I am very excited that, as I move towards a half-time position at MBCC, a few projects are beginning to take shape.  One of those projects is my hope to do a little teaching around the convergence of Church Life and Social Media.  It will most likely be some kind of continuing education program for pastors as well as current seminary students.  Details are still being worked out including dates, locations and exact structure, but I am hopeful.  I am starting to put together the first draft of the class and thought I would get a little feedback before I wandered too far down the path.

Why this class, why now?

It is clear that the use of social media has impacted our culture in ways that we could never have imagined just a short time ago.  Only a few years ago it seems as if we were just getting used to being able to find information on the internet at the click of a mouse and now the entire concept of "community" is changing because of the widespread use of such social media platforms as Facebook, Twitter and Yelp.

And while many of us would like to keep the church isolated from these changes in culture and technology, many others are seeking a way for the church to use this new media in ways that build up the body of Christ and the support the ministry of the church.

  • What does pastoral care, social justice, administration, worship planning and evangelism look like via social media?
  • How do I even get started, there are just so many things out there?
  • What about managing my time and how do I use this well?

It is our hope that [YOUR IDEA FOR THE NAME OF THE CLASS*] will offer an opportunity to explore this compelling place where our call to be the church in the world and the possibilities that social media provides us to be that church converge.  In this brief time we will touch upon these technical and social changes in both theory and practice in order to provide a knowledge base and create a level of comfort so that participants will be able to appropriately integrate healthy social media practices into their local contexts. 

  A few of the details at this point:

  • When – Fall 2010
  • What – A two-day continuing education event, roughly 12 hours of class time.
  • Where – Some seminary somewhere . . . can you feel the suspense building 😉
  • Who – For church leaders – pastors, seminaries, layfolk – who see the need for a deeper understanding of and best practices for the use of social media technologies in the church.

Class objective are to:

  • achieve a basic understanding of the technical and cultural foundations of social media;
  • learn basic skills on such social media platforms as: Twitter, Facebook, Blogger;
  • be able to articulate theological underpinnings in order to faithfully social media into your ministry context;

We will do this by focusing on four areas:

  • Foundations – Why does social media as we know it exist today: history, technology, etc.?
     We will look at the meaning behind such terms as Web 2.0, Open Source as well as the changing nature of community and communication.
  • Implementation – What are the most common social media platforms and how to you use them?
    We will take a practical look at a few of the major social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook and Blogging.  We will also touch upon other platforms such as Youtube, Yelp, Flick, etc.
  • Integration – What does this look like in my context?
    We will explore the level at which some of these foundations exist in your current context and how that may determine the ways in which you integrate the use of social media.
  • Reflection – What are the bigger questions around social media and church life?
    This is where we will tackle some of the practical questions of usage in the life of the church such as, "How do we interact with youth?" "How can social media best be used during worship and other church gatherings?" and "How do you use social media to support pastoral care needs?"

Each class will include:

  • Lecture: Some material will be presented in lecture form in order to give some foundational information for discussion and exploration. 
  • Praxis: You will receive basic tips and skills to begin using designated social media platforms;
  • Interaction: Through class discussion and some social media interaction with those inside and outside of the classroom, you will experience social media in real time.
  • Homework: As appropriate there will be some outside the classroom: twittering evening activities, exploring particular areas of interest, etc.
  • Parking lot: Understanding that there is no way that everything that can be covered, can be covered, we will "park" topics and issues for future voluntary interaction.

Expectations/Prerequisites:

  • Equipment: Each person must have a laptop that is wifi enabled. Web enabled handheld devices are also appropriate, but not preferred.  Two people may also share one laptop, but this will significantly lessen the amount of hands-on time.
  • Aptitude: Each person must have basic computer skills in order to take this class: how to open and close programs, navigate websites and use basic typing skills.
  • Online Identity: Each student must have the following for use on social media platforms: email address, password and basic 2-3 sentence bio.
  • Accounts: It is not necessary to have social media accounts but, if you do, please be able to log into your accounts: Twitter, Facebook and one or two other services.

Required Article Reading: 

  • reading on critiques and negative aspects of social media
  • reading on the power and influence of social media in the world
  • reading on the use of social media in the life of the church
  • other . . .

Optional/Suggested Reading:

  • book on sociological and cultural changes
  • book on technology, open source and web 2.0
  • book on practical use of social media technologies
  • other . . .

FEEDBACK: So what do you think? 

  • What about this would interest you?
  • What is missing or needs clarification?
  • What topics/questions HAVE to be talked about?
  • What do you think would be fair pre-requisites?
  • How much would you REALLY be willing to read?
  • Good title?

* NAME THE CLASS CONTEST - Have a good name for the class as described below? If you do, leave it here and If chosen, you'll receive a free copy of Charlne Li's book, Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You LeadDEADLINE: June 13, 2010.

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