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Saint Paul Used Social Media

By Emily Hope Morgan

Things have changed with social media.Circuit Board with People

Back in 2005 when I first got on Facebook only college students could get a Facebook account. Even back in 2009 when I started seminary many churches who at that point could get on Facebook didn’t want to, and many people thought Twitter was for nothing but short updates about meaningless things.

Now, my mom and grandma  are using social media. Churches, synods, dioceses, presbyteries, and the like, have Facebook accounts that at the very least give their contact information. More and more individuals, organizations, and churches are becoming Twitter converts as they see it being used in huge movements like elections and revolutions as well as for personal communication.

For anyone in ministry who has hesitations about social media, let me calm some of your fears. There is biblical precedent for churches and ministries using social media. Saint Paul used social media.

Paul used the absolute best social media of his day: letters. The people who wanted to be like Paul wrote letters. We may not think of letters as incredible technology, but back in Paul’s time letters were a big deal. Never before had people been able to communicate like this!

Someone like Paul who traveled so much was able to keep up with communities he had let not just through sending messengers or constantly having to travel back and forth. Through writing letters Paul was able to keep relationships going that he may not have been able to if he didn’t write letters. He was able to help those early communities with their problems and struggles. He was able to encourage what the churches were doing well and explain what they were not.

Then the communities had those letters to continue looking back to. Today we still look to Paul’s letters to help us understand how we live out the Gospel. The technology had drastically changed, yet churches and ministries are still using social media to build relationships, encourage, and explain. Social media connects us with communities we are not with in body. It is a useful tool in our lives individually and communally as we try to live out out our commitments.

Saint Paul used the best social media of his day to be in communication and conversation with people he cared about and people he did not even know! He had never been to the church in Rome yet felt so strongly about wanting to be in conversation with them he wrote the Epistle to the Romans, an incredible letter.

Saint Paul is a powerful example of how to use social media, and as social media continues to change we continue to look back to his example of using technology to best serve his ministry to discern how best to use technology in our ministries.

Shout It Out: Intro to Social Media

shout it out image smallFacebook is only 12 years old, and Twitter recently turned 10. Just a moment in time compared to the millennia that the church has been in existence, an institution, yet no one can deny the power and influence of the many forms of social media in such a short time. And, lest you think this is just an American or Western phenomena, there are numerous platforms and accounts beyond Western borders. All of these things are important considerations as the church thinks about how to engage and evangelize using social media. For the question is no longer, “Should we use social media,” but rather, “How are we going to use social media?”

At Worship Times, social media is deeply linked to our main work of building websites. In fact, we often are called upon to help answer wider communication and evangelism questions and concerns as a website is but one piece of that puzzle. As we look toward Pentecost, we are kicking off a blog series about the ins and outs of social media. We don’t know everything about every new platform or technology, but we hope we can offer some good starting points and questions to ask as you think about how your ministry can and should be engaged in a wider social arena.

First, some resources. Whether you are dipping your toe in, or an early adopter who remembers back when MySpace and Friendster were the hot new kids on the block (pre-Facebook! What?!), a great place to learn and share questions and experience is the weekly Church Social Media (#chsocm) on Twitter. A Tuesday evening (or Wednesday lunch for those in Australia and New Zealand) chat – 9pm ET/8 CT/7 MT/6 PT, for US time zones – you can find out more here: Twitter, Facebook, ChSocM Blog.

You will also find more information on their Facebook page about a closed Church Communicators group that has spun off from ChSocM, and has wonderful links, resources and conversations from a wide variety of church communicators – professional, volunteer, representing tiny and large churches and many denominations and styles. Ask to join, and you will find a very supportive community that really believes no question is too small – they’ve probably asked it themselves when they were getting started.

Next, as you get ready to get out there on social media, don’t go gonzo. You don’t need to create accounts on every platform you’ve ever heard of, and those ones that you’ve only heard your kids talking about. Start simply, and get comfortable with one or two formats before you expand (and you may find your comfort zone with just a few accounts, and never add any more – that’s ok).

As with any communications strategy, you need to ask yourself who you are trying to reach and what your goals are in reaching them. Where are the people you hope to reach? How do they use different platforms (almost everyone uses Facebook, but different ages and cultures use it in very different ways)? Do you have easy ways to post content that you are already creating – sermon text, audio or video? Pictures of events, memes or thought-provoking quotes? What platforms would be the best for sharing those? Does your ministry have talent in creating worship music, art or other liturgy? Do you have an creative curriculum team? And how might you put pieces of those together that make the most sense on Facebook vs. Twitter vs. Instagram vs. Pinterest?

We cannot answer those questions for you, but conversations with other communicators, or communication consultants you may be working with, can be helpful in clarifying and pinpointing your area of expertise to share with the world, and the best way of sharing that expertise.

Most of all, remember that what we do is to tell a grand story. An ancient story. And the best stories are ones that draw in their audience, make them think and then act. How do you tell our story in your words/pictures/dance/prayers/video? Take that unique story-telling style, and think about how it can be shared beyond your walls, and you will be on your way to creating your social media foothold and style.

 

Next Week: A deeper look at some of the different social media platforms.

Telling Your Story: Taking It to the World

We’ve talked about why you need to tell your story, the foundation of your story and creating a story that is clear and unique, and now we want to talk about going beyond your story. Your story shouldn’t stop at your front door, or even your website. It should be connected both to the grand story we are telling together as a Church, and also to all of the stories of everyday life – of struggles and joys, loss and birth, of ordinary meals and chores and fabulous gatherings of friends and feasting. We don’t do ministry for money or fame or even honor or legacy, but to answer the call to life together. And if your story doesn’t connect to other people where they are, why are we telling it?

The story we have to tell has power. We talked about telling an authentic story so people could be drawn toward a community that contains truth and meaning at the center. People are constantly searching for a life that means something. It is why we see people invest in work and things and power, and most often do not find what they are looking for. It is why so many people seek out answers from religious institutions when there is a crisis – we claim to have truth to share. And we shouldn’t wait for a crisis to share that truth. The more we offer our story in ways that touch people’s lives, the more they will seek us out when they are ready to go deeper.

Some of the powerful ways people are telling this story of faith are through short videos, such as the Slate Project creates, tiny audio pieces, like 30 Seconds or Less, blogs, photos, prayers, twitter chats, devotional writing – a million ways to take the things we’re already talking about in our churches, and share them with the world.

Baghdad Paris Beirut picture prayer

Originally posted by The Young Clergy Women Project

One example is a simple picture prayer in response to the attacks in Baghdad, Beirut and Paris within a few days, shared by The Young Clergy Women Project, a Worship Times member. Their mission is to create a community to support young women in ministry, and they have conferences and a private Facebook group that do so, but they also have a blog and a public Facebook page, where they share their words and thoughts with the world. This simple picture prayer went viral because they had built up an audience with their other writing and sharing, and when people went looking for something to speak to so much tragedy, they responded with something meaningful.

The more you are able to reach an audience with the story you are already telling, the more they will want to hear. What are some ways you can share your story with new audiences? How will you meet them where they are with the truth and meaning they seek?

Worship Times named Editor’s Pick

EditorsPick_2014_200Worship Leader Magazine has named Worship Times as one of its 2014 Editor’s Pick for web development.

Worship Times is a team of congregational leaders, and we are honored to be featured in this trusted resource for congregational leaders. Several team members have seminary degrees. Owner Michael Gyura credits a particularly memorable class in seminary as the moment when the idea for Worship Times was born: easy-to-use websites for congregations by congregational leaders who understand the challenges facing the church today.

We know designing a website can be a challenge, and we offer multiple themed templates that are easy to customize to your church’s unique identity.

We know that assessing your current website can be a challenge, and we offer a free website review where one of our talented team members will help you figure out what you’d like to see changed.

We know budget is a challenge, and we offer several options for pricing. If you’re a smaller church or church plant, we will make sure that Worship Times is affordable for your community. (Contact us for more.)

We know that congregational leaders have stressed schedules, and we offer multiple ways to get your questions answered to fit those schedules.

We know that technology in church can be a challenge, and we write an ongoing blog related to those issues.

We know visualizing your site with a Worship Times template can be a challenge, and we offer a 30 day free trial.

We’re here to help you. Questions? Comments? Want to get in touch? You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. You can email us or use this contact form or call us at (888) 442-8731.

Introduction to Twitter Lingo

Twitter is a very different social media platform than Facebook. Facebook is great for contact information, photos, and even some conversation; but Twitter is (mainly) for connections, conversations, and resourcing. Here’s some key lingo for those who want to get started on Twitter. Also check below for a list of people to follow to get started.

Twitter Lingo

@: an @ sign followed by a username alerts that person to whatever you tweet

#ff (Follow Friday): a list of users you think others should follow, tweeted on Fridays

A tweet: an update on Twitter that is between 1 & 140 characters

DM (Direct Message): a message sent privately to another user (also must be under 140 characters)

Hashtag: a hash (#) followed by a word or phrase that once posted become a link to all other tweets using that same # + word/phrase

To tweet (verb): to post an update on Twitter

Favorite/Fav: marks a tweet with a star and puts in into your favorite list so you can go back to it easily later

Following: you’ll receive this user’s tweets on your homepage

Lurker: someone who follows users or hashtags but doesn’t tweet or doesn’t tweet often

RT (Re-Tweet): you are tweeting an update someone else has already tweeted

Trending: whatever hashtags are most popular at the time either for all of Twitter or for your friends

Tweeps (Twitter peeps): the people you follow on Twitter

Username: the name for your Twitter account which may or may not be related to your real name

Verified accounts: a celebrity account that is verified to be that actual celebrity (as opposed to a fan or a parody account)

Users to Follow

Worship Times @WorshipTimes
Michael Gyura (Worship Times’ fearless leader) @mgyura
Presbyterian Church (USA) @presbyterian
ELCA @ELCA
United Methodist Communication @UMCommunication
Church & Social Media @chscom
Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow @breyeschow
Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber @Sarcasticluther
Pope Francis @Pontifex
Revised Common Lectionary @lectionary