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Churches should set the trend for how to take action during a tragedy not just post cute graphics on social media.

I know you’ve seen it – and you probably do it. Every terrorist attack, earthquake, or tragic shooting, churches rush to create crafty little graphics to post to their social media accounts. It’s usually some kind of relevant photo or landscape with a #PrayFor hashtag.

Church, can we please stop rushing to post a trendy graphic every time there is a tragedy?

I won’t share examples because I don’t want to offend specific churches. But maybe you have posted something similar after the police shootings of two?black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, or after the Orlando nightclub shooting, Hurricane Harvey, or the Parkland shooting.

When?tragedy strikes, it’s panic mode to get something up, as if people aren’t going to pray until their church posts a graphic about it. Which is silly of course, considering everyone’s feeds are filled with posts about the tragedy already.

Churches…it’s okay to to just listen when tragedy strikes. Stop, listen, and look for opportunities to serve. You’re not CNN, you don’t need to be the first to break the news. You don’t need to panic and scramble to create a graphic to post.

I see church social media managers posting in Church Comm Facebook groups, asking for others to share their unedited graphics so they can quickly get something up. People share what they did, almost in an attempt to show each other up with who had the most attractive graphic (yes I know, most of you are just being helpful, but there’s at least a few of you who just felt your gut tighten up.)

It makes you wonder… what is this actually accomplishing? What would happen if you didn’t get a graphic up? Is your post more about showing that you were on top of your job, or were you actually concerned about the tragedy and wanting to do something about it? What value are you actually adding to the conversation?

I really hope no one is posting trendy graphics just to capitalize on the tragedy so your church can get more attention. Don’t ever use a tragedy to gain likes.

Here’s the thing… I rarely ever see someone post in those groups asking what other churches are actually doing to help in the time of need. No one ever reaches out to say, “What can we do together to help?” But they’ll have a #PrayFor graphic up within the hour.

What is your church actually doing during these tragedies? Are you gathering for prayer? Are you fundraising for the cause? Are you providing educational materials on the subject matter at hand? Are you assembling people to serve in the community? Are you reaching out to those who are hurting to meet their needs? Or are you just hustling to post a cute graphic, then back to business as usual…

How many of you posted a #PrayForOrlando graphic after the nightclub shooting but never actually got on your knees and prayed for those people and their families? How many churches are still having conversations or doing anything?to?reach?out to the LGBT community? You posted saying you were praying for those victims, but then you aren’t actually doing anything to help them and others like them.

Hear me on this… I’m just as guilty as many of you. I’ve posted countless posts offering support and prayer, wanting to make sure I was included in the?conversation and not the one guy who was silent.

Surely I’m not saying there is anything wrong with posting a graphic or asking people to pray. There’s also nothing necessarily wrong with jumping on a hashtag trend and adding content to the stream.

What I’m proposing is that we just take a step back and make sure we have an intentional plan that matches up with our vision and purpose as a church. And to assess whether we are simply trying to be trendy, or are we trying to make a difference?

Next time there’s a shooting or some other tragedy, instead of a #PrayFor graphic, I encourage you to slow down, take a step back and ask what your church can actually do to add to the conversation before posting anything. How can your church help those in need? If the answer is nothing, then perhaps you should reconsider the trendy graphic. It’s disingenuous if you have no plan.

Tragedies are going to continue to happen and the church has a great opportunity to step up and show the world how to?respond. We should be setting the trend for how to take action when people are hurt, not just setting the trend on how to create beautiful graphics.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the argument that these graphics promote positivity and encourage others to pray. But I feel like churches, in general, can do better. Are we really that limited, that all we can do in time of need is encourage people to pray? Too often I see churches hustle to get a trendy graphic up, then they do nothing. A week later it?s business as usual. We can do more. We have to do more.


Here’s 5 Ways Your Church Can Take Action During a Tragedy

Beyond the obvious ? yet most powerful ? thing you can do, which is to actually pray, here are some quick ideas on how you can take it a step further?

  1. Your pastor can go live on Facebook or post a video sharing his support for victims, prayer for those affected, read a devotion, or?otherwise provide hope and healing for those who are hurting.
  2. Post a blog post on how the Bible calls us to respond when people are hurting. Add something positive to the overly worldly articles and responses filling our news feeds.
  3. Organize volunteers and community groups to hit the streets and meet needs. Bring water and food to protestors and police officers, for example. If your church isn?t local to the tragedy, partner with a church that is. Send them money, people, supplies, and other support.
  4. Fundraise. Consider donating this Sunday?s tithes and offerings directly to a cause that can help meet the needs of those affected by the tragedy. Use Facebook?s new fundraising option to raise funds online.
  5. Ask questions. Don?t know how to respond? Don?t quite understand someone?s point of view??The church should not be afraid to lovingly engage and ask questions so it can learn to do better.


This is just a start. What are some other ideas? What are the?ways your church is taking action??Comment below or join the conversation in a Facebook group.

Please don?t read my opinions and decide to do nothing. That?s the opposite of what I?m proposing. When it comes down to it, the church should be known for how we loved and helped, not how we stood by and did nothing.?When a tragedy strikes it’s time to call in the troops and get to work.

Again, I?m not opposed to churches posting these kind of graphics, of course. My intention is to get the church thinking about how they can do more than just follow the trend. The church needs to be setting the trends. The church needs to not only be joining the conversation, but leading the conversation. Why? Because the church is God?s plan to bring light, and love, and blessing into this world.?We are called?to be the hands of feet of Jesus. And if Jesus had social media when he came to the world, I guarantee he would have done more than just post a graphic.




13 replies on “Stop Posting #PrayFor Graphics & Do Something”

“I?ve never seen someone post in those groups asking what other churches are actually doing to help in the time of need.”

Spot on.

Thanks for the thoughts Kenny. I don’t disagree. I posted the following comment on your site, but wanted to capture it here as well.

Totally appreciate your response to this. I agree that these social graphics can be helpful… And I wasn’t saying don’t do them. I was saying take a moment to assess your motivation for doing so before you just jump on a trend. Or at the very least, actually pray if you’re going to post an image asking others to pray.

My rant post had more to do with encouraging churches to actually take action and join the discussion or even better, serve the community and meet the needs of those who hurt. Too often churches just scramble to post the graphic and then they’re done. The church is better than that. We have to be.

I really appreciate the honesty in this post & the call to action to do the thing (pray, for example) that we are encouraging others to do.

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:18

While I agree with your point, I’d like to push back in a couple of ways:

1. Churches absolutely need to be deliberate, as you say, about posting #prayforthelatestthing graphics. But it’s worth noting that prayer is one of the most powerful things any church can do in response to any situation. Many churches may not be able to do much else!

2. The headline on your article is misleading and doesn’t align with your point. In fact, I’d go as far as to call it ‘click-bait’ – which I consider to be one of the worst modern practices in internet ‘journalism’.

Again, I agree with and support your key ideas here – just wanted to express a couple of thoughts. 🙂

Hey @batmyke thanks so much for your push back. Love the conversation.

I definitely think prayer is one of the most powerful things a church can do, even if it’s all they have. That was kind of my point – don’t post a #prayfor graphic and not actually pray. But when it comes down to it, there’s so much more the church can be doing as well. Here’s 5:

I get your point about the click bait. While I’m no journalist, I do hate the amount of click bait out there (especially when its from reputable news sources). My intention was to stir the pot and ruffle some feathers so the church would pay attention and be called to action. I really didn’t intend for the title to be so click baity – if this post hadn’t been shared so much already, I’d change the title to “Don’t Just Post a #PrayFor Graphic, Do Something.”

Again, thanks for the push back – I need it! ?

Hey Justin!

I appreciated the article. I think it’s very true for people in general to say things like “I’ll pray for you” and then not follow through with some sort of action. I really enjoyed the follow up article too. I do think this article makes one huge assumption though, and that is that “those who are updating or managing church social media accounts have any control over what the church actually does ministry wise.”

I don’t think it’s almost ever true that we’ll have the authority to call our churches to action, or tell the church how it needs to react about a situation. What we do often control is what we can alert and inspire people over. We can be a catalyst that can move people to change, we can cause them to shift their paradigms, and raise concern over issues. That’s partly our role as designers, social media managers, and communication people. It’s not telling the church what it needs to do about a situation in most cases. For the vast majority of the people out there who are creating social media content for their churches, I doubt many of them are the Lead Pastor, or in a highly regarded leadership position at all. It’s a shame, but it’s the truth.

When we start saying things like, “stop posting #PrayFor Graphics”, we might as well just say “Hey, just don’t do anything at all.”

Hey Travis. I completely agree with you. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges facing churches when it comes to why they struggle to reach a larger audience – senior leaders being disconnected with the digital strategy. Obviously we shouldn’t do nothing – but my hope is that churches will be inspired to always push for action. That those at the helm of a church social media account will think more about how they impact others rather than just fill their posting quota or keep up with the trends.

I do find it discouraging when I see a church just post a graphic after a tragedy and then move on. I feel like that’s the bare minimum they can do, whether they have influence over what the church does or not. In that case I’d rather they didn’t post it at all. There are so many other things they can do that might actually inspire action in others, other than just be trendy – even if they don’t have influence over the church.

But if the social media manager can’t have a conversation with senior leadership over what the church can do during a tragedy – then that’s a symptom of a much larger problem at the church. People on the front lines with ears to the world and influence over the world and the local community, should be in direct contact and collaboration with those leading the mission and vision of the church. This needs to change for the church as a whole to reach outside its walls. Unfortunately that’s the problem, at least as I see it – that too many churches are scared or don’t want to, or don’t know how, to reach outside their walls.

Very good points Justin! I agree, it’s very discouraging to watch a church “just move on” with the day to day operations and not take any real action. Very disheartening. I completely agree with you on the fact that we have our eyes and ears to the world too, and we should absolutely have direct contact and collaboration with those leading. It’s so often that this is not the case, it can be quite disheartening.

Awesome points!

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