A friend recently wrote me,
I have a friend who is a pastor who is trying to figure out whether there is a benefit to his ministry to be on Facebook, writing blogs, twitter, youtube, etc. So I'm asking my FB pastor friends for insight that I could pass along (he currently isn't doing any of this). Can you offer any comments as to how you got started with it, how much time you put into it, and what sort of impact you see in your ministry? Thanks a lot in advance.
I wrote back the following:
For me, Facebook, twitter, and my blog provide a place for me to:
1. Amplify the message God has given me to share.
Between Facebook and twitter, there are a couple thousands folks who have decided that they would like to be in the loop on what I’m learning, what God is doing in and through the teams/initiatives I lead, etc. These people matter to me. I have the privilege of speaking into their lives. Now, it can happen in a matter of seconds. I’m amazed by how interactive it is. When we were in India during the month of June, a constant conversation was happening in real time between the folks here at home and our family in India. I had scores of people say upon our return, “I felt so connected. I’d follow the updates and pray. With Facebook and Twitter, it was in real time, so I felt so much more connected to you and the work in India.”
2. Deepen my community with real world friends I don’t get to see every day.
I have many friends who I don’t get to run into every day. Now, because I follow my friend Jason on twitter/Facebook, when I see him I have a sense of what has been going on in his life since we last met. That’s helpful. I can communicate my care. It helps me love my friend more thoroughly. I have a deeper sense of knowledge and connection with him that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Vice versa.
3. Open a door for virtual friendships to become real world friendships.
We coach churches in moving toward missional engagement, local and internationally. We work with a small group of church (15 in each batch) over a long period of time (18 months). We do life with these leaders. It’s a high commitment deal both directions. The leaders of those churches are now among my closest friends. With the current batch of churches, 3 out of the 15 churches involved, I connected with the pastor/leader of the church via social networking (either Facebook or twitter) first. Through that virtual connection, we discovered shared passions, concerns, etc. When the coaching initiative started, it created a real world environment for that virtual friendship to become genuine community (I don’t think virtual friendships are genuine community).
4. Know my limits. In other words, you can always turn it off.
If I find that twitter or Facebook is pulling me away from “the audience of One” to where I am thinking more about the “eyes of men” upon me, I turn it off. I bowed out just a few weeks ago for a couple weeks for that very reason. I found that it was actually pulling me from the Center. So, I just stopped. Twitter, Facebook, and blogging, are “in the margins” for me. So, when it’s a pressing time or I find my motivation slipping, I just stop doing it and don’t feel bad about it.
5. Grow in Awareness.
Most of the time Twitter/Facebook actually helps me reflect and become more aware (of myself, of God, of my friends, etc.). It’s a moment to stop and think, “What is meaningful? What is God doing? How can I bless the lives of others today with my words? What is it that I should give and share today?” When done appropriately, it can become a discipline that builds meaning and centeredness.
Hope that helps…I hammered it out fast!