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How to Create Recovery-Friendly Community Using Social Media

church social media for recovery ministry
Written by Meghan Blackford

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“Danny,” a recovering alcoholic, attends an AA meeting every week. The group gathers in the basement of a Methodist church on Sunday afternoons. Sometimes Danny considers visiting the church worship service, but he always ends up dismissing the idea. “I wouldn’t feel welcome there,” he thinks.

What would it take to help Danny and others like him feel welcomed in church? Answers to this question have historically been quite complex—and even harder to implement. That’s because of a perceived rift between the two worlds (recovery and church), created by factors like cultural, spiritual, and theological differences and limited, shared life experience. There can also be a certain level of mutual mistrust.

One way that churches can help bridge this divide is by using social media to connect with people in recovery. What follow are five simple, practical ways that churches can use social media and other communication tools to create a more recovery-friendly community….

1. Maximize different social networks’ strengths. While Snapchat might be a great network for younger adults, Facebook may do a better job of engaging your core congregation. With 8 billion monthly, active users, Facebook is the foundation for most organizations’ social media strategy. Here are some ways to creatively utilize Facebook’s capabilities to reach people in recovery:

  • Host Facebook Live sessions. Promote these events and encourage fans to ask questions during the live broadcast. These sessions might be a good venue for starting faith-based conversations about addiction and for speaking directly to people in recovery.
  • Create a private Facebook Group and share relevant content. Consider starting groups based on common interests (young adults, women’s ministry, parenting, Spanish-speaking, etc.) and invite your existing page followers to join. You can do the same for people in recovery, by creating a private group that offers a safe space to converse and find support. Share sermons, inspirational quotes, Bible verses and other content that you think the group will appreciate.
  • Encourage audience input and participation. For example, you might post questions or polls in groups and build your content strategy around what your followers want to see. You can also ask for user-generated content and then aggregate and share images in one engaging post.

2. Invest in content creation. Investing in high-quality videos can significantly improve your content’s exposure and engagement. Videos are the most consumed content on social media and the most versatile type of content (easily shared across many platforms).

Consider recording sermons, conferences or other events and then advertising these videos to users on Facebook or YouTube. You might also utilize apps like Canva, Instagram Stories, Adobe or other creative tools to affordably design engaging graphics that promote weekly events and virtual meetings.

With a hashtag tracking service (like Social-searcher, Talkwalker or Hashtagify), it’s also possible to first research and create an on-brand hashtag and then monitor your hashtag for brand evangelists, conversation sentiment and content ideas.

3. Diversify content and dedicate a monthly advertising budget. Develop recovery-friendly, monthly themes or a seasonal calendar that aligns with liturgical seasons such as Advent or Lent. Plan ahead to promote these campaigns over specific dates.

Allocate a social media budget to promote top-performing posts. A good rule of thumb is to budget 50-60 percent of the amount of time spent creating a blog/graphic on promotion. Look through previous posts and invite everyone who engaged to become a fan of your page. With users who live within 25 miles of the church, you may also want to follow up with mailed announcements about worship or other safe, socially distanced events.

4. Poll your audience and tackle real-world issues. Help be part of the solution to a problem that matters to your audience. (Maybe it is world hunger, homelessness, the overdose epidemic, etc.) Invite users to join you and reward top contributors with gestures of appreciation or freebies, however small. Tag specific users. Pin posts to the top of the page to welcome new fans.

You can also use Instagram stories to ask poll questions or administer Bible study quizzes. Try to vary the content, since one topic all the time can become monotonous. Mental health, quality of life and areas of life beyond religion often pique interest.

5. Stay active on social media. This may be a tall order for some church budgets, but it is worth the investment. Hire a dedicated social expert or community manager to ensure your accounts are active and your community feels included and valued in an ongoing way.

Sign up for management tools like Hootsuite, Buffer or Sprout Social to proactively manage private messages, comments and scheduled posts. The more days of the week active, the better your reach. The more days of the week you actively post and interact with your followers, the better your content’s reach.

At their best, churches are Christ-centered communities that embody God’s love and care for one another and the world. With these simple tips and tools, churches can use social media to help people in recovery feel loved and cared for, too.

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    About the author

    Meghan Blackford

    Meghan Blackford manages social media for the national behavioral health provider FHE Health.

    3 Comments

    • Hi Meghan, thanks for writing this. All Christians are in recovery – recovery from our old, sinful selves – so we should have compassion, understanding, and love for those who in recovery from substance abuse. Thanks for sharing these ideas for ways churches can connect with and show compassion for those in recovery.

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