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.