Whoa.

I’ve been to a hatful of meetings, with both clergy, church folk, and social service professionals over the last month, where everyone else at the meeting willing to speak up about “social media” all said, as if they’d gotten the same script in the mail (that’d be “snail mail”), that “All this stuff like the Twitter, or Facebooker, or these (insert anguished tones and negative adjective) blogs are really contributing to the breakdown of community and culture. They get in the way of, and replace, real/true (your choice) human community.”

Further discussion reveals the obvious, which is that they don’t use these online tools, and only know what they’ve heard at the gym, the coffee shop, or in the NYTBR about social media. They often go on to say, in my unfair and tendentious paraphrase, “I learned how to use e-mail, for pity’s sake, and i’m trying to update the church/agency website at least four times a year, so i’m not techno-phobic or anything, but this new stuff is just too confusing.”

At a congregational board meeting where a fairly healthy, vital, mission-minded group of leaders were talking about newer, younger families and how to connect them, ideas were broached like a euchre night (in the words of the theologian Dave Barry, “I am not making this up”), or more potlucks.

Another council member (yes, the youth minister) and i, at a pause in the worried conversation, pointed out to the group that there were 51 members of a Facebook group of younger, newer families, specifically identified as “Fans of [Church Name Here]” where they were already planning activities and studies for Lent amongst themselves, so we should jump in gently and help that approach along.

Someone asked, fair enough, “What’s Facebook?” The youth minister and i tried to explain, to which a senior staff member who will remain nameless said “Oh, like that Twitter thing – what a strange sounding name! And what do they call messages on that?”

“Tweets,” i said, smiling grimly, as the expected laughter rolled around the table, and then the discussion went back to when a potluck might be held where young families would be invited to come share recipes with each other (see entry, Dave Barry).

The youth pastor quietly slid his laptop over in front of me at our end of the table — the Facebook group had just silently clicked up to 52 members. The potluck was scheduled for the weekend after Easter, “so there will be time to get it in the newsletter.”

Jeff Gill is a supply preacher, storyteller/freelance writer, and juvenile court mediator in central Ohio. His blog is at http://knapsack.blogspot.com, and his Twitter feed is at http://twitter.com/Knapsack.

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