October 22, 2009

Social Media and Ministry

It started on Christmas Day, 2004. The kids were playing with their presents, and I sat down at the computer and decided to see if I could figure out how to start a blog. I set it up and published my first post, which, in essence, said to the world: "I'm starting a blog."

665 posts later, I'm still here. Amazing. I never really publicized my blog to people I knew, but neither did I try to keep it secret. Eventually, a few people began reading. Soon, I had an "audience," albeit a small one. I'll admit, though, it was a bit startling when, after a several days with no posts, I got a comment from someone I didn't know saying, "Where are you? Is everything okay?"

In the time since, I've experimented with other forms of social media. When a group of teenagers told me about myspace, I got my own myspace page, mainly so that I could view their myspace pages and see what they were up to. Eventually I was able to use myspace to remind them of youth group meetings, camp registration deadlines, etc. At times it seemed to me that I was delving into some adolescent subculture, but the truth is that I was surprised to discover a number of adults on myspace as well.

I was happy at myspace for awhile. Then someone told me about facebook. Well, might as well see what that's about. Eventually, it seemed that most of the people I wanted to keep in contact with were on facebook, and I started using myspace less and less. This happened about the same time I moved from northern California to southern California, which also got me thinking that perhaps it was a regional "thing."

Then yesterday, I heard this story on NPR about social divisions between myspace and facebook. Seems like there is a definite myspace crowd, and a definite facebook crowd...some of the reason for that, the story suggested, is regional, cultural, generational, and even racial. The story also mentioned that only "old people" use Twitter. Who knew?

While social media are fun, over time I've begun looking at them with an eye to how they can be helpful to me in my ministry. Facebook has been very helpful. I set up a facebook group for my congregation, and I think 40 people joined it during the first 24 hours it was available. I've also secured musical talent for church events through facebook, and made contacts with community members and organizations; and once, at a church board meeting, I used my cell phone to post as my status: "Board meeting is starting--where is everyone?" and one member, at home on facebook, jumped in his car and came to the meeting.

Then there's twitter. I started tweeting last spring. (At 38, I guess I'm old enough.) To be honest, I'm still not sure how helpful it is, or what the point is. Tweeting during General Assembly was fun; it felt kind of like passing notes in class. And occasionally I'll find a helpful link in someone else's tweet. But I'm still not sure about twitter.

DisciplesWorld magazine now has The Intersection, which is a community for members and friends of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Yes, I'm a part of that, too, although I admit I haven't been too active there. I'm still waiting to see what that can do for me and my ministry that facebook isn't already doing.

I'm still exploring ways that social media can benefit the ministry of my small church. I'd love to hear how other churches--especially smaller churches--are using social media to help them carry out their mission.


aswesow said...

That's alot of blogs. What does exuall mean and why do I have to type it to leave a stupid comment? Happy Day, maybe I'll figure out how to find you again

Rebecca Bowman Woods said...

Hey Danny. Congrats on five years of blogging. I've enjoyed reading what you write and seeing the photos too.

Thanks for mentioning The Intersection. We hope you'll keep checking it out - we've got some new things planned. Working on a new blogs page right now. Let us know what you'd like to see there too.