I've been on the YouTube platform for about three years now, and in that time we've only seen it grow our church’s ministry.
Yet, when I talk about using YouTube with other pastors, they’ll often say: “I want to do it, but how will this actually help my church?”
A lot of people tend to assume it only reaches those well outside of their community.
However, there are so many different hacks you can use to get people in your city to watch.
1. Tag your location.
I can talk about the different kinds of content you can create, but first and foremost I want to mention that you can now tag locations. You can tag a location, and then that will help people find you in their search. I tag Queen Creek, Arizona, because that's where my church plant is. But even more than that, we do YouTube ads. So, I do a lot of 2-5 minute vlog-style videos showing our Sunday morning experience and events we’ve had at our church. By tagging our location on Facebook and Youtube, it helps us target and draw in a lot of people who are new to the area.
2. Create consistent content builds trust and community.
Creating content is a way to gain people's trust. We've had so many megachurch pastors fall morally, that there's a general sense of distrust towards church leaders. I get it. So, I have realized that one way to win someone over is by sharing more than just the Sunday sermon and actually inviting them into my life. I can't tell you how many times we have visitors come and say, "I'm sorry, but I just feel like I know you." It allows us to get past the introductions and actually go deeper with one another. Ultimately, I think that is the kind of relationship that makes people stay longer.
3. Find inspiration from other creators to stay fresh and relevant.
The YouTube platform and the way people tell stories is always changing. So, I think it's really helpful to watch nonbelievers––people who are really cutting edge in their content––and recognize that the Casey Neistat type vlog isn't as prevalent anymore. How come? Well, maybe because people are used to that. We need to evolve and do something new in order to stay relevant.
4. Use what you’ve got.
As a pastor, I'm thinking, “I can't just upload my 30-minute sermon. I'm not that good of a preacher yet. People aren't going to watch that." However, they love watching my 5-10 minute pieces of content. Right away, something simple you can do is to create a 7-minute clip with one of your best points from last Sunday’s sermon. Even that is a huge start! Maybe you are a pastor and you are thinking to yourself, "I just don't know ... I'm already creating a sermon. I can't think of more content." That’s fine! Just take that sermon and flesh it out a little more. Have you and your associate pastor sit down, podcast-style, and just talk about the sermon topic. It’s amazing how easily you can just riff! That is quick, solid content that builds on the work you’ve already done.
What I'm passionate about is taking a main idea and then showing people how I am incorporating it into my daily life. When I do my vlog-style videos, I show the viewers a minute clip from Sunday's message, and then I start processing it with them as I go through my day. I’m able to bring my viewers along and say, “Okay––remember that thing that I just talked about on Sunday? Here's how I am fleshing it out in my actual life today. It helps people trust you and it keeps them engaged.
5. Offer live Q&As.
Q&As are huge. People have a lot of questions about the faith, and Q&As are a great way to connect on them in a fun yet meaningful way. I would say, if you do a Q&A, go live on YouTube and interact with people in real-time. Uploading a high-quality one works as well, but there's something about people feeling like a part of a real community that keeps them engaged.
6. Record topical, long-form interviews.
The new thing right now is video podcasts. One hack that I do is that, when I upload a long-form interview, I give topic-based timestamps in the description. That way, people can just straight to the conversations within the video that most interest them. One of my most recent conversations was about parenting with my mom. We did an hour-long podcast, and people watched the full thing! They cared about the content and appreciated the way we packaged it.
The reality is I don't have to give people my vision and try to lead people all just one hour a week. I know most of my people are watching my videos throughout the week. I can drip the vision of what we're doing more than just through the venue of that Sunday morning experience. And it's funny, because a lot of people think I'm just “the online guy.” I would never just be an online pastor; I love the local community. The online part just serves what you're actually doing face-to-face and accelerates those relationships.
7. Remember: personal is more powerful than professional.
Sometimes pastors come to me saying, "I just can't get my content to look as good as yours." I've done this for three years, so I've slowly gotten the money to get quality products. Yet, still, some of my most viewed videos were just filmed on a GoPro. What matters most is the content. I always encourage pastors to remember that personal is more powerful than professional. We'd rather you film it on your iPhone if it is genuine and authentic!
In fact, a great Christian YouTuber named Sean Cannell will intentionally film whole videos on his iPhone, simply because it catches people's attention. I know some people with over 50,000 subscribers, and they still use iMovie and an iPhone. They can do this because they know how to tell a story, and that’s what is more important.
The nonbelievers in my area are tired of “professional pastors”. I love the book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals by John Piper. It's a good reminder that I'm here to just be raw and vulnerable and real; and that really goes a long way.
I think people are so encouraged by just being invited into your journey. It is what helps encourage them to pursue Jesus and to get better, to do more, and to expand the kingdom of God themselves. That’s what using this platform is all about!
Read the full blog of this episode here: https://get.tithe.ly/blog/youtube-church-growth
Today on Modern Church Leader, Trey Van Camp explains 7 methods pastors can use to boost church growth.
Connect with Trey here: https://www.youtube.com/user/NicandTreydotcom
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