Jul 03 2009

Twitter for Churches

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Published by at 6:09 pm under Books,Technology

your-church-must-twitterRebecca Egolf, I think, recommended The reason YOUR CHURCH must Twitter; making your ministry contagious by Anthony D. Coppedge and I’ve recommended it to several people since buying the $5 e-book about a week ago. So it comes with excellent ecumenical credentials, since her recommendation said, in effect, that it was “good for synagogues, too.” (I noticed that the book is scrupulously non-denominational but it’s clearly American Evangelical.) Indeed I think that the book would be helpful for leaders of all kinds of spiritual and religious communities. Beyond that, it’s a nice example of how to teach people that a tool like Twitter needs to be approached in the context of ongoing social practice. It combines lots of basic how-to instructions and hints at how Twitter could be used in the every-day life of a church. (Because I’m in the final stages of publishing a book myself, I have to mention two typos that I noticed: it should be “Dr. Edwin Land” on page 54 and “People’s lives are busy” on page 29; also when I printed it there were no page numbers which makes it clumsy for referencing passages.) The many screen-shots that are included are very good, too.

There’s a practice. This book is more than just a manual on how to use Twitter. (There are certainly enough of them out there by now.) What struck a chord with me was the feeling that it gave me a window into some of what being a pastor in a church is about. Pastors are pivotal leaders who play a very complex role in their communities. Sometimes they are domain spokespersons, sometimes team leaders (of volunteer or paid teams), and sometimes learners trudging along the path. Most interesting, you get the sense from reading this book that there is a widely distributed community of practice of church pastors who have a lot to learn from each other. (It’s a professionalized occupation, or calling, where seminaries have had a gate-keeping role, so learning from each other may need more support than it did a generation or two ago.) But the book suggests that pastors need to learn from each other about handling issues of connecting with church members selectively and impactfully, with personal privacy, and with marginality (e.g., not just being ‘relevant on Sundays only’). All these issues come up in the context of using Twitter for a church. So, bottom line, the practice of being a pastor is similar to that of leading many other communities of practice. There could be a lot of learning on both sides.

There’s a community. I love the way Coppedge suggests that there’s a real social network out there that can provide examples and support. (And he just names names like spiritual entrepreneur Dave Ferguson or digerati pastor Terry Storch). Following them or Anthony Coppedge himself obviously gives you access to that community. But I found it surprising that his book didn’t mention hashtags. Beyond increasing traffic with such things as #followfriday, hash tags are an obvious way for conversations within a church or among a community of pastors to take place. Why not advocate hashtags like these?

There’s a learning agenda. Finally, the book is filled with nice quotes that suggest an authentic learning agenda. For example:

“The Church cannot be content to live in its stained-glass house and throw stones through the picture window of modern culture.” — Robert MacAfee Brown

Although the worry may not be stated in terms of stained glass, I’ve heard Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and Buddhists voice very similar concerns. Relevance and connection are very important.  Addressing the issue will take more than Twitter.

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One Response to “Twitter for Churches”

  1. Glad you liked this resource, John. I think it is terrific, and equally as useful for all the different kinds of Jewish communal organizations and synagogues with whom I work. There's a related feature in the New York Times today on Twitter use in churches – check it out at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/05/technology/inte

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