Thoughts from That Church Conference

Thomas Jefferson once said that, “Every generation needs a revolution.” I cannot remember when I first heard or read that quote, but I remember thinking I want to be part of a revolution. I didn’t know what revolution I wanted to be part of, but nonetheless I wanted to be part of a movement that changed things and caused others to look in wonder and awe at what was happening.

I recently traveled to Atlanta for a one-day conference on social media and the church – That Church Conference aka #ThatCC. I highly recommend the conference – it was by far one of the best I have ever attended – and I have been to many.

So here are a few really big insights I gained from That Church Conference from some of the most grace-filled and humble people I have ever met.

I am part of the revolution. I loved what Chris Dunagan said, “I am God’s plan for reaching God’s people.” I cannot even begin to explain how nice it was to hear that statement. It was also a blessing to be sitting in a room of people that get “It.” That “It” is that the church needs – desperately needs – to be a voice in the world of social media.

I never once felt I had to convince anyone of the need for the church to be doing social media. Nor did I ever have to defend why I spent the last four plus years of my life, and more money than I ever want to admit, studying and researching. I looked at data trends, marketing analysis, digital communication characteristics and patterns, the history of communication, the printing press, the protestant reformation, evangelism and the role digital can play in those efforts, and so much more to have ammunition when answering the question – why should the church do social media? 

As I sat there I was refreshed – I was encouraged – and my many hours of research and study was confirmed in that others were saying and doing the same thing.

I was, for the first time, in a space with people speaking the same language – for the same purpose – to share Jesus in the digital world.

I got hit with a Holy Ouch within the first 15 minutes. I feel like I needed to give Van Baird a high-five for that. 15 minutes into the conference and I had already gotten my money’s worth. He said something that hit me right to the core. It wasn’t anything I didn’t already know, but something that sometimes gets lost – even when I’m managing a church account. Van said, “If you are not using social media to point people to Jesus, you are failing.” Just go ahead and tweet that – I will give you a minute.

This statement was a stark reminder that my number one goal, especially for the church, is to use this incredible tool I have at my fingertips to point people to Jesus. Sometimes in the midst of promoting an event or trying to get people to read an article there is a tendency to turn off Jesus and turn on the data and the marketing magic. Jesus is enough – and when we share Jesus, the data will follow.

Numbers do matter – but in this business – numbers matter because people matter – and people matter because Jesus matters. We need to do what we can, when we can to point people to Jesus within the church and within our daily lives as we live and breath on social media.

I don’t know it all. I admit it. Now I need to be completely transparent here, I was looking for the conference leadership to show me something I didn’t already know. After spending the last 4 years of my life entrenched in social media doing research to complete my Doctor of Ministry degree, I know a lot – and I have seen a lot. So I signed up for this conference under the guise of – teach me something – I dare you. The conference leadership was not aware of my challenge, but they didn’t have to be – God was well aware and made sure that the challenge was accepted. I learned a lot – a whole lot – so much so that I left knowing that I will do my job better than ever before. I came home a better leader – a better social media nerd – and frankly a better follower of Jesus. Thanks for humbling even me.

After 11 pages of Notes here are my top 20 statements (plus 13…) that I pray give you insight because they did me. 

  • If you are not following your girlfriend on Pinterest – she will never be your wife.
  • The church has to be the BEST at the digital because we have the BEST Story.
  • If you are not using social media to point people to Jesus you are failing.
  • I am God’s plan for reaching God’s people.
  • Numbers matters because people count.
  • Success is determined by what you build, significance is determined by what you build on.
  • Is the culture you have – the culture you want?
  • Followers Ask How. Leaders ask why.
  • I feel like a mosquito at a nudist colony.
  • Our self worth should not ever come from social media – but only from God.
  • Not every church uses social media to its fullest potential.
  • God can do infinitely more than we can ever imagine.
  • Use social media not to be high tech – but to be high touch
  • Listen to people and get personal. Don’t be an awkward turtle.
  • Figure out who you are. Who you want to be. Who you are NOT.
  • There are things God has called us to do that will buck what is normal – typical – and inside the box.
  • Christians are the best and shooting their own.
  • The dress thing? I literally thought I was living in an Onion Article!
  • We don’t have to ALWAYS comment on EVERYTHING – might be a good idea to ask does it fit with who we are? Or are we just trying to add more noise?
  • Facebook and Twitter are not the answers to your church problems – just being on social media is not going to help.
  • Grabbing a Google image and slapping a fish on it doesn’t make it about Jesus.
  • Marketing is about everything your organization does.
  • Our biggest competition is people’s attention.
  • Make everything we do sharable
  • Our world is in desperate need of Good News.
  • It’s hard to get the message of the Gospel out in world that is very hostile.
  • Everything you do – and Say – is PR.
  • The worst PR strategy is to not have an PR strategy.
  • We need to be prepared for our church to show up in the headlines.
  • Public Relations have everything to do with people – what they see, what they hear, how the church makes them feel – what we teach, what we don’t teach.
  • Proximity Matters
  • Memorable Experiences bond the heart of your audience with the heart of God and your church.
  • Do for one what you wish you could you for all.

Thank You Justin Dean, Van Baird, Ashley Williams, Dave Adamson, Carrie Kintz, Chris Dunagan, Phil Bowdle, Tim Schraeder, Paul Briney and Matt McKee. You all were amazing and I pray one day I can join you on a stage such as this – if not I will continue to soak up everything you got.

If you attended #ThatCC what stuck out to you? If you didn’t attend #ThatCC – You should. You will not regret it.

I would love to connect with you – check me out on Twitter @revhoward18


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