Sunday, May 17, 2009

How to Get Started In Social Media and Love It.

Social Networking is the latest crazy today called Web 2.0. There are tools such as Twitter, Ning and Stumbleupon that help people communicate with each other without physically being in the same room with the people you are talking too. So move over traditionalist and take a leap of faith with social networking and find out how much you really know your family and friends. If you don’t know what to do, watch, listen and learn.

1. Use Twitter as a search and monitoring tool.You can always watch. All you need to do is go to and poke around. Search your clients, your company, competitive brand(s), relevant topics. That’s all you need to do to know what’s being said, who’s saying it and where it’s coming from. Without spending a lot of time you can at least get a sense of the conversation. You’ll be able to listen, learn and get smarter about whatever it is you want to get smarter about. Including social media.
2. Take the effortless approach to Twitter is a time suck for people who feel compelled to generate a lot of content or who determine their self worth by how many followers they have. You don’t have to take that approach. Just get on, identify and follow the people who tweet, share, and post content related to your interests or your clients’ businesses. If and when you want, you can interact. If not, you can simply be the beneficiary of their thinking and the links that they post.

3. Create a Ning site for your own personal useJust make one for your extended family. Or your colleagues at work. Or your book club. It’s free. It’s easy. And with no pressure you can take your time and learn how to re-arrange the appearance of your community site, post content, upload photos, and create links. Surprisingly, a lot of people who haven’t blogged don’t even know how to do that. Here’s a way to start, experiment, fumble around, and fail with no risk. You might even like it and end up being able to show clients how to do it.

4. Join Stumbleupon Social bookmarking is another very simple way to try out social media. You can use it to discover new content — based on easily filtered topics — that you may never have otherwise found (just press that Stumble button). You can save it and share it. And you can discover and identify other bookmarkers — some quite influential — who find, review and share sites and information that might matter to your clients or your own brand. Again, because you can proceed at your own pace, it’s risk-free. There’s no commitment on your part to create daily content or respond to the expectations of your followers.

Social media doesn’t come with instructions. You have to try it, play with it, and experiment a little in order to get it. Rather than commit a lot of time, why not just commit a little. Then see where it takes you. What are your thoughts? Any other easy ways to benefit from social media without falling victim to the time suck?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Church Security and Awareness

Acts 20:28-31
"Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought withhis own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be onyour guard!"

Safety and security at churches and other houses of worship has become an increasingly important issue in recent years.There have been a number of examples of church security incidents and shootings in the last year that underscore the importance of security while at a house of worship.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Twittering in Church, with the Pastor's O.K.

By Bonnie Rochman

A congregant at Easter Mass in Matthews, N.C., uses Twitter during the service. John Voelz isn't trying to brag, but it's fair to say he was down with Twitter before most people knew it was a proper noun.

Last year, Voelz, a pastor, was tweeting at a conference outside Nashville about ways to make the church experience more creative — ways to "make it not suck" — when suddenly it hit him: Twitter.
Voelz and David McDonald, the other senior pastor at Westwinds Community Church in Jackson, Mich., spent two weeks educating their congregation about Twitter, the microblogging site that challenges users to communicate in 140 characters or less. They held training sessions in which congregants brought in their laptops, iPhones and BlackBerrys. They upped the bandwidth in the auditorium.

As expected, banter flourished. Tweets like "Nice shirt JVo" and "So glad they are doing Lenny Kravitz" flashed across three large video screens. But there was heartfelt stuff too.
"I have a hard time recognizing God in the middle of everything." "The more I press in to Him, the more He presses me out to be useful" "sometimes healing is painful". There's a time and place for technology, and most houses of worship still say it's not at morning Mass. But instead of reminding worshippers to silence their cell phones, a small but growing number of churches across the country are following Voelz's lead and encouraging people to integrate text-messaging into their relationship with God.

In Seattle, Mars Hill churchgoers regularly tweet throughout the service. In New York City, Trinity Church marked Good Friday by tweeting the Passion play, detailing the stages of Jesus' crucifixion in short bursts. At Next Level Church, outside Charlotte, N.C., it's not only O.K. to fuse social-networking technology with prayer; it's desirable.

On Easter Sunday, pastor Todd Hahn prefaced his sermon by saying, "I hope many of you are tweeting this morning about your experience with God." "It's a huge responsibility of a church to leverage whatever's going on in the broader culture, to connect people to God and to each other," says Hahn. If worship is about creating community, Twitter is an undeniably useful tool. The trick is to not let the chatter overshadow the need for quiet reflection that spirituality requires. At Westwinds, people can ask questions about the sermon that the pastors will answer later, or they can tweet in real time and hope another congregant offers insight. Some use Twitter as a note-taking tool. Often, it's pastor-directed, with McDonald preaching while Voelz taps out, "In what way do you feel the spirit of God moving within you?" Discuss.

There have been at least a dozen "Twitter Sundays" at Westwinds, but the 150 or so Twitterers of Westwind's 900 adult members are free to tweet at any time, at any service, whenever the spirit moves them.

The same rules apply at Next Level, where pastor Hahn headed straight to his office to log on as soon as the inaugural Twitterfest ended in April. Punching in "nextlevel" in Twitter's search function, he read:
1. "had awesome music today and yes i am twittering in church.
2. "nothing u do 4 the lord is in vain."
3. "I think my thumbs are going to be sore"
Next Level has no plans to make Twitter a formal part of each week's service, but Hahn advises parishioners that "if God leads you to continue this as a form of worship by all means do it."
Robbie McLaughlin took him up on it. The graphic designer used Twitter the Sunday after Easter and says he intends to do it again, as he was caught up by the way it transformed how he worshipped. He likes the way it helps him see what God is doing in other people's lives during the service. (And there's another benefit too: no more misplaced musings jotted down on that day's program. "With Twitter," he points out, "your notes are there forever.")

Though the Next Levels and Westwinds may be the face of the future, for now, they're just a quirky minority. But Voelz gets at least five e-mails a week from people inquiring how to launch Twitter within their church. How did you rig the screen resolution so people could read the tweets? What was members' reaction? And, not surprisingly: Got any tips to persuade church leadership this is way cool?