One of the things that I find fascinating about futuring conversations is how much churches and pastors are resistant to the usage of social media tools in the life of their congregations. From evangelism strategies to mission support to organizational structures, it seems that when churches talk about social media – be it blogging, twitter or any variety of interactive technologies – our response seems to range from a shy hesitancy to downright vitriolic rejection.
While I intellectually understand where some of the strong resistance comes from, I do not understand people of wisdom who refuse to acknowledge even the possibilities that social media usage can provide. Maybe we not all that wise afterall?
So . . . with no other ranking guidelines than the little voice in my head, here are the top 10 reasons given to resist the usage of social media tools in the life of the church.
- . . . we'll leave people behind who don't use it.
- . . . there is no measurable result or return.
- . . . its output is untrustworthy.
- . . . we don't know how to do it;
- . . . our folks aren't using it;
- . . . it's all narcissistic;
- . . . it's a fad;
- . . . it's unproductive and not a good use of pastoral time;
- . . . we are uncomfortable with issues "transparency" and privacy;
- . . . it cannot replace face-to-face and personal relationships;
Rather than tackle each of these specifically, let me pose and offer three questions to help in the discourse. Please forgive some of the brashness of this, but I am not taking a middle road on this. While technology in itself will not save the church, if we do not embrace social media with integrity, thoughtfulness and vigor I believe we are turning our back on amazing opportunities to impact the world.
Who are we defending and protecting?
- I often hear about those we are leaving behind by using all this technology. And while I love and respect those who have paved the way, to tell you the truth, I think that at some level if let out future be driven by those we may "leave behind," we are basically saying that those within the church are more important that those outside. Those of us who have reaped the benefits of our church heritage to this point should be falling over ourselves in order to reach people of a new technological worldview. My gratitude for the church in my life should open me up to the possibilities no matter how much I may not understand it. And don't get me started on class issues. People of all economic classes are using it technology and social media. Lets just be real about who we are protecting and are allowing to continue to drive the normative reality of church culture: it is those who are comfortable with the way the church serves them now and leadership who simply want to continue the status quo in serving them.
What are we really risking and what is the reward?
- I have often been told that social media doesn't really reach anyone. Because our current modes of church communication is reaching so many now? Really? Also, if we feel like the only people worth reaching are those mentioned above, then by all means, keep doing it this way. I think it does come back again to the question of who we are catering to in the life of our church. No reward or results? To say that social media has no has impact on movements around the world through the sharing of information, that a great number of people only interact via online social media AND it simply has no impact is like plunging our collective heads into the sand. Not a good idea. I firmly believe the impact of social media can and does, when used well, provide growth of community both local and global. Those are results I can live with.
How do you handle other cultural and technological changes?
- As I have posted about before, Technology can kill your church . . . but it doesn't have to. For those who are so adamantly opposed to the idea, let me just ask you how you approach the use of any other technologies and mediums of communication? When your choir soloists gets a little narcissistic, how do you handle that? Do you remember when folks fought the use of phones for pastoral care check-ins? What about changing hymnals in worship? Heck the fights about shifting from a mimeograph to copier and typewriter to computer must still be in your memories. The list goes on and on, how we as the church have handled transitions with balance and thoughtfulness. Why not now? All of these new technologies can be used to build up or tear down and we will all have different comfort levels, but outright rejection should not be our starting point. Period.
Okay, so there you have it, just a few observations and rants on the use of social media and church life. I hope it was helpful, please add, respond, push back, etc.