So this past week, I did the most important thing that a young, hip, newly-ordained pastor should do. I got my church on Twitter! You’ve all done that, right? Well, if not, stop reading this post right now. No, I mean RIGHT now. And go to twitter.com and get signed up. It’s important.
After that, be sure to follow @1stPresAshland below to keep updated on our tweets (if you’re interested):
But, most of you are probably asking the question: should my church or religious organization be on Twitter? Well, the short answer is: Yes! I think so. The longer answer is: Yes! But it might not be for the reasons you think.
I signed our small church up for Twitter after a conversation with the folks who work on our church website. I mentioned that I was thinking about doing it, and they encouraged me to get it going. But what I did mention to them, is that I doubt anyone in our church uses Twitter. I also reminded them that just because our church was on Twitter, it didn’t mean that we’d suddenly get a large influx of youth and young adults to our church.
So, why do I think it’s so important to sign your church up for Twitter?
Because it will help you listen to your community (most likely, the larger community that your church is a part of) and it will help you get your message out to the community. And much of that has to do with your ability to play with and tweak Twitter’s search function. Twitter’s search is an amazing opportunity to get into your community, from your office, and hear what folks are talking about.
Let me give you an example. I did a search for all tweets that mentioned the word “church” in Ashland, including a radius of 15 miles around Ashland. On their Advanced Search page, you can setup searches like that. Or, you can just copy and paste this into the search bar, and change the city and state to your context:
church near:”Ashland, Oregon” within:15mi
That then pulled up a lot of random tweets, some that were relevant, others not. But what it did was allow me to find tweets like this by folks in Ashland, and a few just outside of our small town:
What an amazing opportunity to hear what folks in your community are saying about “church” and “churches” (and whatever else you want to search for). And then, what that allows for the possibility of, is conversation with people in your community who you would most likely probably not run into. I responded to the young man’s tweet about the Westboro Baptist Church with the following tweet:
And I was able to respond to the tweet about the Kentucky church that banned mixed-race couples from attending church.
And then he responded with an affirmation of both the greater Ashland community and of our church!
I don’t know this person, but it’s likely that this is the first time they’ve had a conversation with a pastor from the First Presbyterian Church of Ashland. It didn’t take much time on my part, but it’s probably an interaction that he’ll remember, and I can imagine him telling friends about this article, and then saying something like, “And you know what? Some random church from my town commented on it, and they let me know that they were a very welcome and affirming church – cool use of technology!” Well, maybe he wasn’t that impressed with the connection, but it was a connection I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise.
So, should your church get on Twitter to get young adults to come to your church? Probably not. Should your religious organization be on Twitter because it’s the new, hip, thing to do? Nope. But should you take just a few minutes to sign up so that you can keep an ear to the ground of your community? So that you can join in conversations that people are having out there on Twitter’s interwebs? Yup. At least, I think so.
How about you? What helpful and meaningful ways has your church or religious organization used Twitter?