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Day 2: Tweet time. Must I?

Today is my Twitter day. I'll be honest...Twitter scares the socks off me. I sent my first twitter message 2 years ago. It was something like "hey, how do you use this thing?"  No one answered. That was my last tweet. Oh, I've gone back a few times.  One time a figured out how to follow people, so I signed up to follow about 40 tweeters. Kind of a mistake.  I was overwhelmed with messages from strangers--most of which I couldn't understand. That's the other problem--no one uses complete sentences.  I see symbols like # and @ and links that ... into nowhere.  And how can people say anything of value in 140 characters--other than "I just had a cup of coffee #help @blahblahblah http://linktonowhere...."

So why worry about Twitter? Why clutter my day? Why learn to speak Twitter instead of Italian (which is a lot sexier)? Unfortunately for me, Twitter is a new way of communicating that probably isn't going away. According to the Huffington Post, Twitter now has 105,779,710 registered users and new users are signing up at the rate of 300,000 per day. But just because everyone else is sharing about the coffee they just drank or the lame thought they just had, doesn't mean I should.  According to Social Media Today, however, "It’s not just about what you are doing and what others are doing. It’s about the world around you and it’s about the community you create within Twitter." That has clear implications for ministry. This is the kind of social media that happens in real-time and in real space.  When people experience an emotion, have a question, need a friend, seek a deeper connection, they probably aren't going to wait around until Sunday morning. They go to the friends they keep in their pocket.  And the thing is, those pocket friends can minister in new and creative ways.  For instance Rick Warren has over 432,000 followers and Joyce Meyer has over 435,000. Somehow, their messages of hope are infiltrating the lives of almost half a million people--one tweet at a time. Well, I don't have that kind of following, but why can't I send a little hope out there too?  I'm not sure what it will take to build a community on Twitter, or what that even looks like, but I guess it is time to figure it out.

So into Twitter I go. First step--what do I say? I think about what I am doing that I can share with the world. I just ate breakfast. No. No one cares. It is cold outside. No. No one cares. The dog just woke up. No.... This is harder than I thought.  I know, I will start with a quote from Pope Benedict XVI.  It is hard to really bomb if I quote the pope. It took me another 20 minutes to get the post whittled down to 140 characters. I hit the "Tweet" button and off it goes.  It wasn't the best thing I've ever done, but I tweeted. Yes, I have overcome my first tweet fear. Twitter, this is your warning...I will conquer you!!!



30-Day Social Media Challenge: A one month journal of learning to love (or at least not hate) a confusing, abnormal, humiliating, & really frustrating way of communicating

Social media has become a thorn in my flesh, a burr in my saddle, an "F" in my report card of life. I study its effects, I teach about it, I write about it, some people think I am an "expert" in it.  But I have a dirty little secret.  I hate it. What few people know is that I only have 4 names in my cell phone, it takes me hours to come up with a good Facebook status update, and Twitter is just too scary to figure out how to use.

So what is the problem?  After all, life is more than updates, tweets, and pokes. In fact, I wrote a whole book about that topic.  Well, here is where the dissonance comes in.  My colleague and I are examining how churches and pastors can use social media effectively.  In that process, I have run into a number of writers who preach the gospel of social media. For instance, Aaron Marshall, in a presentation entitled "The New Gutenburg" makes a compelling argument that, if we want to be reaching others for Christ, we need to go to where those people are at--whether it is in the ghettos of Los Angeles or the tweets of a co-worker.  Matthew Lee Anderson, in a Christianity Today article, says "When done well, social networking can enhance the fellowship of the church by providing congregants a window into each other's lives. It can mobilize congregants to serve their neighbors and enhance the church's mission by embedding the community of church relationships in the broader community." Even Pope Benedict XVI has articulated the benefits of technological engagement by saying that new media can "facilitate forms of collaboration and greater communion in ways that were unthinkable in the past.”

Yes, I truly believe that social media is good and necessary.  Yet, as I put together a study, articles and presentations that tell pastors exactly how use these new tools, this small voice inside keeps whispering my failings.  I can't tell you how many passionate, frustrated pastors have confided in me that they want to use these tools, they really do, but they just can't figure them out; they don't have the time and, in truth, they find this way of communicating unnatural and uncomfortable. I usually give them some "blah, blah, blah" thing about balance, taking small steps, choose what works for them, but, on the inside, I think "yeah, man! You are SOOO right!"

Well, the time has come. The time has come for me to step out of my confessional, to acknowledge I don't know what I'm doing when it comes to most of these complicated new media tools, to acknowledge I don't even like this way of communicating and to suck it up.  I am going to figure this out.

I invite you to join me on this journey to social media competence.  For 30 days, I have committed to tweeting, posting, blogging, commenting, and everything else I tell people they should do.  Some of it will not be pretty, but if this is what effective ministry looks like for the next generation, then it's time to figure it out.