You’ve probably heard the term “url”. It is that line of letters that follow “http” on the Internet. Well, it is also called “the address”. What is your address on the Internet? If you have a blog, web site, or are a member of any social media platform like Facebook and Twitter, you have an address on the web.
If you are on Twitter, you can think of that as a real address. If people want to “meet you” they click on your username and “visit” your address, but what do they find when they get there? Many people write “Christian” as the first thing about them in their Twitter profile, but many seem to have fallen into a trap.
Some of us fall into the temptation to preach at people. Oh, sure they will find people who like “You tell them!” sermons, However, only blasting people for bad behavior or only quoting Scripture at people is a distortion of Christian proclamation.
Even if it weren’t, only following other Christians on Twitter would be a mistake. Imagine for a moment a congregation made up of preachers only. That would be pretty silly wouldn’t it, if all the preachers were all together in one building and not spread out?
Twitter is not a pulpit. Social media does not work that way. As you’ve probably heard, no one is interested in what you think until they think you are interested in them. However, thinking of your Twitter address as a church building and yourself as someone who wants to invite people in, this is a much better way of approaching your role of being part of a Christian presence on Twitter.
Think of it as Narthex, Sanctuary, Pulpit, Educational Wing, Fellowship Hall, and Service Project, and you, as the person who runs the account, are Greeter, Worship Leader, Preacher, Teacher, Host, and Servant Leader.
· Narthex: Each Christian on Twitter welcomes the Twitter public not only into their address, but also what it means to be a Christian. We provide a warm welcome with what we say, how we say it and what we don’t say. Christians who use more negative words than positive and complain more than they promote only confirm the already negative biases of unchurched people. At times the content matter of your message may be serious, but otherwise, be cheerful and winsome. Twenty percent of your messages can be lighthearted banter.
· Sanctuary: I like to go to You Tube and enter the names of my favorite classic hymns, praise music, classical and jazz music and share them on Twitter as well as Facebook. I figure whatever is a nice break for me and a chance to think of higher things must do the same for others.
· Pulpit: Since you are talking with people and providing non-judgmental content, you will earn a chance to say what you think about how things ought to be. You can even be political, but be careful. More importantly, place Scriptures in the mix. We know that God’s Word does not return void. The thing is to mix it up. I see myself as a Christian disk jockey of sorts, and you can have fun too. Scripture also says something about pulling out treasures new and old. Share the best of our tradition and whatever your own particular favorite things are, other people are bound to enjoy them also and will thank you for it. Above all, mix in a presentation of the Gospel several times a day, doing so clearly and in simple terms.
· Educational Wing: Twitter is made for sharing links to your congregation’s web site and any other ministries you participate in or are partial to. This alone makes Twitter worth the time you will put in on it. Our congregation’s web site http://www.holytrinitynewrochelle.org/ received 325,000 hits December, 2009, but had over 520,000 hits Dec. 2010 and the only thing that changed was my having 25,000 more Twitter followers and Facebook friends to whom I sent links. I think the forty percent increase is due to linking through social media and you would have the same happen to your congregation’s web site if you learn to use social media effectively.
· Fellowship Hall: Once you become familiar with people you will have many people share a little bit of their lives with you. It really is amazing. Google “Jeremy Rifkin empathic civilization” and view the entertaining and informative video. I agree that God made us oriented toward relationships. People who think that “cyber-friends” are somehow less than real are missing the point. Of course we should devote ourselves to family, neighbors, the people who inhabit our reality, but people and therefore relationships are no less real if they are not physically available to us.
· Service Project: All kinds of things are made possible through linking people and resources and the Internet is making good works around the world accessible to all. You can draw people into your congregation’s mission, people who live near you and people who live who-knows-where.
In the next issue I’ll give practical advice on how to best be part of the Christian presence on Twitter. In the meantime you can visit my web site devoted to social media http://www.soundshoremedia.com/. You can contact me through it as well as read helpful blog posts on Twitter and other social media platforms. I will be more than happy to mentor you through the process of learning to use these tools to become more effective in telling your story on the Internet.