I wrote this back near the end of May for a column I write for called “Techpass” that is part of the “Connections” mag published by the Western Ontario District of the PAOC. Anytime now (and I think it already is) the July issue (published quarterly) of “Connections” will be out and about with this article in it. Even after only two months there are some things that I think are a bit “dated” in this but I republishing it here on my blog so readers of that article can comment, respond if they want! Actually, anyone can comment/respond now if they want..well you know what I mean. Oh, one more thing – I have posted about twitter here already, if you want, check it out.
Have you heard of twitter? No, Im not talking about the word to describe the language birds use to communicate with each other. Twitter is an online app that was launched in 2006 described as a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables users to send and read other users’ updates known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length which are displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to other users who have subscribed to them (known as followers) (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/twitter). Twitter has made it possible to make these short posts (and receive follower updates) using email, sms (texting), via the web, or even various other services (i.e. facebook etc.).
The whole premise of twitter surrounds the question prominently given to the user, What are you doing now?
At first glance, using twitter appears to be a pointless exercise. I mean, who really wants to take the time to write mini-updates through their day about what they are doing? Not only that, but come on, do I really want to follow somebodys play-by-play account of their daily life? Yet, for some reason twitter has grown from just a handful of users when it first launched to around 475,000 in February 2008 and has reached over 7 million users only one year later. Clearly, theres something thats happening with this social experiment that is attracting a lot of users.
I decided Id focus this quarter’s issue of TechPass on twitter because I think there are some potential good uses for it in the church and for us as pastors (KEYWORD potential) in the tools we can use to understand, communicate and engage with people in our world.
Heres what Im going to do with this article. Im going to throw out some ideas that Ive come across from churches/pastors using twitter. Please know in advance that I havent actually tried all these ideas myself. Perhaps, there may be an idea or two that youd like to try and think might be a worthwhile experiment in your own context. If so, let me know how it goes!!
- One of the main uses of twitter is to maintain a church account for posting quick updates about whats happening at the church. The real-time nature of twitter means that people following the church twitter account will get near instantaneous updates when items are posted (I’m planning on starting a twitter account for my church starting in the fall)
- Some churches also use twitter to communicate short testimonies of something God has done, or articles worth reading, or links to full posts made on the church website (or church blog you did read my last article didnt you?). It even can be a great way to get prayer requests out (and Praise reports).
- Pastors, or even people in the congregation can tweet live from church events (or a designated individual can post to the official church twitter account) and there can be not only a live picture recorded of whats going on but its also useful for feedback, and archiving whats happening. I twittered the last district conference (and yes I even tweeted the very important human wave that we serious conference attendees participated in ) (get a zeitgeist of your church)
- Staff can use twitter to get an inside picture of what makes each other tick and the passions and interests they have (and vice versa let those that follow you discover your interests and passion). I know from experience that when you follow people you know of on twitter, after a while you get the sense that you know them a bit better because you get a bit of a picture into the things that happen in their lives. Its also a way of getting quick feedback on a question you may have or sharing quick links to articles/resources you find. We currently have 4 staff members using twitter (including me) here at WPA and its interesting some of the insight Ive gained just from the tweets theyve made.
- A variation of the above is of benefit to pastors in following people who may use twitter in their church. Its a good way to get a pulse for the things that are grabbing your peoples attention, the trends in their thinking, etc.
- Some churches have even tried opening up their Sunday services to twittering and broadcasting the tweets (filtered of course) on the big screen. I dont think our church is there yet but is it a neat idea for making a service much more interactive? Or maybe it would just make things WAY too distracting (for more on this see the post “Twitter Church“)
One of the caveats with twitter is that it is a community driven service. In other words, none of the benefits of twitter would be realized if the people you want to communicate with arent on the service. But for engaging people who do use twitter (an increasing number it seems) then twitter is a great tool.
This article is really just scraping the surface when it comes to giving examples of how some churches and pastors are using twitter and comes no where near outlining everything about the service and how its being used around the world. Still, I do believe twitter is something worth keeping on your radar as another potential communication tool for the church.
By the way Im on twitter (but I dont do a play-by-play of my day!). Id love it if a bunch of us WOD folk would sign up at twitter.com and follow each other. Imagine the vibrancy of communication at our fingertips (especially for getting breaking news/prayer requests out?) follow me at twitter.com/nerrad.
Some twitter lingo to be aware of:
TWEET when someone makes I post using twitter they are said to have made a tweet, or tweeted (Im laughing with you).
@nerrad The @ symbol is used in a tweet to reply to another user of twitter. These tweets are NOT private.
RT means retweet which is placed before or after a tweet that you copy/paste from someone else to give it broader exposure (because you thought that tweet was great).
Direct Message Twitter provides a way for you to direct message someone. The direct message shows up in their twitter stream but ONLY to them (this is PRIVATE from every other user of twitter)
#wodconf the # symbol is used to indicate a tag (usually called a hashtag) which is simply a way of categorizing the tweet. For instance in this example I used #wodconf whenever I tweeted something related to district conference. This is useful because you can then look up later all the tweets with that tag that were made by yourself (or anyone else using that tag).
(One more thing: If you enjoyed my last article on keeping a blog there is a book I just finished that does an excellent job communicating the benefit of blogging for churches and pastors. Itd be a great book to read in helping you make a decision on if its worth the investment The Blogging Church: Sharing the Story of Your Church Through Blogs by Brian Bailey)