One common fear that churches often have when managing their social media accounts is, “What happens if someone says something inappropriate or controversial?” Those fears commonly come true when someone leaves a nasty comment on one of their posts.

Even when engagement is positive and encouraging, it can be tricky to decide when and how to follow up with users who engage with your church via social media.

Below are some guidelines our team follows at The Summit Church when we respond to various types of content. These are only guidelines, so be sure to use common sense when applying them at your church.

General, informational questions

Ex: “I’m attending your Christmas program. Do I need to reserve tickets for my kids?”

Informational questions are the most straightforward comments to respond to as the answer is usually factual. Your job here is to point the person to the best resource to meet their needs.

  • Answer as quickly as possible, no more than 24 hours after the comment was posted.
  • If you don’t know the answer right away, acknowledge the comment by responding that you’re looking into it and will get back to them as quickly as you can.
  • Be sure to follow through. Your role is to serve your congregation, and not following through on a promise reflects poorly on your church.

Requests for spiritual help

Ex: “My husband struggles with addiction. Where can he get help?”

Sometimes, people will publicly ask for spiritual help for something they’re experiencing in their life. As a social media manager, you might not feel confident or equipped to help. Here are some ideas for how to approach the conversation.

  • Direct to a counseling resource on your church website. Link directly to the resource.
  • Ask one of your pastors if they have any resources that can help address that person’s question.
  • Put user in touch with a pastor if needed. Request the user send a message with their contact info. Ex. “We’d love to connect you to a pastor who can help. Can you send us your contact info in a private message (don’t post here!) so we can have one of our pastors follow up?”

Theological questions

Ex: “What does your believe about women in ministry?”

Theological questions can be straightforward, but for some people commenting, they may be a big deal. Use wisdom when deciding how to best respond.

  • If your church leadership has addressed the question in print before (either through a position paper, a statement of faith, or similar), direct them to that resource.
  • For potentially divisive questions, offer to follow up with the person commenting directly, involving a pastor in the conversation if you’re not comfortable having the conversation yourself.

Positive comments

Ex: “What a great sermon series.”

Usually, these comments don’t require a response, but responding to certain comments could be an opportunity to create a positive brand experience.

  • Thank the user for their feedback. They took a step to encourage your staff publicly — often a little acknowledgment can go a long way to encourage future engagement.
  • Try to find a way to point people to deeper levels of engagement. “Have you listened to other messages in this series? You can find them here.” Or, “I’m glad you enjoyed the sermon! We’re studying this topic in our small groups right now. Are you connected?”

General Complaints

Ex: “The music was too loud.”

They say people are most likely to leave feedback if they’ve had a wonderful experience or a poor experience, and they often turn to social media to share complaints. The way that you respond to a guest can have the opportunity to change both their perception of their experience and the outcome of their problem.

  • Thank the person for taking the time to provide feedback about their experience.
  • Be understanding. Even if you don’t agree with their comment, show that you’ve taken the time to see their issue from their point of view.
  • Don’t pick a fight. This will often only escalate the problem.
  • Keep responses short — two or three sentences at most. If you leave too long a response, you may find yourself making things worse.
  • If the guest escalates their concern, offer to take the conversation to a private message to help resolve the issue.

Spam/nonsense

Occasionally, you’ll receive bizarre, belligerent, or otherwise bothersome comments that leave you scratching your head. Because these comments often come out of nowhere, you might be taken by surprise. Here are a few ways we handle these.

  • Hide the comment. The commenter won’t know that their comment has been hidden, and only that person and their friends will be able to see it.
  • If the person commenting is a “repeat offender,” consider politely suggesting that their personal profile may be a better forum for expressing themselves.
  • If the behavior continues, the commenter clearly has no interest in engaging with your church, or the comment is an egregious violation of decency, consider banning the user.
  • Delete anything that is clearly spam. This includes posts about members’ Mary Kay parties, blog content, and various other types of self-promotion.

It’s okay to let some things go.

While it’s tempting to respond to every comment that someone leaves on your page, not every comment requires a response. Here are some types of comments that we often choose not to respond to.

  • People who are clearly venting. Some people have just had a bad day and are looking for an outlet for their frustration. Perhaps something in your post touched a nerve and became that outlet. We’ll often choose not to respond to these.
  • People who mean well. We have one member of our church who shares her blog posts to our page every time she writes one. Because visitor posts aren’t prominently displayed on our Facebook page, we choose not to fight the battle.

What sorts of comments have you seen on your church social media profiles? What are some “wins” that you’ve had when responding to comments?

Rob is the Director of Digital Marketing for The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. He and his wife, Cassie, live in Cary, NC with their two girls, Emma and Audrey. Opinions are his own.