Just when many of us have become comfortable with Facebook.com, here comes Twitter.com as a viable and vital medium. These are more than passing novelties to be ignored. They are a new generation of communication and they are global, mobile and engaging.
Putting both Facebook and Twitter together, a media revolution is underway. The church needs to pay attention if it wants to remain vital and communicate with a younger and larger community than it presently communicates with using websites and e-mail, Boomer-based media.
We have had the Internet as a viable medium for the past couple of decades. E-mail has become a standard for communicating with its capacity to attach documents and share digital images and video. Website have become libraries of information, places from which to download forms, register and pay for events, share videos, collect digital images and link to hundreds of thousands of other websites with the click of a mouse.
Since last year’s advent of the Apple iPad, mobility and paperless communication have marked the advent of a coming norm. Smart phones are rapidly replacing cell phones.
The United Methodist Council of Bishops introduced electronic pad communication for all their distributed documents earlier this month, saving a projected $4,000 per meeting. Some churches are now distributing electronic pads to their members and friends as they enter worship. The pads contain not only the order of worship, but words to hymns and songs, still and YouTube video illustrations to sermons and PowerPoint announcements. Most large-member churches now offer free WiFi in their sanctuaries, fellowship halls and other meeting rooms as a convenience to their members and guests.
The church and its congregations need to get onboard with these forms of media and become serious about social networking – the most popular means of communication for youth and young adults.
The church and its congregations need to get onboard and take their websites seriously as the main way to disseminate information about their congregation to a needy world, hungry for spiritual guidance.
The church and its congregations need to be Facebook friends and should be tweeting through Twitter, pushing 140 characters into cyberspace to express opinions, share information and proclaimthe good news of God’s love. Christians still have the most hopeful message for people, but they need to be communicating in the media of the present age.
I am not an expert on social media and struggle to understand all its implications for the work of the church. Even those who are on the cutting edge of social media don’t know where it will lead, but they do know that social media are changing social interaction, even the way we think and view the world. If you don’t know – Google it.
As a church leader, if you haven’t begun to use social media, today is the day to open Facebook.com and Twitter.com accounts. They’re free. Learn from the screen. Learn from others. Learn from experience. We have come into a new age of communicating that is mobile and engaging.
More than 400 Hoosier United Methodists are already talking together on Facebook.com at Indiana United Methodists. Join in. This year at the Indiana Annual Conference session in Muncie, June 8-11, information will be posted and shared on Twitter @inumconference. Join in at #inumconf11.
Social media is a new reality of experiencing in John Wesley’s words – “The world is my parish.”
– Daniel R. Gangler
These are more than passing novelties to be ignored.