Twitter is a ‘micro-blogging’ platform: like texts from your computer, or your mobile phone; they can’t be more than 140 characters long; & can have hyper links to web pages on the internet. Twitter posts can be linked to update Facebook or LinkedIn status, & have geographical position data attached with the likes of Foursquare or BrightKite.
So, it can be a bit of fun, yes. But can it be useful? Or are these Social Media just a waste of time, and a distraction from our Christian call, and God’s mission?
Firstly, Let’s not forget the influence of Facebook, with more adherents than the population of some continents. If you’re on it, you’ll know; and if you aren’t, most of your friends and family certainly are. As are many of the people in, and what is more important here, on the fringes of our churches. These sorts of social media, that are all about making relationships – however tenuous. Relationships are what churches should be about too.
Secondly, these media are very immediate. Twitter is often how news now spreads most rapidly – as we say with much of the initial news about the Arab Spring in early 2011, and the prompt clamp-down by the authorities of internet and mobile phone networks. They can contain images, and links to video or other sites for further information. Messages can be re-tweeted – forwarded on – and if picked up by a ‘celebrity’, they can gain huge circulation very rapidly. Spreading the Good News is also what churches should be about too.
Thirdly, the social aspect of these new media can help to gather people together – such as invitations to Facebook events. Twitter can also be used to gather people for a ‘Tweet-up’ (meet-up). You may have heard how ‘flash mobs’ (instant gatherings) can be convened at short notice through tweets and messages, such as the @FlashEvensong called on the steps of St Paul’s during the week it was officially ‘closed’, or the Hallelujah Chorus flashmob. Gathering is what churches should be about too.
Fourthly, these new media allow fresh ways of re-telling the story – take the ‘Natwivity’ for example (the re-telling of the Christmas story through Advent in 2010 and 2011), or the Twitter Passion Play from Holy Trinity Wall Street, or the 140 character summary of each chapter of the Bible presented daily. Here are new ways people are putting in to practise spreading the ‘faith the church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation’.
These new social media may well be a fad that will pass – but at the moment they are making quite an impact with the very groups churches find it hardest to attract: teens, twenties, & young parents. Individuals, churches, bishops & archbishops are all using these media – there are lists of folks who are on. Perhaps you and your church should consider using some of these new media to help scatter seeds of the gospel, another tool to add to your mission kit.
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Some surprising Twitter gender based statistics – what do you reckon? More men, or more women?!
Information on The Holy Trinity Wall Street’s own website on The Twitter Passion.
One of the original press reports on Holy Trinity Wall Street Passion Play is now only available from The Morning Call on the Way Back Machine. April 2009.
The Telegraph on the Twitter Passion. May 2009.
Time magazine’s article on Pastor John Voelz of Westwinds Community Church in Jackson, Mich and his congregation using Twitter, May 2009.
The Channel 5 Gadget Show uses Twitter & Facebook to arrange a flashmob – 2009.
An old post from MrTweet on how people use Twitter (you need to scroll down…)
Social Media can bring benefits, as well as absorb too much time, as highlighted in this post on PR In Your Pyjamas; and a post on a year on social media, and one on social media marketing. March 2010.
Artist Dan Thompson used Twitter to help track down a Worthing lost teenager. July 2010.
Adam Oxford also commented on it at the time, again only on the WayBackMachine, scroll down.
Stephen Moore observes a difference in how he finds Facebook and Twitter: “Facebook is where the people I’ve met, but don’t always care about are. Twitter is where the people I care about, but haven’t always met are” in August 2010.
The Church Mouse has written on the Twurch (Twitter/Church) and lists some of the key bloggers/social media users in the church. June 2011.
Journalist and priest Martin Wroe observes the ephemeral and profound can be astonishingly juxtaposed in this observation on how disasters are sometimes reported on Twitter: “Consecutive tweets on Twitter stream:
@willself: ‘run out of Coco Pops’. @JemKhan: 13.8 mill affected by Pakistan floods’. But which hashtags #thisisadisaster ”