In this installment in our series on boosting your internet ministry for your online church, we will focus on the social networking site, Google+. We have previously discussed how you can use services like Twitter and Facebook on a Universal Life Church blog article, but lately Google seems to be prioritizing their networking service on their popular search engine. To effectively grow your online church and stay in contact with people who maybe do not use Twitter or Facebook, you can create a Google+ profile by visiting www.plus.google.com. This service requires that you sign up using either a Gmail or Yahoo mail account, so if you do not currently have one, you’ll need to obtain one of those for free as your first step. If you currently do use one of those email accounts for your internet ministry, Google+ will actually show you people on your email list that already have profiles on the social networking site. This will make it easy for you to get plugged in with your congregation and build your exposure.
The unique thing about Google+ is that instead of having one large friends list, the site utilizes an approach they call “circles.” These circles are groups of people that have something in common, and for any post you make, you choose what circles will be able to view it. For an online church, you may want to consider groups like “youth group,” “board of trustees,” “outreach team,” “Bible study,” and “congregation.” The nice thing about these circles is that any individual can belong to any number of circles, so if a churchgoer is in the youth group and the Bible study, you can put him in those respective circles plus the general congregation circle, and he will receive updates you make that pertain to any of those groups while not being spammed with posts that only involve members of the outreach team, for example.
Another interesting feature on Google+ is what they call “hangouts.” These are video-chat rooms where you can invite friends to a page featuring simultaneous live video feeds from all the participants. This would be great to utilize for a Bible study, a youth group, a board meeting, or a place to share and respond to prayer requests. Individuals for a prayer group, for example, could have face to face interaction to facilitate a community atmosphere that is desired when sharing prayer requests, then end in a group prayer. You can also use these hangouts to share YouTube videos with the chat participants. This may be a good way to share video from church events, or a motivational clip, all while still allowing live interaction of members.
If you would like to get ordained to start an online church, or if you currently have a church with an internet ministry, Google+ can offer new ways to reach your congregation. Since it is not nearly as popular as other services like Facebook and Twitter, we don’t recommend abandoning these other sites, but rather include Google+ as part of your total outreach effort. To begin your journey as a pastor, you can get ordained for free from the Universal Life Church to conduct your ministry your way.