that those engaging in the group chat agree to abide by. Spell out what will happen if the rules are violated (i.e. expulsion from the group.)
Appoint a moderator
Someone needs to “own” the group chat. Maybe it’s you, an elder, another staff member, or someone else you trust. This person’s responsibility will be to enforce the rules and help build the community and culture you’re hoping for.
Develop some regular posting themes
Sometimes people need icebreakers to get them feeling comfortable, especially when the group chat is getting started. Maybe you want to do a regular segment called “Monday morning encouragement” where you share an encouraging thought or Scripture. Maybe there’s a midweek prayer thread that gets posted every Wednesday at noon. Or how about a celebration themed segment where people can post what they’re thankful for. Whatever the activity is, the more regular conversations and engagement you can supply, the more it will help the community feel safe to engage.
Safety is always on the front of our mind in ministry, and even more so when digital communication is concerned. We recommend keeping kids under 18 out of your group chat system, and, if possible, not allowing direct messages in the group messaging system. The point of this is to build an open communication channel, not have private conversations.
The thought of churches growing deeper relationships through a simple online tool excites us. We hope it excites you as well as you think about how to disciple and shepherd people in a digital and post-COVID world.