Peter Bowden and Rev. Naomi King are each giving one of the Minns Lectures tomorrow (March 9) on the topic of social media. You can follow along via Twitter: #minnslecture. Naomi asked me for examples of how social media can be used for faithful ministry. Here is the list I gave her:
Community, Accountability, Interconnection
When I was on District Staff and youth ministry was in my purview I was on FaceBook one night and an adult from the Youth Con(ference) group sent me a private message. He was concerned that a youth in his friend network was showing signs of suicide. I jumped over to the youth’s page and made an immediate call to the youth’s minister who jumped in his car and drove over to the youth’s house. I looked up the youth’s parent’s contact information and called to explain the situation and let them know their minister was on the way to their home. The suicide averted. Family got the help they needed. That is perhaps the most overt example of our interconnected web saving lives.
I have other examples of depressed youth acting out on FB, the signs picked up by either trained peers (UU youth chaplains) or adults, and interventions taking place almost immediately.
I’ve witnessed religious leaders acting out on FB, sometimes clearly out of covenant, and people on FB reaching out, holding individuals accountable. I’ve picked up the phone on numerous occasions to call youth advisors, DREs, and ministers, “I’m reading some of your FB statuses and wondering if how you’re representing yourself is how you intend to…” And I’ve thankfully had others make that same phone call to me, allowing me the opportunity to get back on track. Now that’s some faithful ministry!
Virtual Learning Space
Social Media allows for virtual learning space in either real-time or your-time. I enjoy private learning space (closed FB groups) for my Congregational Life department at the UUA. It’s fantastic for witnessing each other’s work and sharing resources and asking for help. Being able to be on-line dynamically keeps our large group more tightly knit.
I coordinate four Innovative Learning Circles that meet via videoconference every month for an hour and a half. In-between we keep connected via closed FB groups. The FB group is a place where we can safely give feedback on projects we’re working on. Every-so-often I will put out notes asking what people would like us to pray for/on. They don’t hesitate to respond in very touching ways. I have definitely noticed that the group members show up for each other publicly on each other’s FB pages. With how isolating ministry can be, I definitely consider this kind of support to be faithful ministry!
The Church of the Larger Fellowship has a couple affinity FB groups that act as both learning circle and support group. I belong to one of their parent groups and it has been a sanity-saver.
Every morning I read through the morning FB statuses and receive them as “candles of joys and concerns.” I pray down the status. And at night I do the same thing. I also pray down the newspaper. But my prayer life really took off with FB. I feel spiritually full and awake. I don’t use Twitter as much, but when I’m on Twitter, I’ve got my prayer on. There are a couple explicit FB Prayer groups I’m on.
Power of Graphics and Cross-fertilizing
Have you seen the UU Media Collaborative Works? Their effectiveness in developing UU identity and pride has been mind-blowing! Their reach has been breath-taking. I have seen their graphics on FB, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and websites.
There were a couple UU graphics that I saw popping up on the pages of other faith traditions. And UU events shared on pages connected to other traditions. I find this deeply satisfying. I don’t have any data on this, but I just know that cousins-in-faith who pick up and repost our graphics will be more likely to reach out/ reach back and partner with us. And that can only make us all stronger.