Technology and Spirituality
Ten Ways Congregations Can Engage with Social Media
Editors' Note: This article is part of a Public Square conversation on Technology and Spirituality. Read other perspectives here.
When faith leaders and congregations use social media wisely, they have the opportunity to share a theology of an inclusive, loving, and playful God. Social media can remind others that God is still speaking. It can be an invitation to God's peace and a reminder of God's thirst for justice. Social media also can create and sustain community. Here are ten ways you and your faith communities can participate in the digital landscape.
Social media is not a shouting platform. At its best, it is a listening platform. Before you venture into this brave new world to say something, read what congregants and your partner organizations are saying. When communicating via Twitter, favorite, retweet, and reply to other's tweets at least as much as you share your own voice.
People are just as likely to connect over a hashtag online as over coffee in the narthex. From Twitter lists to Facebook groups to discovering people with similar passions and interests, we are presented with a uniquely digital opportunity to connect people beyond the barriers of geography. When planning a worship celebration or marching for social justice, put a commonly used hashtag at the end of your virtual message so others may find your action as they search.
The digital era blurs the lines between consumer and creator. Anyone with a Wi-Fi signal finds herself with instant access to the largest publishing platform in the history of humanity. From YouTube to Twitter to a myriad of blog platforms, the internet is an arena where we give voice to the world we envision. Before George Zimmerman was arrested for the killing of Trayvon Martin, Middle Collegiate Church posted pictures of our multiracial congregation dressed in hoodies with the signs, "I am not dangerous. Racism is. #TrayvonMartin" When you stand for social justice, think messaging that complements it in social media.
Photo by Angela Dykshorn
Faith communities utilize social media to community organize. We publish, share, and retweet the causes and events happening around us, putting the "mob" in "mobilize" and moving people from awareness to activism using nothing more than 140 characters. After Middle Collegiate Church posted images of our congregants in hoodies, a congregation in Tulsa, Oklahoma saw the post and planned a hoodie Sunday the following week. And in the weeks to come, the White senior pastor in Tulsa was invited to organize with Black pastors when racial tensions were high in Tulsa.
In the rapid pace of the information superhighway, space to reflect is necessary. Write a draft before you publish. While your words will be joining the stream of consciousness that is the World Wide Web, they will live forever. Every misquotation, every foot-in-your-mouth, and every accidental post are a part of the digital infrastructure that is the internet. Reread each status update and blog comment before you post. You may also use tools like HootSuite and SproutSocial to save and schedule your posts days in advance.
Jacqueline Lewis is senior minister of the Middle Collegiate Church in Manhattan. Jim Kast-Keat and Christina Fleming are part of the congregation's outreach team.