Photo: StarMama (Creative Commons license)

Photo: StarMama (Creative Commons license)

I’m not known for being an optimist. In person, I can be a little sarcastic, ironic, and cynical — and the people who know me also know that’s part of who I am. They “get” me — at least I hope they do.

But in the realm of social media, I’m discovering, sarcasm sometimes doesn’t play as well. No one can see the arched eyebrow,or the quizzical look, or hear the inflection of irony in your voice. There’s no context – just your comment standing out there, all by its lonesome. Sometimes, it still works, but sometimes, it doesn’t.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to suddenly craft a whole new persona for Facebook and Twitter — one where your updates are nothing but “Chicken Soup” platitudes. As I wrote a couple of months ago, it’s important to be yourself on social media. But being yourself doesn’t mean typing the first remark or response that comes to mind.

One good bit of advice that I’ve seen floating around is to balance the negative or critical with at least 10 times more positive remarks, tweets, and updates. Social media can build up, support, encourage — but it can easily tear down, crush, and undermine. I don’t have any ready-made criteria for deciding to post something or not (if you do, please share it). Just stop, think — and if you change your mind, you can delete it.

Sometimes, just like in the ‘real world,’ an apology is in order too.

What do you think? How can we make social media a positive space? When is critique, irony, or negativity okay?

———-

rbw square Rebecca Bowman Woods is news and website editor of DisciplesWorld.
You can follow her on Twitter.

fbchurchAs many of you may know, I had the great privilege of presenting at the Church 2.0 resource group at the 2009 General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  It was a great time, and I hope those that were able to attend got something out of it.  I do realize however, that there were some folks that attended who left a bit disappointed.  While I spent my time discussing how the changes happening in social media are changing the church, some people simply wanted to know how to use Facebook.  Unfortunately, in a setting like the General Assembly resource groups where everyone has a different experience level and different needs, those types of how-to discussions are nearly impossible to have.  On the other hand, the how-to’s of social media tools are certainly important.

Just yesterday, my wife brought home a back issue of The Christian Century which had a great article that begins to bridge the gap between our discussion at the General Assembly of how social media is changing church and how churches can use tools like Facebook.  In “The church on Facebook“, Lenora Rand does a great job at showing how, rather than being an advertising tool designed to draw new people into the church building, these social media tools are allowing churches to live their mission in new ways.  I won’t recap Rand’s article here, though I do suggest reading it.  What I will do is provide 3 simple ways (not techniques or strategies) for how churches might think about “being church” on social media tools like Facebook.

1. Evangelism

A church’s Facebook page can be a great evangelism tool.  Quite simply, everything that happens at the church should also be posted on the church’s Facebook page.  However, just like evangelism doesn’t end with the minister, Facebook evangelism doesn’t end with the church’s Facebook page.

fbshare2Every Facebook page, group, and event has a button that allows that information to be shared.  Those members of your church who are already using Facebook already have lots of friends that aren’t members of your church.  By simply getting church members to use that share button to share the events and happenings of the church with their friends, Facebook truly becomes social media.  As I discussed in the Chruch 2.0 resource group at General Assembly, it is the sharing that makes these websites social.  Having a Facebook page is good for a church.  Having a Facebook page where the church members share the information and content with their friends is evangelism.

2. Outreach

In any communication, listening is usually way more important than speaking.  I think the same thing can be said of church outreach.  If we as churches want to be relevant, we need to become better listeners.  Social media tools like Facebook can be great hearing aids for our churches.  When your church begins to use Facebook, concentrate more on what you as a church can learn about people, both inside of and outside of your church, than on how to attract people to come to your church.  Ask questions and listen to the answers.  As Rand’s article illustrates, find out who your church can be praying for.  You might be surprised how much more powerful it is to engage people in community rather than broadcast information AT them.

Of course, just like with evangelism, while this kind of outreach can be done through your church’s Facebook page, it is often best done through the members of your church who are already on Facebook.  A church with a Facebook page can be engaging.  A church whose members are actively engaging others is a church that is truly reaching out — whether on Facebook or not.

3. Worship

If you think that worship can only happen between 11:00 am and Noon in your church sanctuary, then Facebook and social media may not be roads your church is ready to go down.  However, if you are willing to get creative, social media tools like Facebook can provide great opportunities for your church to “be church” in radically new ways.

What if your church held an online Bible study by creating a Facebook group?  Church members could invite their friends to participate whenever it was convenient.  Some folks might not ever walk into a church building simply because they are invited, but they might just be willing to stop by a Facebook group when they have a minute and check out what their friend has been telling them about.

Consider providing short devotionals on your church’s Facebook page.  How cool would it be if different members of your church posted a short weekly or daily devotional to Facebook based on that upcoming Sunday’s lectionary text?

Be creative and try new things.  You never know what might be the thing that will provide a space for worship to someone inside or outside of your church.  After all, isn’t that what church is all about?

I completely understand the desire we all have to find a simple tool that will make the job of attracting people to our churches easier.  However, social media is not that tool….and that really shouldn’t be our goal.  The real work is not getting more bodies into our pews on Sunday morning.  The real work is connecting with God and God’s children in real and meaningful ways, and  that work of forming relationships with each other and with God is no different or easier than it has ever been.  Social media tools like Facebook don’t do the work for us, but they do give us new spaces in which to do our work.   They give us new spaces to “be church.”


will_squareWill Boyd is owner of 3 Story Church, a church web and social media firm that is focused on helping churches tell their stories. He has worked with Sojourners Magazine, the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, Goddard College, the Disciples Divinity House at Vanderbilt, and others. Will also recently finished a bachelor of arts degree from Goddard College that focused on the role of new media and social technologies in the world of sustainable marketing. Will lives in Seattle with his wife, a Disciples pastor.

Last week, I spoke very briefly about the Church 2.0 resource group that I will be a part of at General Assembly.  And, I promised that this week I would have more information for you on what to expect in that group.  Since, I don’t like to disappoint, I thought I would hit the highlights of what my presentation is going to be about in a few short paragraphs.  So, here goes.
Church 2.0(-) 4.0 — The End of Church As We Know It
Throughout the church, there is a wide variety of experience, comfort level, acceptance of, and use of social media.  Some of us dove head first into the unknown waters years ago, some are just now getting their feet wet, and some won’t go anywhere near the pool.  While our levels of use and knowledge may differ greatly, what seems to be unifying theme about social media and the church is the desire to understand, not only how to use these tools, but why these tools are important.  In the Church 2.0 resource group, I want to explore more than just how your church might use Facebook or Twitter.  Instead, I want to look at how these new technologies are changing the church in hopes that our understanding will help us to use the tools more effectively.
What is “2.0”
The “2.0” label is something that is thrown around a lot lately.  It has come to mean, for some, anything that is new.  However, at its core, it means the second generation of something.  In terms of the internet, Web 1.0 was the first generation of the internet while Web 2.0 is the second generation.  Where as Web 1.0 was characterized by static, stand-alone websites that provided one way information, Web 2.0 is characterized by user-generated content, real-time discussion and sharing, and other social features.  Social Media is at the heart of Web 2.0.
Why “Church 3.0”?
So how does this social media stuff relate to church?  On the surface, it is obvious that these new social tools such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc., provide churches with new opportunities to reach people.  However, under the surface, at the core of what is happening, the church is actually <strong>being changed</strong> by these technologies.
To understand what is going on and where we are, historically, in relation to this change, we need to look at the way that technology has changed the church in the past.  If we adopt the 1.0 and 2.0 naming convention when we talk about church and technology, we would most certainly have to call the pre-Reformation church “Church 1.0.”  Without getting too bogged down in church history, this period was a lot like the early internet.  While people had been sharing information before the internet, Web 1.0 gave them an efficient structure through which to receive information.  Didn’t the pre-Reformation church do a similar thing?  The church didn’t invent Christianity.  What Church 1.0 did was provide an efficient structure for people to receive their religion.  This all changed with a little technological innovation called the printing press.
The printing press ushered in what normally we would refer to as the Reformation but, for the sake of this discussion, should call “Church 2.0.”

Last week, I spoke very briefly about the Church 2.0 resource group that I will be a part of at General Assembly.  And, I promised that this week I would have more information for you on what to expect in that group.  Since, I don’t like to disappoint, I thought I would hit the highlights of what my presentation is going to be about in a few short paragraphs.  So, here goes.

Church 2.0 3.0 4.0 — The End of Church As We Know It

Throughout the church, there is a wide variety of experience, comfort level, acceptance of, and use of social media.  Some of us dove head first into the unknown waters years ago, some are just now getting their feet wet, and some won’t go anywhere near the pool.  While our levels of use and knowledge may differ greatly, what seems to be a unifying theme about social media and the church is the desire to understand, not only how to use these tools, but why these tools are important.  In the Church 2.0 resource group, I want to explore more than just how your church might use Facebook or Twitter.  Instead, I want to look at how these new technologies are changing the church in hopes that our understanding will help us to use the tools more effectively.

What is “2.0”

The “2.0” label is something that is thrown around a lot lately.  It has come to mean, for some, anything that is new.  However, at its core, it means the second generation of something.  In terms of the internet, Web 1.0 was the first generation of the internet while Web 2.0 is the second generation.  Where as Web 1.0 was characterized by static, stand-alone websites that provided one way information, Web 2.0 is characterized by user-generated content, real-time discussion and sharing, and other social features.  Social Media is at the heart of Web 2.0.  When you think of blogs, social networks, podcasts, etc., you are thinking of Web 2.0.  Web 2.0, quite simply put, describes the technological shift away from institutional control over the channels of communication toward the democratization of those channels.

Why “Church 4.0”?

So how does this social media stuff relate to church?  On the surface, it is obvious that these new social tools such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc., provide churches with new opportunities to reach people.  However, under the surface, at the core of what is happening, the church is actually being changed by these technologies.

To understand what is going on and where we are, historically, in relation to this change, we need to look at the way that technology has changed the church in the past.  If we adopt the 1.0 and 2.0 naming convention when we talk about church and technology, we would most certainly have to call the pre-Reformation church “Church 1.0.”  Without getting too bogged down in church history, this period was a lot like the early internet.  While people had been sharing information before the internet, Web 1.0 gave them an efficient structure through which to receive information.  Didn’t the pre-Reformation church do a similar thing?  The church didn’t invent Christianity.  What Church 1.0 did was provide an efficient structure for people to receive their religion.  This all changed with a little technological innovation called the printing press.

printing_pressThe printing press ushered in what normally we would refer to as the Reformation but, for the sake of this discussion, should call “Church 2.0.”   This second generation of church gave people  a more direct way of participating in their own faith.  Through this technological advance, anyone who could learn to read could own and read the Bible for themselves.  While, certainly, the Bible had already been in church, the increased access to the Bible that the printing press offered fundamentally changed how people interacted with and what they expected from church.  To put it in perspective, the invention of the printing press was to the church as  the advent of blogs was to the internet.

es_in_elwood_1_eThe printing press wasn’t the only technological invention that fundamentally changed the church as we know it.  While the shift from Church 1.0 to Church 2.0 changed the way people engaged their faith, the invention that brought about Church 3.0 gave the people a tool that, for better or worse, gave them the power to “selectively congregate.”  That invention was the automobile.  As car culture rose to dominance in America and everyone moved to the suburbs, suddenly, church goers were no longer tied down geographically to a church.  If the neighborhood church wasn’t suitable to them, they could then load up the family and drive 15 or 20 miles to a church that was more to their liking.  It’s not hard to understand how this changed church.  Suddenly, churches found themselves competing for members with other churches that weren’t even in their town much less their neighborhood.  This new car culture church also meant the introduction of concepts like “church shopping” to the faith life.  While many have decried the negative effects these changes have had, it is hard to argue that car culture put more power into the hands of the people when it came to church.  I guess we could say that the rise of car culture was to church as the rise of social networks was to the internet.  Both technologies allowed people to be more selective about with who and where they congregated.

So, Church 3.0…that’s where we are at, right?  Yes.  And no.  It is true that car culture still dominates our church.  For example, to my knowledge, there is only one or two families in my church that still live in the same neighborhood as the church.  Some of the members of my church drive as much as 25 miles every Sunday.   When it comes the the internet, you could make a similar case that Web 2.0 is still going strong, as well.  However, there are technological changes that are, right now, pulling Web 2.0 technologies into the world of Web 3.0.

I believe that this Web 3.0 will be fundamental in bringing about Church 4.0.  It is hard to argue that Web 2.0 has already had an effect on church.  More and more, churches are creating Facebook pages and encouraging their members to “Tweet” about the services.  These things must be having an effect, otherwise, why else would you be reading this right now?  With the rise of GPS enabled smart-phones and location-based social web applications, Web 3.0 technology is finally beginning to shift back toward bringing people together.  The idea that the people on the internet are squirreled away alone in some dark room behind a computer screen all day and night is becoming farther and farther from the truth.  We are among you.  More and more, we are you.

When I think about how these technologies that are already being used to deepen people’s engagement with their faith — things like social networks, Facebook groups, and Twitter — will combine with location-based information, I can’t help but think that this will shift the church from Church 3.0 to Church 4.0.  So,what, exactly, will Church 4.0 look like?  I don’t know.  I think it will, like the social media that is driving it, be less about structure and programming and more about user-generated content.  I also think it will have a greater emphasis on geography and community rather than statements of faith and style.

What do you think?  Will Church 4.0 have the same effect on the institutional church as Web 2.0 has had on the newspaper industry?  Will churches be able to give up control and allow themselves to be reshaped by these truly social technologies?

If you are at the General Assembly, please come to the Church 2.0 resource group.  There we will be able to dialogue about what changes the church is facing in the present and the future.  We will also discuss how these changes might inform a church that is looking to get more involved with social media.  We will also have a bit of fun as well.

will_squareWill Boyd is owner of  3 Story Church, a church web and social media firm that is focused on helping churches tell their stories.    He has worked with Sojourners Magazine, the Disciples of Christ Historical SocietyGoddard College, the Disciples Divinity House at Vanderbilt, and others. Will also recently  finished a bachelor of arts degree from Goddard College that focused on the role of new media and social technologies in the world of sustainable marketing. Will lives in Seattle with his wife, a Disciples pastor.


Audrey Borschel, Disciples of Christ pastor and author

Audrey Borschel, Disciples of Christ pastor and author

Audrey Borschel is an ordained Disciples of Christ minister, and the author of Preaching Prophetically When the News Disturbs: Interpreting the Media (Chalice Press, 2009) During the upcoming General Assembly, she’ll lead a resource group on Saturday, August 1 from 3:45 to 5:15 p.m.

Rebecca Woods, DisciplesWorld news and website editor, spoke with Audrey in late May.

RW: So what will you be talking about during the resource group?

AB: The focus will be on media literacy — helping people to understand how the news is produced, how stories are framed, how biases creep in inadvertently, and what gets left out. We need some tools to understand this, and to get a bigger picture.

Here’s a good example — I agreed to be a community blogger for the Indianapolis Star. I’d been doing this for a couple of months, and I noticed one story they ran about recycling. It said that three percent of our stuff in Indianapolis gets recycled, while in other places, it’s 30 percent. They quoted Mother Jones [magazine] and called it a ‘progressive liberal’ magazine. So I went to the source, and I found out they [the Star] were quoting a waste management newsletter that Mother Jones had quoted in full.

RW: So there was a difference between the information the newspaper presented, and how Mother Jones presented it?

AB: Yes. We almost have to be investigative journalists….And then it gets into the definition of ‘political’ — a term that’s misused so much.

Everything is political, if you think about it. The case for Jesus’ ministry was overtly political. He wanted to evoke change among the people and he wanted people to continue that change. In our society — a democratic society — it’s all about this.

RW: Do you find that people in congregations want to hear about things that are perceived as ‘political,’ or do they want to avoid the subject?

AB: As far as people coming to church and what they expect, I’ve heard it both ways. In one congregation I was accused of being too political. I realized that I needed to do more educating. In other places, I’ve found that people really thirst for connecting the world and their faith. They wonder where the nexus is between the faith and culture.

As far as awakening a congregation to social justice issues — it’s not so difficult if people understand that social justice is all over the gospel.

RW: Your book is about preaching. What do you see in today’s preaching that causes you to be concerned?

Complacency and fear. Those are two instances when preachers don’t attend to the task of bringing the scriptures to life, and engaging the people actively — helping them think about the scriptures and the relationship to their way of living.

And a lot of preachers will stay away from the big news stories, even though they intersect really well with the scriptures. On the other hand there are people who are fearless, and if they see that something needs to be said, they’ll go ahead and say it.

RW: Are some clergy worried about the legalities of preaching on social justice issues?

AB: There’s probably some confusion — about the IRS, about the First Amendment — I cover this in a section of the book. Once people know that clergy are free to speak on many subjects and once people know what they can’t do — that should help some of the pastors who would like to preach on justice issues.

RW: Do Disciples have any particular challenges?

AB: One of the challenges, among Disciples, is in identifying the audience. Even though we purport to be pretty progressive, there are many congregations that haven’t had the exposure to a lot of the conversations that others of us have had. Because of that, they don’t have the background to understand some of the material that a preacher who might be an activist would try to convey.

Take Jeremiah Wright. That was obviously an example where a little sound bite caused terrible commotion and harm. My advice is to hear the entire story, and if it’s visual, then hear and watch the entire thing and understand the context. It’s all about context. When I saw [Wright’s] preaching, I could understand [his comments] because I understand the context of black preaching and theology.

The same for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. From the get go, I knew people would cherry pick her ‘wise Latina’ comment about making decisions at the appellate level. But we need to be able to look for context.

RW: Do you think most journalists would prefer a media literate audience? Are there some who perpetuate media illiteracy?

AB: I’m not sure that journalists don’t want people to be media literate. I might question some of the radio personalities or blog commentators who are so biased that they want their point of view to be the dominant one.

But in my book, there’s a chapter about op-ed writers. There is a lot we can learn from op-ed writers when we compose our preaching. The way that some of the commentators use images and structure, cinema, all kinds of things — it’s great. And they want to be understood.

I haven’t really become cynical through this process of learning and teaching media literacy, but I do tend to look at some news stories and wonder, what are the facts, what’s missing, and why are they framing it in this particular way?

RW: What about blogs?

AB: As a blogger, I’m well aware that bloggers are criticized for being inaccurate. Some of them do misuse information. For example, using e-mails as source of information can be misleading.

RW: How did you become interested in media literacy?

AB: When I was doctoral student at the Aquinas Institute of Theology, somehow I had this idea about the intersection between preaching and ‘disturbing’ news, and about doing theological reflection on the news. An advisor hooked me up with someone who had done a lot of work with the news. The framework for my doctoral thesis was media literacy for preachers.

RW: What will people learn by coming to your resource group during General Assembly?

AB: I’ll be trying to lay the groundwork for why [media literacy] is important. I will be giving some of the tools for media literacy — how to identify pieces of stories, for example. We’ll discuss the different types of news media, so that people see that there’s a variety of print and electronic sources, not only newspapers. I want to make people aware of how they get the news, and how the new sources of news can be intimidating, and sometimes misleading.

They’ll also gain insights that will be helpful not only for preaching but for pastoral care. When we do preaching, we are doing mass pastoral care from the pulpit. If there’s a crisis for the community, preaching on it can be a way to help people understand the relationship between their faith and the events that happen around them. There are great pastoral implications for it.

——

Audrey Borschel’s book, Preaching Prophetically When the News Disturbs, is available through Chalice Press. She will be doing a book signing right after the August 1 Resource Group. Audrey is also a member of The Intersection.

Jason Byassee

Jason Byassee

Jason Byassee is a former assistant editor with Christian Century and currently executive director of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School. He writes for and edits Duke’s Faith and Leadership online journal and its “Call and Response” blog. He earned his master of divinity and doctorate degrees from Duke.

At the Disciples’ upcoming General Assembly in Indianapolis, Jason will share his advice on writing theologically for a broad audience during a resource group on Theology and Writing, on Friday, July 31 from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m.

Rebecca Woods, DisciplesWorld news and website editor, spoke with Jason Byassee in June.

RW: So you’re leading a General Assembly resource group on theology and writing. What will you cover?

JB: I’ll encourage pastors and others to think about themselves as writers. It’s not hard [at least for pastors] because every pastor is already writing sermons. But I want to encourage them to think about having a more expansive audience.

Many pastors write for their church newsletters. I suggest that they do this with as much care as they take with their sermons; and from there, to consider writing for a broader audience — religious publications and secular settings.

This has been made easier because of the Internet, but it’s harder than ever to make any money at it. So…there’s not necessarily a reward for this type of writing. It has to be seen as part of a pastoral lifestyle.

The question isn’t whether a pastor is going to be a writer…it’s the kind of care that they’re going to take in writing. And not only every pastor, but every Christian. Writing is a way of transforming feeling into thought.

RW: How does this type of writing fit into the pastor’s role?

JB: I’m convinced that this kind of broader writing changes the way a congregation views its pastor. I remember when my own pastor started publishing. Suddenly he had a new authority — I listened to him with a different set of ears.

Some may think, if you do that kind of broader writing, it takes away from the local parish. It may do that in the short run, but in the long run, it changes the way people listen.

RW: What sources from the Christian tradition do you draw on to make your case for pastor-as-writer?

JB: I really love some of the sources from the ancient church, about learning how to discern Christ in surprising places, and learning how to pay attention to Jesus in strange forms. I draw on a number of ancient and modern sources — from Simone Weil and Annie Dillard, to Augustine and the Desert Fathers.

RW: So what are some of the obstacles to writing that pastors face?

JB: There’s something every writer has to get over — the discipline of clearing space to write regularly. Because as important as it is, it isn’t urgent. Nobody is saying “You have to get this to me by Thursday.” So you have to clear space for it, even though nobody can see what you‘re doing. Later they may see the value, but maybe not right away.

And then there’s the mystification of the publishing process. I want them to know that people on ‘that side of the curtain’ are always looking for newer and better writers. And pastors are involved in things we editors can’t see. They’re involved in day-to-day things that we want to honor.

The tasks that go along with being a pastor contribute to being a writer. For example, noticing is a kind of pastoral activity. Noticing is also a crucial writing activity. I’m fascinated by the overlap.

Also, being a writer is not just about publishing your sermons. Often sermons don’t translate well to print. There are ambiguities [in sermons]…it can be done, but it has to be done with real care.

RW: How did you become interested in helping pastors to develop as writers?

JB: I was doing doctoral work, and I was frustrated. I wasn’t sure if I dropped dead that anyone would notice. I couldn’t figure out how I was helping anyone.

Then I became a local pastor. I was pastoring a rural church in North Carolina with about 80 people in it. And I knew that whatever else I might do during the week, I had done something on Sunday that mattered.

So I had this desire to be in between academia and pastoral work. At the Christian Century, I could pay attention to what was going on in the academy, but I could also pay attention on behalf of pastors.

RW: How did you end up working at the Christian Century?

JB: I was at a conference and the editor of the Century told me he was having a hard time getting people to write about movies. So I started there, and then the job came up [as assistant editor] and they hired me. Even when I was writing for them from the parish, I would never have thought it would become a job. Yet, I worked for the Century from 2004 to 2008, and I’m still a contributing editor there.

RW: So why did you move on to what you’re doing now?

JB: What led me back to Duke? While at the Century, I was adjunct teaching. I was thinking about how the academy is good at saying, “Here’s something new that you weren’t already thinking about,”…and asking critical questions about it. I did a lot of thinking about the distance between the academy and the parish.

And at the Century, I reviewed other people’s stuff. In a sense, I passed grades on it. [Christian writer] Andy Crouch, in his book Culture Making, says Christians shouldn’t be just evaluating other people’s creative works, they should be creating their own.

So I’m back at Duke, and I get to teach the kind of writing that I do. Really, there’s not a big emphasis on this kind of writing in most places in theological education. And Duke is the place that taught me to care about this stuff… [professors and writers] Lauren Winner, David Steinmetz, and Greg Jones are now my colleagues.

I also have a minor administrative post called special assistant to the dean. In an informal role, I am advising students and faculty on how to publish more broadly.

And I’m editing this new website at the Divinity School. We call it a publication — Faith and Leadership magazine.

RW: What was the first thing you ever wrote that was published?

JB: It was a piece on Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose-Driven Life, published in the Christian Century back in 2003.

RW: What are you working on now?

JB: I have a book coming out next year. It’s about the theology of the small church, and Abingdon is the publisher. It’s partly theology, and partly rooted in the pastoral experiences I had in the small church. It’s tentatively called The Gift of the Small Church.

RW: Any advice for writers?

JB: You’ve got to read what you want to write. There’s a famous writing book — Reading Like a Writer. There’s a great deal of overlap between reading and the writing life.

RW: So what are you reading?

JB: I’ve spent some time lately with a book by Christine Pohl — Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition. And there’s a new book by David Hart, called Atheist Delusions. And Dana Robert’s Christian Mission: How Christianity Became a World Religion.

I’ve also been reading a novel called Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese, about a mission hospital in Ethiopia. It’s about a family’s life serving in this place.

RW: Do you have a favorite writer?

JB: Flannery O’Connor is probably my favorite author, from the 20th century. Augustine is the great one for all time.

Paul Elie’s The Life You Save May Be Your Own is another good one.

I like paying attention to people who are sort of writing not on their home field — theological writers who are writing in some other vein. For example, David Steinmetz writes editorials in places like USA Today.

I like Marilynne Robinson, her novels and essays. And Andy Crouch — I stop what I’m doing when I see his name.

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Church 2.0Whoa…General Assembly is just around the corner!  I know everyone is excited to see old friends and colleagues that they haven’t seen in some time.  And, as usual, there a ton of great resource groups and learning opportunities to be had.  I hope I’ll get to see and meet a lot of you at the Church 2.0 resource group that I’m leading along with Wanda Bryant Willis and Rebecca Woods.  I’m really excited to have the opportunity to discuss what is happening in the world of social media and churches and why it is important.

I need your help, though.  Maybe it’s because General Assembly is less than two weeks away and I’m still working on my part of the presentation, or maybe it’s because the true spirit of church 2.0 is one of collaboration and engagement, but I’m asking you what you want to learn about in the Church 2.0 resource group?  What puzzles you about this new social media thing?  What churches do you know of that are using social media well?  Why do you think these communications trends are so important to the church?  Are they just fads?

Leave some comments below and let me know what your take on social media and churches is.  Remember, no matter what anyone tells you, there are no experts in this subject.  That is one of the beautiful things about it…we are all learning together.  Next Monday, I’ll be back here to talk a bit more about what to expect in the Church 2.0 resource group.  Until then, I look forward to hearing what you have to say and learning about what you want to get out of the resource group.

Will BoydWill Boyd is a social media and new media producer and consultant. His company, Will Boyd Media Solutions, specializes in helping faith groups and non-profits navigate the world of social media, podcasting, and technology to tell their stories to the world. He has worked with Sojourners Magazine, the Disciples of Christ Historical SocietyGoddard College, the Disciples Divinity House at Vanderbilt, and others. Will also recently  finished a bachelor of arts degree from Goddard College that focused on the role of new media and social technologies in the world of sustainable marketing. Will lives in Seattle with his wife, a Disciples pastor.

For the past few months, we at DisciplesWorld have been refining our focus. Like many publications, our print circulation has been declining. Visits to our website have increased, but we haven’t really integrated print and web as much as we would like to. With 6 years of publishing the magazine, it was time to ask ourselves, how well are we serving our readers? What are they looking for, and what can we provide for them? After a process of evaluating and re-defining our mission to better reflect what we believe DisciplesWorld is all about, we are now ready to begin rolling out some new projects and telling you about the changes to come.

First, we have a new blog. Publisher and Editor Verity A. Jones, and Managing Editor Sherri Emmons will be talking about these changes, and inviting you into a conversation about them, over at the Between the Lines blog.

Second, we have launched an email newsletter, the DisciplesWorld Dispatch. If you would like to receive it, please click here to sign up. Through the Dispatch, we’ll be able to keep in touch with readers, advertisers, and supporters, and let you know what’s happening with us.

We’ve also launched a new community site called The Intersection. Here, you can engage in discussions with Disciples and others; post blogs, photos, videos, music, and podcasts; create a personal profile; and more. The site is free to join. Even though we created The Intersection, the site belongs to the community of members. We hope you’ll join and help us develop it. The Intersection also has its own Twitter account: @faithmeetslife.

Later this year, we’ll be making some changes to our main site, www.disciplesworld.com, and to our approach to web news. We’ll keep you informed about those changes.  The NewsMuse blog will probably undergo a re-focusing and eventually, a re-launch. For now, I’ll be posting infrequently as much of my time is being spent on getting these new projects off the ground, so if you would like to be a guest blogger, just let me know.

Lastly, while we’ve done a lot of thinking and talking (internally and with some of you) up to this point, we don’t want the conversation to end. So let us know what you think, and what you’d like to see from DisciplesWorld and how you’d like to be involved in making it happen.

I just spent a week in Grand Rapids at the United Church of Christ’s General Synod. I had the opportunity to write for the UCC’s news team and was asked to cover some interesting topics and activities: Rep. John Conyers’ visit to Synod to talk about health care reform, youth mission projects in the community, interviews with several youth who participated in the UCC’s Sacred Conversations on Race, resolutions on the global food crisis and the Accra Confession, and immigration reform.

How should Twitter be used during meetings and conventions? Photo: aflcio2008 (Creative Commons license)

How should Twitter be used during meetings and conventions? Photo: aflcio2008 (Creative Commons license)

I also observed how people were using Twitter during the convention, and how the UCC news staff participated and included Twitter in convention coverage.

Using Twitter during conventions isn’t new. People who are attending will often agree on a hashtag (a word or a combination of letters and numbers preceded by #) to include in meeting-related tweets. This makes their posts easy to find using Twitter’s search feature (type in #gs27 to see all UCC Synod-related tweets). Some Twitter applications allow more sophisticated tracking of hashtags, and alert you when someone Tweets using the hashtag — UC News director Gregg Brekke uses twhirl, and his laptop would beep and display every #gs27 tweet as soon as it appeared on Twitter.

Gregg and the UCC’s communications staff did their own Tweeting from the @gdbrekke and @unitedchurch accounts. They also gave others’ Twitter efforts a boost by retweeting interesting tweets. And Gregg included several Twitter users’ comments in the UCC’s daily, 4-page convention newspaper, in the “Overheard” section.

Having just bought a new Blackberry and equipped it with Twitterberry, I came to General Synod ready to Tweet myself (@rebeccawoods). Previously, whenever I went to an event, the sheer difficulty of tweeting from my old mobile phone limited me to a few Tweets per day.  Posting anything from a non-qwerty keyboard was a pain, and I couldn’t see if anyone replied to me, sent me a direct message, or retweeted anything I’d posted until I got back to a computer with internet access. It almost wasn’t worth the trouble.

This time, having upgraded, I had to contemplate new questions about using Twitter during an event:

How much to Tweet? Normally, I post 2-6 times a day. This is what those who follow me are accustomed to.  I might be able to get away with a slightly higher volume during the convention, but not much.  I’ve unfollowed folks who post too much, and to me, more than 10 times a day (15 if you’re really interesting) is too much.

What to Tweet? Few people following me are from the UCC, and many don’t know anything about it. So I began by letting people know what I was doing: going to cover the United Church of Christ’s General Synod. I think I included a link to the UCC’s Synod site, in case someone wanted to check it out (I hope I included a link — if not, that was a missed opportunity).  I also tried to tweet about things that might be of interest to others: getting to meet Conyers and journalist Ray Suarez, links to articles, etc. Not too much insider stuff, although some of it was unavoidable.

What not to Tweet? There were some great speeches and sermons, but I only posted one line from one speech. I probably could have done more. Often, in my opinion, those don’t translate well.  There’s just something about being there. Same with worship. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with tweeting during worship, per se, it’s just a question of whether you immerse yourself in doing it, or take a step back and tweet about it. It also connects with others who are there, experiencing it with you…but not so much with those who are on the outside. I also chose not to tweet during discussions or interviews, or to pass along the myriad comments I overheard in bars and restaurants. The most fascinating part, to me, was reading what people posted during business sessions and particularly, discussion of resolutions. A protest broke out after one vote, and I was in the newsroom watching the proceedings on closed circuit TV. The cameras, of course, didn’t show the action. But people in the convention hall were tweeting about it!

What are your experiences with Twitter and conventions or meetings? Do you have any rules or advice?

Here are a few links:

From Chris Brogan, social media expert extraordinaire, 27 Things to do Before a Conference. [Some of these might seem like overkill for a meeting like General Synod or the Disciples’ upcoming General Assembly]

From Mari Smith, Ten Ways to Tweet from Live Events [scroll down past the stuff that is related to the Social Media Summit

To see how a conference becomes a year-round community, log on to Twitter [if you have an account] and search #sxsw.

I’m in Grand Rapids, Mich. for the United Church of Christ’s General Synod. I’ll be here for the whole Synod, which officially opens Friday and ends June 30. On Thursday I spent the day covering a pre-Synod consultation on immigration.

The event included great speakers, immigrants who shared their stories, and community organizers including keynote speaker Norma Chavez-Peterson of Justice Overcoming Boundaries and Baldemar Velasquez, known for his work with FLOC, organizing farm laborers.

But the best quote of the day came from Dave Ostendorf, who said that liberal Christians tend to be “resolutionary” instead of “revolutionary.” He and others called for people of faith to go beyond passing resolutions and having church meetings to actually taking ministry outside of church walls and into the community to get things done, engaging systems and structures to get at the root causes of social problems.

One thing I appreciated about the day’s event is that those in attendance seem to understand the intricacies of justice work. They talked about the unintended consequences of the efforts of well-meaning Christians; they distinguish between feel-good, drive-by charity work and actually listening to, honoring, and empowering people who are oppressed so that they can shape their own futures with dignity. Those are nuances that you sometimes don’t hear when it comes to church mission and outreach.

In light of Ostendorf’s remark, I couldn’t help but think about the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). In about a month, the General Assembly will vote on whether to stop being a “resolutionary’ church. The idea is to replace sometimes-controversial Sense-of-the-Assembly resolutions (and a couple of other types of resolutions) with a dialogue process: Calls for Action.

But if we stop being “resolutionary,” we’re still far from revolutionary, and sometimes, a revolution — a turning-upside-down of things — is in order. While resolutions should not be  confused with actions,  I wonder if now we’ll fall into the trap of mistaking conversation for action. To be fair, the Calls for Action open a better space for dialogue than the 12, 24, or in a few cases, 48 minutes of floor debate. But at the end of the day, will anyone urge us to take it a step further?

How, as church, can we Disciples go from resolutionary to revolutionary, instead of going from resolutionary to…a bunch of nice Christians who can proudly say that we all get along? I hope we can find a way.

In the middle of the political and pseudo-celebrity flapdoodle over Mark Sanford, governor of South Carolina and occasional voice for family values conservatism, there’s a question I keep asking in the back of my mind.

How would I handle this if he were a member of a church where I served?

All too often, when a high profile married man in church life is caught out publicly in infidelity, he can’t get away from the church fast enough — and candidly, most of my experience pastorally is where the woman attended but the man did not, and wasn’t even an inactive member.

But in this case, while I’m hearing — to my great frustration — the usual rationalizations and justifications interwoven with the acceptance of responsibility and request for forgiveness, there is clearly a glimmer of a sense that this man knows he has done wrong, knows he should not have gone down that road, knows he should have stopped himself long ago . . . and yet he went back down to Argentina, which he seems to have figured out was a bad idea to start with, but didn’t quite regret so much as was sorry he’d gotten caught.

But let’s say he went down “to break it off” (yes, I know, that means he thought there was still a chance, since whether across town or around the globe, going to visit the person “to break it off” is never a good sign), and now he is . . . well, let’s say he’s trying to change his ways, and realizes, or is starting to realize, that this was sin and he is in it up to his ankles, head first.

How, pastorally, do you talk to and work with this man? And how do you speak to the wronged spouse — and don’t give me the “it takes two to tango,” since a) that’s not in the Bible, and b) no, it often doesn’t take two, just one — so when the offender asks you to speak to the offendee, how do you respond?

The Sanfords have CNN and a house on Sullivans Island and a million Twitter comments, but in many ways the story, with the attractive other woman, the father-in-law sitting on the porch, and children caught in the middle . . . it’s a story that plays out in and next door to our congregations, I dare say almost every month, if not every day.

What would your pastoral counsel be? Not just for clergy, but for church leaders in general? Do we just stick with the hollow joke of “who gets custody of the church?’ which we know often ends up being “neither.”

And we just can’t leave Jon and Kate + 8 out of the picture, where I keep thinking of the counseling I’d hope they each could get (and i’ve never seen any of the shows except last Mondays, so I’m new to this one). The Sanfords and the Gosselins have presented themselves as struggling, conflicted, believing, committed Christians. As Christians, how would we as church reach out to them?

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