Best Practices for Church Social Media | Darrel Girardier

Bart Blair 1 Comment

Darrel Girardier, Communications Director at Brentwood Baptist Church shares insights into the Best Practices for Church Social Media

Podcast Transcription


Bart Blair: [00:00:05] Hey, it is my pleasure to welcome Darrel Girardier, the Communications Director for Brentwood Baptist Church, to the podcast today. Darrel, thanks so much for joining Jason and me.

Darrel Girardier: [00:00:14] Thanks for having me, guys, I appreciate it.

Bart Blair: [00:00:17] Hey, we’re really glad to have this time with you. You and I have been emailing back and forth, for it feels like a few months now, trying to get something nailed down, and just really appreciate you taking the time to hang out with us. We’ve got some very specific things that we want to kind of dive into today, especially as it relates to church social media. But before we get into that, as we always do with our guests, we’d love to just hear a little bit of your story. Tell us how you got into ministry, how you got into doing what you’re doing, what led you to Brentwood, and just kind of help our audience get to know you a little bit better.

Darrel Girardier: [00:00:51] Yeah. So I am a seminary dropout, I spent one year in Fort Worth, Texas with my wife, and I was like, I don’t really think this is my thing. So at the time, a company called Lifeway offered me a one-year contract to come up to Nashville to do some work for them. And then while I was here, my wife actually got a job as a girls minister at Brentwood Baptist Church. So I then proceeded to turn that job at Lifeway from a one-year contract into a creative director position, and I held that position for around 10 years. So I was overseeing basically all creative video content that you would see on the platforms, especially related to their events, that’s what I oversaw. So I had a creative team, it was a great experience, a wonderful time.

Darrel Girardier: [00:01:36] But roughly around 2007-2008, I saw this shift between what we were doing as a business model, and how churches were functioning in their ministry models, and how that how digital was changing so much. And I got the sneaky suspicion that it was going to be a really big change across the industry, and I wanted to help the church get ahead of that. So I was having ongoing conversations with my pastor, we have always been good friends, we’d grab lunch every once in a while. And around 2012, I said, hey, look, I have a sneaky suspicion we’ve got like an iceberg situation, where we’re just seeing the top of it, but there’s this whole bottom part if we’re not careful, the church is going to hit. Now, how do we mitigate that? How do we mitigate the oncoming digital wave that’s coming?

Darrel Girardier: [00:02:19] And so that conversation just kind of snowballed again until about 2013, he said, hey, I think we’ve got a spot for you here, but we’re Baptist. And the funny thing is, just to clarify, I never wanted to work at a church, not my thing. And so went from like, I never want to work in a church to, OK, if I worked at a church, it would be Brentwood Baptist, maybe I would do this. And then before you know it, I’m sitting there going, yeah, let’s do this. So I’m at Brentwood Baptist. So I came on board really to handle digital and creative, and then during the pandemic, through a whole bunch of other stuff that happened, I ended up overseeing all of communications. So that’s my current role right now, is I oversee communications at Brentwood Baptist.

Darrel Girardier: [00:03:00] Brentwood Baptist, just so you know, it’s a multi-site church with eight locations. We’re a little different in the sense that we’re not a video venue, every location has its own campus pastor. We all preach the same text, but everybody does things contextually differently, they each have their own brand. And so my team, which is made up of a group of designers, video producers, and marketing professionals, digital people, we oversee communications for all eight of those locations.

Jason Hamrock: [00:03:26] So talk a little bit about each one, because each one of those has a different character, a different culture, a little bit.

Darrel Girardier: [00:03:32] They do.

Jason Hamrock: [00:03:33] You said that a little bit earlier. So how do you manage it? How do you lead a team that has that, I guess, the width of the spectrum that you’re trying to reach different people? I mean, how do you manage that? How do you lead the team?

Darrel Girardier: [00:03:46] Yeah, so that’s a great question. We divide things up kind of by regions because that just works for us from an actual logistics standpoint, but from a cultural standpoint, we really try to break it down to first principles thinking. And here’s what I mean by that, is we ask ourselves, what’s the problem that the campus is trying to solve from a communications perspective, and then apply the lens of their culture on top of that, and then we get to determine what’s the best pathway forward. We try to keep things loose as we can with the campuses in terms of saying, this has to look like this, this has to feel like this. Because just to be really specific, we have an East Nashville location that feels like Portland, Oregon just moved and dropped right in the middle of Nashville, that’s the community. Mostly post-Christian de-churched and un-churched in that region. But if I drive 30 minutes south to Station Hill, which is in Spring Hill, Tennessee, that is the buckle of the Bible Belt. And so we have a couple of frameworks that we work through, we think through when we’re approaching this that as we work through them in terms of like Spring Hill, I’d say it’s what we call comfort culture, we call it Cracker Barrel culture, It’s, you know, that’s what they are. And then if I moved up to the East Nashville location, that’s a completely different culture, they approach things differently.

Darrel Girardier: [00:05:01] So we try to work off the same operating principles across the board, but we try to give ourselves a lot of bandwidth in terms of capacity to say, OK, hey, we need to approach this differently for each campus. So it’s a lot more work, but the ROI on the engagement and our goals is so much better than it would be then if we try to make everybody exactly the same across the board.

Jason Hamrock: [00:05:23] Well, I think that also allows for your creative juices, and the creative juices of your team, to keep growing and keep going, right?

Darrel Girardier: [00:05:31] Exactly.

Jason Hamrock: [00:05:32] If you get stuck inside of a rut, you’re going to lose people.

Darrel Girardier: [00:05:34] Yeah, one of the selling points I tell team members is this, is like if you don’t like something you’re working on it, give yourself about five minutes and it’s going to change. You’re going to go to another campus, and we’re doing something totally different. And so, it is the fun part of the job, is nothing feels the same.

Bart Blair: [00:05:49] Yeah, that’s very interesting. Let me just poke on something a little bit, this wasn’t in our notes, so forgive me if I stump you on this. Which I don’t think I will, you seem like a pretty bright guy. So, you know, one of the things that is always a challenge with church communications directors is figuring out how to create the right message, delivering it on the right platform, to the right audience, in the right timing, right? And most churches by and large, even if they are multi-campus churches, they’re still communicating relatively a similar cultural connection between campuses. So I can think of the church that I’m a part of has two separate campuses, and generally speaking, the two campuses are reaching the same types of people in comparable communities. So how do you and your team manage delivering a message and creating content that actually you’re delivering a single, unified message, but you’re having to not just use different platforms for it, but you’re also having to try to craft it in a way that it connects with the people in those communities? It seems really challenging to me, I’m sure it’s challenging for you, but kind of can you unpack that a little bit?

Darrel Girardier: [00:07:09] Yeah, so I’ll give you an example of how we would do that. So, we break content up into two categories, promotional content, and mission and vision. Promotional is what I call the Sunday to Sunday, it’s the stuff you got to grind out. The mission and vision, big picture stuff, that’s where you get the hang-up. Because the promotional stuff is usually at a per-campus level, the mission and vision that is uniform across the board. So some of the ways to mitigate that is for us, it is a little more work, but it is we will say the same thing, but we’ll say differently with each location. So I may not use the same communicator on video for every single location when I want to communicate the mission and vision type of thing. We just had this discussion earlier today about something we’re working on, where we’re using three different communicators, and we may put them in a different order on the video because we know that if we lead out with this person for this campus, we know that person is going to resonate better, and I’m going to end with this person because we know that’s going to work better for that campus. So we do now, you do hit a friction point where you kind of go the ROI, just the return on investment, of our time is not there.

Darrel Girardier: [00:08:11] So we do have this kind of like, we think of it like this, we think re we trying to do continuity or contextualization. And to be honest, the church will tell you when they started out, they thought every campus was going to have 80 percent continuity and 20 percent contextualization. And they’ll tell you it’s the complete opposite, it’s 80 percent contextualization of the messaging and 20 percent continuity between all the campuses. So, my goal in that is to push us right up to the limit where we’re not basically diminishing resources of how much we can contextualize, How far can I do that? So channels, if you will, if I’ve got my Harpeth Heights campus, which is in West Nashville, it’s Facebook. I’m just going Facebook, Facebook, Facebook, and I’m using these people to communicate. If I’m at my Lockeland Springs campus, it’s Instagram, Instagram, Instagram, that’s a channel contextualization. I may change the thumbnail, I may do…so we’re experimenting all the time.

Darrel Girardier: [00:09:13] One thing I would tell you with regard to your question, which Bart is a good question, is that know that for us, probably every 90 to 120 days, we’re constantly evaluating this and going, do we need to move the lever? We think of them like levers, do I need to pull this lever a little more, do I need to push this up? So we’re looking at our analytics probably every 90 to 120 days and saying, are we making assumptions about the contextualization that’s working?

Jason Hamrock: [00:09:39] How do you move from what you’re doing in terms of your strategies, how do you gauge church growth? Right, we’re coming out with COVID, we’re still in COVID a little bit, but you know, we’re coming out of it and people have come back. As a megachurch, your numbers are probably similar to other megachurches and you’ve got those people that’ll never come back, they were never really involved, you know, they were never really bought in, to begin with. So you probably had some good new growth, though. How do you measure the social media initiatives and activity you’re doing, how does that translate to people in the seats or people watching online? Are you tracking that?

Darrel Girardier: [00:10:25] Yeah, we do track that. So I would tell you, so the way I think about this in regards to our online audience, I’m thinking online worship for a second, so let me kind of like widdle it down a little bit, I put those people into probably three different categories. Category one, I’m looking at my whiteboard because I actually just wrote this down to make sure I got this right. Yeah, OK. So I put them in really two categories, actually, now think about it, it’s I’m checking you out, or I’m checked out, it’s probably one of the two. And so, and checked out maybe health reasons like I can’t come because I’m immunocompromised and we totally understand that. We also understand we have a lot of people, and I have no problem saying this in public, I know I got people who will give you one out of four Sundays in the pew and three of the four I’ll watch online because I’m visiting the grandkids, and mostly that’s empty nesters, boomers, is what our numbers have shown. But then I’ve got the, I’m checking you out, and that’s the group that I’m spending all of our time on online, figuring out how do I get the people who are checking us out on a Sunday? So we are measuring the effectiveness of that in terms of people who are coming to our welcome center, people who are texting connect to 623623 because that’s our shortcode. We’re taking all those measurements, all those little signals across the board, and going, OK, where are they coming from? And we’re finding overwhelmingly for us, the biggest bang for our buck is actually people finding us on Facebook, YouTube, and watching our worship services, checking us out, and then come and join us in the pew.

Darrel Girardier: [00:11:51] In the Nashville area, the biggest area of growth is coming from L.A., number two is Chicago, and they’re coming in by the droves. And we’re finding that’s what they do, they first watch us online, I like what I see, now I want to come see you in person. So I’m measuring that effectiveness of that funnel, if you will, from checking you out in the pew. I’m measuring that because I’ve got, when they come to what we call our Discover class which is how you get to know us, how did you find out about us? Social media, I watched you online. So I’ve got those types of things.

Darrel Girardier: [00:12:19] Now, regarding social media as a whole, I would tell you, I think for us, we are looking for engagement, pure and simple is what we do. Now, there are different levels of engagement, we can dive into that, but overall my typical answer to that is we’re looking for engagement is what we’re really looking for, and that’s what I’m measuring for. I don’t count much on view time, because those numbers are kind of shady. It’s really about, am I getting somebody, am I physically getting them in the pew? Because for us, we’re still a church that predominantly is a physically-based church versus a digital church.

Jason Hamrock: [00:12:59] Yeah, yeah, and are you growing with all eight campuses? Are they all kind of growing at sort of the same time, same level? Or are you finding specific churches are like, wow, this one, we didn’t realize this one, it’s exploding?

Darrel Girardier: [00:13:11] Oh, that is a great question. So we’ve got some that are flatlined, nobody’s declining, but mostly…So COVID just flatlined some of our campuses. I wouldn’t say anybody’s gone like this, they’re flat, not declining but flat. I would say the growth has come from the great migration of people out of California and Illinois, we’re getting a lot of new movers, that’s where the majority of our growth is coming from. So where we’re located in Nashville, for those you don’t know, if you go south of Nashville, down I65, that’s all the growth, and that’s where everybody’s coming in. So for us, what does that mean? That means that we are going to put a lot of emphasis on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook ads, driving people to invite them to come join us. We have found, for us by the way, the most effective thing marketing-wise for us hands down is just a simple video with the campus pastor, it can be on the iPhone or wherever it is, just simply inviting them to come and join us for worship. Like it’s better than anything else, and I think it’s because there’s this human thing to it. And so we just started testing out YouTube ads this month with the same concept, and right now, the click-through rate seems like it’s working.

Jason Hamrock: [00:14:25] Wow.

Bart Blair: [00:14:26] Interesting. Hey, I’m going to pivot the conversation here, I mean, we’re going to continue to talk about some of the same things, but one of the reasons that I reached out to you to be a guest on our show was because of an article that you’d written for Church Answers, specifically on social media. And before I ask you some questions to kind of dig into some of the bullet points in your article, I want to, I’m just going because I have the microphone, I’m going to share with you my opinion about social media and the importance of social media. And then you can either agree with me, or you can try to change my mind. But you know, the wrestling match that I have with churches often is the amount of time, energy, and effort that gets put into social media, and the difficulty of quantifying how that energy and how that effort is translating to people actually connecting with the church, whether online or in person. And so I sort of use this analogy that, you know, that social media is kind of like the front porch of your house, and you can get people’s attention, and you’re using the word engagement. And I can engage with people who are out on the sidewalk, or out in my front yard, while I’m on the front porch. But ultimately, I don’t want to leave them on the front lawn, I want to invite them into the living room, and so I need to get them to take the next step. And so logically, when you’re online, that next step, I think, is your website. And from the website, from the living room, I want to get them to the dining table, I want to get them on campus, I want them to sit down at the meal. And so I think that sometimes we can spend an exorbitant amount of time, energy, and effort doing stuff on social media without really thinking about how we’re utilizing it to get people to take next steps. And I’m a big next steps, guy, whether it’s in-person, online, discipleship, what have you, I think that giving people clear and obvious next steps really helps people move forward, whether they’re just trying to engage with you and find out more about you, or they’re trying to actually grow in their relationship with Jesus. So there’s my soapbox, and so with that, a guy who probably spends a lot of time talking about, thinking about, processing social media and its value for your church. break that down for me. Like, you know what role, or what importance do you place on your church’s social media presence in context with your overarching communication strategy?

Darrel Girardier: [00:16:51] Got it! All right, I’m writing notes here because I wanted to make sure I had what you said down correctly. Yeah, and by the way, I’m not going to change your mind because I’m in complete agreement with you, I’m going to approach it from a different way, and this is it. I think I’m going to answer your question regarding this and the importance we place, but let me say this first. One, I think the number one thing that churches do wrong, which is why they fail at social media, is they try to be like everybody else. That’s the number one thing they do, and what happens is, is they’re copying the tactics of a church without realizing what the church’s strategy was that led to those tactics. So I’ll grab Hillsong, or I’ll take Churchome up in Seattle. I love their social media, so I’m going to copy what they do, I’m going to look the same vibe this, this, this, but don’t realize that more than likely they thought through an entire pathway, hopefully, they thought their entire pathway, that led towards something. So do I agree with you in regards to I think a lot of churches have spent so much time thinking of that top layer, but they didn’t think about all the pathways down.

Darrel Girardier: [00:17:58] So to answer your question regarding where I place the emphasis, I think of digital, historically speaking, has been three categories, social media, web, and email, that’s pretty much the three pillars of any digital strategy for the most part. The beauty of the web and the email is you own those lists, you own your website, you own your email list, right? Social media is a little bit like, yeah, you’re at the mercy of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, whatever, YouTube, whatever platform you use. So I always feel this tension, personally speaking, of I like owning things, I don’t like renting space when it comes to digital, but it is the nature of the beast.

Darrel Girardier: [00:18:34] So for me, I put a tremendous amount of emphasis on it, and the reason why is, is when I look at the numbers, I just look at what people are actually doing with their phones, when I talk to our people, when I watch what they do, they’re on social media twenty-four/seven, that’s where they live, so I want to be where they live. I think of it like this, every single person has a daily digital habit, my question for our church is how are we a part of the daily digital habit? So that’s to me, is that’s the tipping point, I just want to, every day, give you something. With the idea, though Bart, to answer your question, eventually, yeah, it’s going to feed down into website, email, and then obviously in the pew. We have found, so our flow, or our strategy just so you know, we have found a tremendous amount of…Actually, if I can get the email first somewhere someway, and then I can build off of that a Facebook ad campaign, then I can get you into some sort of like recognition of like, hey, I’m interested in this, then we do an actual personal follow up.

Darrel Girardier: [00:19:35] So, I’ll give you a small group campaign that’s actually a really specific example. So we have a thing called Group Connect, I run an ad against an email list of people I know who have been associated with our church, have looked at our church. I run a Facebook ad campaign, get them into an email marketing campaign, and then get them in contact with the group’s minister. We’ve had a 10x success rate, compared to a typical Sunday promotion, using that methodology. So if I do a campaign right, I can get 20 new families connected like that into small groups. So I do think it’s tremendous, if you know what you’re doing in terms of actually doing the marketing perspective really well, it takes time and effort to figure that out. But I would say it is part of the platform, it’s part of the stool, if you think those three legs, if you’re doing it well and you have a real intentionality of it feeding and funneling in.

Darrel Girardier: [00:20:23] So just a little historical perspective here, when I started here at Brentwood Baptist, I didn’t quite understand those three legs and how they would affect this church, so I had to reconfigure the way I thought about those three legs. So I think anybody new coming into a role at the church is going to need to sit there and kind of figure out what are each of those three legs, the leg, the website leg, and the social media like, what do they all play in terms of your strategy? For me, I put a tremendous amount of effort on it, and by the way, one of the reasons I do that is not just for the audience that we have right now, but for the audience that I’m going to have 10 years from now. One of the things we do is we spend a lot of time with adults who are between the ages of eighteen to twenty-five, and I basically play the student, and I’ll take you out to coffee and I’ll say, teach me everything you know about TikTok. And about 90 minutes later, I’m still completely confused, but I have a good idea of like where their mind is and where they’re thinking, and where they’re living. And so that tells me that, yeah, we may not get a tremendous amount of benefit from starting a TikTok, but I know 10 years down the road that will pay off at some point.

Darrel Girardier: [00:21:28] So for me, I look at social media as like immediate, like, what can I get from a marketing perspective, but also thinking long term for us, what’s the long play? I don’t know, maybe three, to five, to ten years down the road it’s going to come back to benefit us because we invested so much time in those platforms.

Jason Hamrock: [00:21:43] Wow. Yeah, I loved your article, I want to put that in the show notes, because you talk about first knowing your audience, right, identifying your audience that’s around you. And you got to be on the pulpit, by the way, which is kind of rare, back in October. And so I watched the message, great message. And if you’re in the communications world is with your church, go watch his message, it was really, really good. The thing that I was like, yes, what I heard you say was, you’re talking to an audience of 50 people that are 50 and older who are using social media. And your point was, it’s your story, it’s your story that’s attractional right, because Jesus changed your life, you need to tell your story. And I just I was, I was applauding you, by the way, it just was awesome.

Darrel Girardier: [00:22:40] Thanks. Thanks. I appreciate that.

Jason Hamrock: [00:22:42] I loved that. I mean, as a former church communication director, I’m just going, Amen to that, because I think that’s absolutely right. Right, people. I mean, if you look at the story brand thing, it’s about people wanting to be the hero of their own story and all that kind of stuff, which is really, really important, but we understand that people are also attracted to other people’s life story and how God changed their life. And so sharing, that’s a phenomenal strategy, I imagine you use it all the time on social media to allow other people to see, hey, if you’re dealing with this issue, check out what this guy’s story was and how his life did a 180 for him?

Darrel Girardier: [00:23:21] Exactly.

Jason Hamrock: [00:23:22] Oh, is that how…I mean, because you talk about, Bart was talking about getting into the living room, they’re checking you out and they’re engaging you, that’s the kind of stuff, that’s the meat that you’re putting in front of them, yes?

Darrel Girardier: [00:23:32] Yeah. So we think of our, again, if you go back to promotional content, mission and vision content, that mission vision content, those are the stories of life change, that’s what we’re focusing on. The thing for us is, is how do we get those in front of people? How do we get that content engaged? Now, I’ll tell you where, not to get too far in the weeds, where the transformation for us is coming, is it used to be we’d always say we’ve got to should this big three and a half to four-minute documentary-style piece where the person’s crying in the video, you’re crying, it’s great. And now we’re realizing with different platforms, it’s not about getting that video on as many platforms as possible, it’s about getting that story on as many platforms as possible. So we may not do a video on TikTok, it may be something else over here, or maybe a picture posted on Instagram. So we’re trying to figure out how we get those stories across, but you’re exactly right.

Darrel Girardier: [00:24:21] A little history, I was talking to the guys before the podcast started and I said, you know, my pastor typically doesn’t share the pulpit. So when he asked me to do this, I was a little thrown back. And I asked him, I said, what’s the thing you want me to communicate? Because I know you’re not asking me just to be flippant, you’re asking me for a reason. And he looks at me, he goes, can you just tell people to stop being so mean on social media? And I was like, OK. I said, or, we can do the opposite, we can tell people instead of what not to say, here’s what to say. And so that came from honest to goodness, when I said that, what I meant was I’ve known during the pandemic, especially the first couple weeks during the pandemic, we saw people coming together sharing stories of life change and things going on, and the impact was great and it’s carried on for us. So, yeah, so I would tell you, making your social media people-centered, and I mean that not in the sense of a humanistic standpoint, I mean story people-centered pointing towards the cross. Doing that, doing that for us has been the most effective mechanism in terms of social media, in terms of the most effective tactic, if you will, for us for driving engagement, driving people, sharing, and getting people to understand what we’re really driving towards an what we’re trying to do is as a church,

Jason Hamrock: [00:25:37] Well, you know, so, church, if you don’t have stories of changed lives, there’s a different problem.

Darrel Girardier: [00:25:43] OK, OK, so yes, so I always tell people, if you have a problem with you don’t have enough stories, you have one of two problems. You don’t know how to tell a story, which by the way, if they coach on Story Brand, you can fix that. Or you have a disciple-making problem. Those are two different problems, and nobody wants to admit they’ve got the disciple-making problem.

Jason Hamrock: [00:26:06] So let’s assume that there are stories in their church. How did you guys find those stories? I mean, I heard you loud and clear from the pulpit. It’s like, we need to hear your story, we need to know your story. Is that literally one of the best ways that you guys?

Darrel Girardier: [00:26:19] Yeah, really, honestly, it is, and what we’ve had to do is we’ve had to train our staff and our volunteers to develop their own radar and let them know, like, we’ve actually adopted this idea of like, you know what, don’t worry about what you think it’s a good story, we’ll help determine that. You just give us, even if it’s two sentences, an email, hey, I met so-and-so, they did this, they heard this. Great, we’ll follow up, we’ll handle that. Make it super easy for people just to share little tidbits, and then my job is to go, all right, do we feel like we have a story here? Are the three acts to this story, can I construct what I think is a good, compelling story out of this? And sometimes we come back and go, you know, it doesn’t warrant a video, but gosh darn it, give me a really great photo of that person, a good paragraph, you know, crush it on Instagram. So what we decided was, versus making people jump through hoops and make them feel like I’ve got to have this well-produced story that I bring to you, just give me the treetops. So when I told our ministers that, like, just send us an email, we have no problem getting stories now at this point because they come in all the time. So they don’t feel the pressure to feel like they have this perfect story, that’s our job as communicators, we’ll craft the story for you, you just give us the raw materials.

Jason Hamrock: [00:27:33] That’s great.

Bart Blair: [00:27:34] That’s really helpful. I was going to add a note there that I think that we do actually have biblical instruction on how to use social media, a guy named Peter wrote that we should always live in a way that gives people a reason to ask about the hope that we have. So that’s my number one social media rule, I was on Twitter for a number of years and then I got off Twitter for a long time, and then for some reason this last year I kind of got sucked back into Twitter, and I delete about ninety-eight percent of the tweets that I’m going to tweet before I tweet them because I realize that it’s going to violate my own personal social media rules.

Darrel Girardier: [00:28:09] That’s smart.

Bart Blair: [00:28:09] So, Darrel, you mentioned just a second ago, you’re training volunteers, training your staff, to be able to capture and grab these stories. Obviously, you’re talking about, you know, volunteers as a whole. However, one of the points that you talk about in this blog post that you wrote on Church Answers is about using volunteers in your social media ministry. The reality is, is that probably, I’ll throw a number out here, I was a pastor for 17 years, so I can just make numbers up. About ninety-five percent of all church communications professionals are probably solo artists and don’t have a staff team, it may be more than that, it may be like ninety-eight percent. Most of them are on their own, and they’re trying to manage things on their own. What advice, or what counsel, would you give to someone who’s trying to build a team? What kind of talents are they looking for? What kind of personalities are they looking for? What kind of things, assignments, can a communications director give to volunteers in the church to help them develop, not just maybe necessarily develop, but to deploy their social media strategy?

Darrel Girardier: [00:29:16] So I would tell you, you’re going to want to find, I mean, step one is, if you think of it like this, think of it like character, competency, chemistry, capacity, thinking like those four measurements in terms of volunteers. I’m thinking, first and foremost, I’m looking for somebody who’s, I say, drinking the Kool-Aid at the church. Like they’re all in, they are bought into the mission and vision. that’s the first thing. If they are bought into that, that helps overcome a multitude of things that are going to go wrong because they’re going to go wrong. And then from there, I’m looking for like, from a competency standpoint, you don’t have to be somebody who is proficient in Instagram or Facebook or any of these channels. You just have to have a willingness to be able to go in and go like, I’m going to document what’s going on, I’m going to create, I’m willing to capture, I’m willing to…And by the way, they also have to kind of understand the principle of the first pancake, which is, anytime you make a first pancake, it’s never good. Why? Because you don’t know how hot the skillet is, OK, until the second, third, and fourth pancake you go, oh, it’s about this hot and you turn it down. They’re going to be willing to be OK with making mistakes, so be able to say, like, hey, I threw this out there, it didn’t work, try it again, go again. So you have to have a, it’s really about a mentality of I’m willing to make a lot of mistakes, I’m willing to learn, I’m not going to beat up on myself. A lot of that comes from me, as a leader, setting the expectations to where they know I’ll give you permission to fail, you’re going to fail a lot, and it’s OK because I’m going to fail a lot. So I really want to keep that permission meter wide open in terms of letting them try lots of new stuff.

[00:30:42] You’ve also got to make sure it’s scalable, and here’s what I mean by that, a lot of times you have volunteers come in and they go, I’m really passionate about this thing right here, and I want to do this thing. What you’ve got to be careful of is, is great they own that, they do it, they run with it. And then when they leave, all of a sudden you’re stuck with this thing that you now got to manage because you don’t know what they do with it. So I would say, really think through what is scalable, if that person left tomorrow, that it still can go on and still thrive? What systems and processes can you put in place to make the thing sustainable, that also will help to keep your volunteers not feeling like they’re run ragged, and it also makes sure that if somebody does leave, you can plug somebody in.

Darrel Girardier: [00:31:22] So part of that process, and I know this is not sexy stuff to say this, part is documentation. A simple basic Google Doc, that is just to say, here’s how we operate on social media, here are some of the things we do, here’s how we do this, here’s the way we talk, here’s what we don’t do. Very simple stuff that if somebody else came in, you could have this document and they could be like, OK, I can feel like I can run with these things. But I again, I have found that it’s really about somebody who’s really bought into the church, that if they’re not the best at taking photos, if they’re not the best at design, we can get them the resources, we can get tutorials, we can do all that, it’s really about somebody who’s got a willingness and a heart for the ministry.

Darrel Girardier: [00:32:03] The other thing that I found was working with volunteers is that where there’s failure is not just burnout in terms of I’m doing too much, it’s I don’t know if what I’m doing is working, and it’s really about giving your volunteer’s feedback loops. So I’ll give you a quick example, we have camera operators who run the cameras on Sunday morning for the live worship, and they’re great, they are wonderful guys, most of them are guys, most are retired guys. But every once in a while, every quarter or so, we take a pause and we go, hey, do you know how people are watching? Here are the countries they’re watching from. Here’s how long that…Oh, wow, the thing I’m doing, me holding that camera right there pointing at the stage, that actually has an impact because somebody who right now is immunocompromised, who lives out in East Tennessee, who can’t come here, they’re able to watch because of what I’m doing. If you do that feedback loop, and it just reinforces it, and it helps kind of pour more drive into people wanting to keep doing what they’re volunteering to do.

Darrel Girardier: [00:32:57] So, I would tell you again, make it scalable in terms of making sure you don’t overextend yourself, making sure you don’t overextend your volunteers in areas by which you know you can’t scale it out long-term. Build feedback loops to make it sustainable over the long term. If you do those two things and, again, find the right people who are passionate about it, you’re going to find yourself feeling a lot better about your social media.

Darrel Girardier: [00:33:22] Now, I’ll go back to something I said earlier in the podcast. One of the other things you got to realize is that you cannot compare yourself to other churches and social media. This is where some of the breakdown happens, because you say, well, church so-and-so is doing X, so, therefore, we have to do X. And what happens is you try to scale up to do what they do, and not realize that your job is really about reaching your audience and engaging with your audience, and growing it from there, and slowly scaling that out. Because again, you could do like keeping up with the Joneses and end up again burning yourself out.

Jason Hamrock: [00:33:54] Yeah. I’d also add, pray for what you want.

Darrel Girardier: [00:33:56] Yeah, that’s a great point. Yeah, I should, good call Jason, I should have started with that. Yes.

Bart Blair: [00:34:02] Yeah, good call. Hey, so we recently recorded an entire podcast episode on budgeting for communications. And you know, you hit on, in this article, budgeting. You know, thinking through what you want to spend, what you need to spend. Can you just talk us through what your process might be in terms of thinking, how you want to budget for social media? Or also how you might recommend other churches think about how they would budget for social media?

Darrel Girardier: [00:34:31] Great question. I think what I would do is I would start off with, if you’ve never budgeted for social media before, the way I would do it is, I would ask yourself, what are your big two or three key things you got going on? And let’s say we’re budgeting for 2022, let’s use that, that’s next year. I say, what are your big two or three priorities? What are they? What are those big things? Let’s nail down the big rocks. And then I would ask myself, OK, what channels am I going to be doing this on? And I would sit there and say, OK, the channels that resonate with my audience, you have to know where your audience is at. They’re on Instagram, OK, great. So let’s say you identify VBS, Vacation Bible School, Easter, and Christmas is your big three, and you decide Instagram is where I’m going to be at. Awesome. So what I suggest you would do is, right now in this current budget year, pick something else to do, say Christmas Eve is coming up, and run a beta test of just advertising to a select audience, a microcosm of what you would do, and then just see how it works. Get familiar with the process, get familiar with, if I want this size of an audience, it’s going to cost me this much. If I want this, it’s going to cost me this. And start playing with it, to kind of get an idea of a ballpark of the figures.

Darrel Girardier: [00:35:44] Because everybody, I can’t give you a number because everybody’s audience is going to be different on every platform. But what I can tell you is, is if you start off small and just you can extrapolate out like, hey, OK, I’m probably going to do the audience four times this size. Well, I paid fifty bucks for that ad, so I need to budget probably 200 for this. So do this now, do it on a small scale, and that’ll help you figure out how you want to budget if your goal is to budget for these large events.

Darrel Girardier: [00:36:12] Some churches are different, some churches decide, you know what, I’m not budgeting for large events. I’m just going to make sure every single day, I’m going to boost every single post on Facebook, and that may work for them in their strategy. I have found the best for us, our ad money is best spent when we do it around big events. So I just listed the three events that I’m probably against the majority of my ad money on, Easter, Christmas, and Vacation Bible School. So I would say start small, then from there, you can extrapolate out how much you really need to budget for the next year.

Jason Hamrock: [00:36:42] I like your idea, too, of a campus pastor going, hey, my name is Jason, I’d like to invite you to church, right, a 15- 20 second thing and you can boost that.

Darrel Girardier: [00:36:51] Yes, and again, like if you talk about the ads, I’m talking about the actual spending of the ad dollars, you also talk about the ad creation part of it. That’s the other thing is, your iPhone is all you need. Let me say that right now, your iPhone is all you need. Do not go out and pay for a video, your iPhone is literally all you need. You just need to get a decent audio quality, decent natural lighting outdoors will totally work, that’s all you need. A personal invite will, again, I can create, we’ve created some really wonderful videos that I thought we’re going to crush it. Only to find out the campus pastor, literally, I kid you not, the campus pastor in his Honda Accord going down the street talking about Easter Sunday outperformed everything we did, and I was like, OK, now I know

Bart Blair: [00:37:40] I’ve seen it, I’ve seen it firsthand. I don’t think, I don’t know if it was a Honda, but I pastor on a cell phone on a YouTube ad, and it performed way better than what other churches were spending lots of money to produce. It is very interesting, I will double click on the statement that you made about making sure that you have good audio. Because I think this day and age, people will forgive bad video because they watch so much bad video, but people need to hear clearly what you’re inviting them to. So investing in, you know, a couple hundred bucks for a Bluetooth or wired mic to connect to your phone in some way is definitely worth the spend. So that’s great.

Bart Blair: [00:38:24] This has been awesome, Darrel, we really appreciate your time. We’re going to wrap things up here, and I had just a couple of questions to kind of close out our time together. The first of which is, I’m really interested in knowing, like who and what you’re following on social media. Obviously, to some degree, I would consider a communications director, an artist, and artists tend to look and listen and follow other artists. So what do you see that’s out there that you like? What trends do you see that you find fascinating? What can you share with our audience that might introduce them to something that maybe they haven’t heard of or thought of looking at?

Darrel Girardier: [00:39:02] Yeah. So I will say this, I don’t follow any churches or any other church communicators. I’m going to confess that now, I simply don’t because I don’t want to be in that headspace, to be honest with you in terms of that. So I will tell you, there are brands that I follow because I think they do a phenomenal job of bridging the physical and digital divide. Peloton is an example of that, Peloton is a cycling bike that I am a devotee of. So I use it, so I’m also a big fan of it, but they do a phenomenal job on their social media. The other one’s Tonal, that’s a weightlifting version, but I follow those types of brands who do a phenomenal job of connecting their individual instructors or people with their audience. And how do they do that? So I spend a lot of time, and that’s on the Instagram side, on the Instagram side I’m spending my time thinking through brands. So Peloton and Tonal are probably the two biggest brands that I’m spending time trying to figure out how they do, how they’re spending their time.

Darrel Girardier: [00:40:00] On the other side of the fence is Twitter, and I spend the majority of my time following organizations and individuals that are focused on Web 3.0, and that is crypto, that’s a small part of it, but is what is the web look of the future? The number one, probably company I follow is Andreessen Horowitz, they are a venture capital firm in San Francisco. And if somebody works for Andreessen Horowitz, I’m probably going to find it’s founded by a guy named Marc Andreessen, who is one of the first investors in Facebook, an extremely smart individual. So I follow a lot of those types of individuals because they give me a good sense of what’s coming down the pipe. Yeah, their stuff that they may be talking about for them is now, but I know for here in the Southeast U.S. it’s three to five to ten years away. But it gives me a good framework to kind of go that’s coming for the church, we’ve got to be ready for this, we’ve got to be ready for this, and I find this stuff absolutely fascinating.

Darrel Girardier: [00:40:57] So I follow people who are gearing towards cryptography, Web 3.0, people who are spending all their time in the digital space. And then on the Instagram side, it’s really about brands that I just think are just killing it with engagement. How are they doing it well? So those are probably where I spend my time following on social media.

Bart Blair: [00:41:16] I will just throw out a side-handed comment here that people who follow Peloton and ride those things are pretty religious people, so it’s a different religion in and of itself.

Darrel Girardier: [00:41:27] By the way, yeah, sorry, this is your podcast and I don’t want to take it up, but let me just say, you could not be more dead, right? So long story short, I’m in the Facebook group and I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. But there are folks, I tell you what, if you want to know what online church could look like, and I’m not advocating going to the online with church, bear with me. But their instructors are like small group leaders, and these people religiously go to church every day with their small group leader, and their small group leader gives them inspiration, coaching, granted it’s of a secular variety. But this is, so if you want to get a case study for what that could look like in the digital world, they do a phenomenal job.

Jason Hamrock: [00:42:04] Wow!

Bart Blair: [00:42:04] Very, very interesting. So I have zero doubt that some of our folks that are watching or listening are going to want to figure out how they can see what you are doing. You’ve talked about telling stories online, and you’ve got multiple social media platforms and accounts that you’re kind of managing and overseeing. If people want to check out what you’re doing at Brentwood, or if they have questions or wanted to kind of connect with you, what’s the best way for them to do that?

Darrel Girardier: [00:42:31] The easiest way is just to go to, that’s our landing page, we’ve got all eight of our locations on there, and from there you can navigate down to all of our social media channels. If you want to get in touch with me, oh, let’s pick LinkedIn, it doesn’t get enough love these days, so you just hit me up on LinkedIn, I occasionally check that. But yeah, but I would say if you want to know what we’re doing as a church,, from there you can find all of our social media handles, Instagram, Facebook, all that kind of stuff is on there.

Jason Hamrock: [00:42:56] Awesome.

Bart Blair: [00:42:57] That is fantastic. Darrel, thanks so much for hanging out with us today.

Darrel Girardier: [00:42:59] Thanks, guys.

Bart Blair: [00:42:59] We really appreciate it.

Darrel Girardier: [00:43:01] Thank you all for having me.

Jason Hamrock: [00:43:04] All right.

Comments 1

  1. I think you are correct Darrel, but many churches don’t realize the mistake because they don’t know how to do social media effectively.

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