2 Billion people across the globe are connected to each other via some form of online social media. Whether it is Facebook statuses or Twitter tweets or Snapchat chats or Vine videos or Pinterest, Feedly, Instagram, Tinder, LinkedIn…we are certainly connected. The art of navigating social media is a crucial gift moving forward in today’s church culture. No one professes faith in Christ because of the kind of graphics on your church website, but a website that’s pleasing and informative just might be what gets the seeker to your door. The perception of being tech savvy is becoming more important as our daily connection with digital media in our home, cars, and hands grows. With any cultural trend there are blessings and growing edges, so here are five “Proverbial Tweets” showing the positive and negative of our growing digital connectedness.
Proverbs 32:1—A wise person will post original content, but the fool will only share. Creating original and clever content is the best way to multiply your digital influence. It can be a simple graphic or original language, but original content is the way to go. If creating original content isn’t your gift, try sharing information as an individual rather than as your church. 96% of content originates from individuals rather than corporate brands. In other words, your content will be more attractive if you post as “Mrs. Smith” rather than “First Church.” Have you noticed how sponsored Facebook ads look more like posts from individuals? That’s on purpose.
Proverbs 32:2—A wise person offers a specific and targeted message, but the fool posts generalities. The good news of our connectedness is that you can quickly share a message with a wide audience; however this audience is quickly becoming splintered and polarized. Curtis Hougland, CEO of Attentionusa.com, mentioned in a recent article published by the University of Pennsylvania that our online connection is leading to a “Balkanization” of our communities. Even though with a few clicks you can reach 2 billion people, those 2 billion people are receiving an increasing amount of filtered and customized content. Interestingly Hougland reports that individuals are becoming more loyal to personal content than to corporate entities. The good news is that our freedom to share our convictions is rather unfiltered and uncensored. The bad news is researchers are discovering that an individual is more loyal to one view of a divisive issue rather than corporate unity. For example, being online allows me to only socialize with dog lovers who oppose taxes for the community pool but who love strawberry ice cream. This means that social media is not a means of evangelism, but it is a great way to amplify preconceived belief. Meeting face to face, coming to the communion table offers me the opportunity to swallow the “tough pill of grace” when I break bread with Mr. Smith who is a cat person. You see, I don’t like cat people, but God does and that’s what matters.
Proverbs 32:3—A wise person posts sparingly, but the fool updates the world with every detail. Maybe it goes without saying that we sometimes share too much. Sharing too much is like sharing nothing at all. Instead of sharing your worship times over and over again, try sharing information in different ways. According to Webgeekly.com digital consumers fall into six different categories: The Creator, the Critic, The Collector, The Joiner, The Spectator, and The Inactive. Each person treats posts and tweets and pics differently. For example, let’s say you want to share a blurb about the upcoming children’s musical coming up this spring. To catch the Critic you might share something like, “Our Children’s Musical, ‘Hamlet meets Jesus’ is coming this March. Which one of Hamlet’s songs is your favorite?” To the Joiner you might share a post that says, “Click here to join and support our ‘Hamlet and Jesus’ children’s musical coming up this spring.” The joiner would ignore the first post and the critic would pass over the second. If you post a generic message over and over, both would pass on all.
Proverbs 32:4—A wise person delegates, but the fool tries to do it all. Social media is quickly become a specialized field. As a pastor, my week can quickly fill up with sharing content, producing videos, and creating Facebook events rather than focusing on the sermon, the fellowship, and the mission behind the online content. Creating original content can take hours, and unless the digital media enhances the order to which one is ordained, it is probably best to work with a tech savvy servant. Businesses like e-zekiel.com and motionworship.com really make you look snappy online with little cost. With anything there is a trade-off between convenience and customization, but I’m assuming most congregation really do want their pastor studying the Word more than crafting HTML.
Proverbs 32:5—The wise person patiently posts, but the fool tries to be the first. It’s no sin to be the first person to comment on breaking news, but the problem is that stories change and not all information in initially shared. It is difficult to take back something that is out there, so it’s a good practice to let the dust settle on a breaking story before commenting or posting about it. It is quite tempting to jump into the mix when a story breaks so that your posts might trend, but you run the risk of trending in the wrong direction. It’s ok to wait and let the riff-raff duke it out online before jumping in. Your church will appreciate a thoughtful response rather than, how does Craig Gilliam put it, a “reptilian reaction.”
We live in a world in which 2 billion people are a keystroke away, but there are some things that never change. A website or Facebook post might get people to your door, but it is God working through the church, the body of Christ, which will keep them there. Never underestimate the power of a handshake or a phone call or a cup of coffee with someone who cares. The church is still about a body, broken and resurrected, and no app can change that.