Recently on a whim I, along with a few other members of our church, decided to explore the usefulness of live tweeting during sermons. I had recently participated in general denominational conference where live tweeting was encouraged. There were some really dynamic conversations occurring online while not actually interrupting the message being delivered. Real-time honest discussion and feedback of the information being delivered was likely the biggest gift I was able to take away from the conference.
Naysayers will complain that we were not really paying attention if all we did was tweet back and forth, but live tweeting is no different from bringing a pad and pen and taking notes or whispering to your neighbor (who hasn’t been guilty of that). You are just participating in a collective online note taking effort.
Our implementation was a little different from what occurs on a larger scale. We are a rural Church with what is considered small to medium range attendance.
Five minutes before we started the service I posted on our Church Facebook Group that we would experiment with live tweeting during the service and posted the hash tag to use.
Things we learned from the first week of tweeting:
- Do not start on a whim. Make sure your approach is methodical and well planned. There was a little confusion for those who were new to twitter on how to utilize hash tags. Educate, educate, educate.
- Make sure you have pastoral approval before launching. Our pastor is a very forgiving individual and was able to overlook my presumptuous nature and see the potential for the opportunity. Most pastors will not respond this way. If you are going to be broadcasting his message into the ethos in real-time, make sure he knows it first.
- Select your hash tag wisely. Because of the hasty nature in which I started this project we utilized a hash tag the first week that had a lot of noise in it. The noise being other people who were using the same abbreviation for purposes that had nothing to do with our Church or its message. If we are going to be a vital live tweeting Church we must make sure when our hash tag is searched we will be virtually the only results.
- Make friends with the world. If you twitter account is a who’s who among the Christian world, your message simply preaching to the choir. Not to say they don’t appreciate the message, but wouldn’t the impact be greater if we were able to reach the un-Churched and unsaved?
Things we learned from the second week of tweeting:
- Discover the purpose of your live tweeting. Make sure the motivation is not because we want to be cool or cutting edge. Make sure it has a purpose. We utilize it like a collective, corporate notebook. It allows our congregation to take notes, and share notes with other congregation members. We are able to see how a particular message impacted a person sitting on the other side of the room and react to it without ever speaking a word.
- Educate the congregation as to what live tweeting is. We have already had some parents look at their twenty something children and tell them to quit text messaging during the service. After much assurance as to what they were really doing, the parents are now interested in joining the conversation.
- Make sure the conversation is dynamic and leads back to the original message. We already post all of our sermons online and have recently started using a podcasting service to make the sermons available to ITunes users. So now the goal is to post a link on our twitter account to the message and refer all live tweets from a certain date back to the actual message preached.
- Educate tweeters on what is useful and productive online. Every person has a voice and opinion. We aren’t here to censor anyone’s thoughts but we also need to make sure we aren’t just tweeting the scriptures only or tweeting the same things. Lesson’s on twitter etiquette will likely lead to a more productive environment
- Make sure the target is tweetable and present online. Without an online presence for your Church all of this internet chatter will likely lead to nothing more than a talk box. Intertwine the different forms of social media and online presence to create a real digital ministry.
Things we learned from week three:
- Live tweeting must not be an afterthought. While our original intention was great we are starting to see all of those participators dwindle. A real dynamic conversation should always be the focus, not just something cool our Church is doing.
- Be prepared for questions. I have received a small amount of commentary from people outside our Church that happen to see my tweets. I know this is the purpose, but if I am going to be the one putting the message out there I need to be prepared to answer any and all questions regarding what I am saying. While I may be restating or rephrasing something my pastor says, we have to realize that a person reading my tweet assumes it’s my voice. If I don’t agree with what I wrote then I probably shouldn’t have written it.
- Announce, announce, announce. Make sure that you take the time to remind people about it, the day before, the morning of and minutes before it begins. If you don’t remind people who this is happening how are they to participate?
- Thank your participants. We haven’t done this, but we should have. I’m going to make notes to remind myself of this most important task. If I don’t show them my appreciation for doing what they do, they are less likely to continue to participate. People like to be thanked, even when they are doing something they enjoy.
Our greater hope is to create a message that exists to the social media user that would likely never step foot inside a Church. We have already had positive feedback from un-Churched individuals that appreciate the ability to view in real-time the conversation that is happening in our Church. These are people who will likely never step foot inside our/any Church. We have had one continuous prayer to bring to us or take us to those who truly need the message.
Live tweeting is just another tool to accomplish this God-centered goal.
[Image via pam Morris]