“We build on foundations we did not lay.
We warm ourselves at fires we did not light.
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.
We drink from wells we did not dig.
We profit from persons we did not know.
We are ever bound in community."

Rev. Peter Raible (paraphrased from Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Digital Ministry and Why it Matters: An Interview with the Rev. Phil Lund, PART 2

Rev. Phil Lund, Director of Faith Development
and Congregational Growth for the
Prairie Star District 
Yesterday, I shared the first part of my interview with the Rev. Phil Lund and today I'm posting the second part. If this sparks thoughts or ideas for you, please comment - there's a lot of you "virtual people" stopping by and I'd love to know what you're thinking!

Phil, don't we spend enough time online already? What's the point of digital ministry? How do you ensure face to face/real life connections?

We may or may not spend enough time online already. The point is that this is technology that’s going to be with us from now on, and unless we learn to use it to help us get our message out, fewer and fewer and fewer people are going to find us. Because finding churches via the internet is mostly how it’s done these days. And the competition’s pretty stiff. In fact, I ran across this quote earlier in the year: “Liberal religion is always one generation away from extinction.” That wouldn’t have worried me five or ten years ago. But I can see it happening if we don’t learn how to use this technology well. As far as face-to-face connections go, that’s one of the things I love about the Faith Formation 2020 initiative. Yes, we provide folks with the opportunity to interact with us on a completely digital level. But we need to constantly be offering invitations to come join us in real life. And we’ve got to hang on to the one thing we can offer that people can’t get anywhere else in our society: a genuinely multigenerational community. If we lose sight of that, we’re just as likely to go extinct as if we ignore the need to use digital technology well.

Do you have suggestions/best practices for religious liberals just starting to use Twitter, or wanting to start a blog?

I’ve just finished a month long experiment as a social media lab rat, and I’ve found a lot of good resources which I’ll post on my blog soon (you can find Phil’s blog here.) In the meantime, I’ll say that congregations need a social media strategy, which the minister (if they have a minister) needs to be involved with. The strategy will probably require the use of some sort of team, which means using the pro version of something like HootSuite, which allows a team to track multiple social media streams, schedule posts, assign individuals to respond to particular tweets, etc. There are a lot of good posts that give newbies some good rules for the road. I feel blessed to have been mentored in this by the Rev.Naomi King (@revnaomi), who is a substantial presence in the Twitterverse, the blogosphere, and Facebook.

How can churches effectively use social media?

There’s only one way to effectively use social media. To broadcast your congregation’s mission, vision, and values. Sure you can use Twitter to tell folks what room the Social Justice Committee is meeting in tonight, but that’s just augmenting 19th and 20th century technology. Unless the congregation has something really significant to offer the community it’s in, you can blog three times a week, post on Facebook once a day, and send out tweets from morning till night, and it will all be, to quote Saint Paul, “as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” However, if your mission, vision, and values are clear, then why the heck would you want to miss the opportunity to tell folks who you are, what you believe, and what you’re doing. Social media may be the most effective way the church has ever had to get its message out.


So, dear readers - what is the message you're trying to get out in your churches? What is your mission, vision, and values, and how are you using social media to share them? What innovative, creative things are you doing? What challenges have you faced? What resources do you recommend? What insights do you want to add to this conversation? Jump in, leave a comment!

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