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.