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By Jonathan Howe

As I write this article, a potentially disruptive snowstorm is headed toward the southeast United States. Unlike some parts of the country, the South does not handle winter weather well.

At all.

We panic. We cancel everything, and then load up Instagram and Facebook with snow pictures.

However, there are times when (and places where) life must go on regardless of the weather—winter or not. This is yet another reason why social media can be such an incredible tool for churches—when weather threatens, social media can help your church respond. Here are five guidelines for using social media to keep your members informed during severe weather:

  1. Post graphics keeping your congregation informed. Cancelling service? Still having service? Post a graphic you have already created to your social media accounts. Text the image to your staff and have them share it as well. Images stand out more than a simple text update. So use images to communicate important information related to service cancellations due to weather.
  2. Answer questions that come in promptly. Whoever monitors and manages your social media accounts should be one of the first people you call when a decision is made about cancelling or keeping your service schedule when weather threatens. Have a planned statement to provide to anyone asking about the status of your services. Also, send this statement to any media outlets who may be aggregating closures.
  3. Understand that not everyone will agree with the decision. If you cancel services, someone will complain. If you don’t cancel, someone will complain. Just know there will be complaints regardless of the decision. These complaints may come over social media, so have a courteous response ready.
  4. Consider providing online video feeds of the service or sermon. When a service is cancelled, the pastor basically has two options: save the sermon for the next week, or preach it online via Facebook Live or Periscope. If the service goes on as planned and you don’t already have a live streaming option, consider providing one for those who may not be able to make it to the service. By making this available to those who follow you, your complaints from the point above are likely to lessen.
  5. Update the church calendar for other events that may be scheduled. Sometimes, we can get caught up thinking only about Sunday morning services that we forget other events are scheduled. Have someone designated as a point person to communicate with other ministry leaders who may be affected by weather-related decisions. Their personal social media accounts can be used to get the word out about any updates that are necessary.

Is your church routinely affected by winter weather? Do you use any specific tools to communicate closures? Is social media a major part of your communications plan?

Jonathan Howe serves as Director of Strategic Initiatives at LifeWay Christian Resources, the host and producer of Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week. Jonathan writes weekly at on topics ranging from social media to websites and church communications. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Howe.

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