I bumped into Meredith Gould on Twitter. It seems a lot of people have.
Meredith (I feel I can use her first name, despite not having meet her in person…yet) started a weekly Twitter chat about social media use in churches, using #chsocm to gather people.
When I heard of a book coming out called The Social Media Gospel: Sharing the Good News in New Ways, I was eager to get a review copy. I was even happier when I saw a familiar name on the cover.
I’ve looked at a few books on social media in ministry, and I’ve been disappointed. Some are out of date before they are released, focusing on techniques and platforms and specifics of functionality. Others are so basic they only are a baby step toward using social tools. And sometimes authors dismiss new opportunities without offering ideas of what might now be possible.
Meredith’s small book offers a great deal, both for newbies and technophiles, on both the theoretical and the practical.
She avoids lauding social tools without counting the cost—we are not replacing face-to-face relationships, but rather are complementing them. “Social media has opened up yet another portal for seeing and being seen, for knowing and being known, for being in and belonging to community.” (p27)
Meredith covers the basics, defining social media and giving a basic theological pass at how we must think in this new communications landscape. “Social media platforms make it possible to generate, build, and sustain conversations leading to relationships.” (p56)The Social Media Gospel seethes with a ministry perspective, that we are to love others, to share truth, and to build each other up in digital spaces.
Meanwhile, we must think carefully about why we’re using social media, answering, “What are we trying to accomplish in this?” And there are brief, helpful chapters on whether and how to use a blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube, as well as how to integrate and manage multiple platforms.
Meredith also coaches appropriately against jargon and toward more effective writing for online platforms (e.g. short sentences and paragraphs, active voicing, etc.).
I don’t agree with everything in The Social Media Gospel, however. For example, Meredith seems to think Facebook is not a place to tell stories (p56). But I find in my personal and professional life, a photo and a “microstory” goes a long way in generating conversation, exactly the strength of social tools.
In sum, though, this is a great little book for people considering how to use social media effectively to complement their ministry, whether in congregational or other personal contexts. It’s basic enough for neophytes and still gave me some ideas to try as an experienced practitioner.