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Amazing Grace: How Tweet the Sound?

It was with much interest Sunday that I read an article from Time Magazine regarding the rise in the use of Twitter during church services.  In many instances, it’s even being pioneered by the pastors themselves.


I immediately sent a link of the Time article to my pastor (@petetackett) via Facebook to get his thoughts:

I think Twitter and Facebook plus other social networking tools will be useful to the church.  I think you have to balance both the newness of it with the traditionalists in the church as well as the need for contemplative silence with the temptation to always be twittering.  For us, the next step is figuring out how to make this possible without being distracting.

For years now, students have used their phones and pdas to communicate during church.  Why not let them use them to communicate with the church instead of telling them to put them away?  Hmm.


I think he’s dead-on.  In essence, it’s coming whether the “church” likes it or not.  The key will be to get in front of it and excercise some control over how it’s rolled out rather than waiting until it’s too late.  Pastor Jon Swanson is a great example of this in action.

For churches that aren’t doing it already, I see many adding new positions in the coming months and years centered around nurturing relationships and growing their congregations via social media-related ministry.  Present staff not trained and not already immersed in all aspects of social media will be ill-equipped to handle it otherwise.


10 Responses

  1. Interesting idea. Personally, I turn my phone off before I go into church, but I’m known to twitter about church or post about it on facebook afterwards. Our church also has a (somewhat under used) website that includes forums, ways to submit prayer requests online, and things such as that. Of course, many of the people that attend our church (it’s a small church in a small town) are not as technically savvy as the kids are these days. That said, we have a relatively HUGE number of youth, which in and of itself is awesome. Many of them are young enough that they have little business spending any time online at this point, but some of the high school aged youth are online a lot.

    Can twitter ever be a proper tool for the church? It may be too early to tell, but I believe we should use any avenue we can to communicate not just with ourselves, as Christians, but to those we would like to come to call brothers and sisters in Christ. Certainly, that makes Twitter a target for the ol’ college try.

  2. Well-said Drew. I tend to agree with you.

    I’ve also practiced many of the same things you have (turning my phone off prior to entering the building, tweeting and Facebooking afterward).

    One time I even texted a congregant from the choir loft prior to the actual beginning of the service and the two of us proceeded to text back and forth about how “wrong” (albeit jokingly) it was.

    It’ll have that “taboo” feel to it for some time, I think, even among those of us open to the idea.

  3. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but it just seems disrespectful to me to be doing anything other than paying attention to what’s at-hand (which in this case is church). Being mindful of distracting the congregants around you is incredibly important as well.

    You can go ahead and invite kids to “use” their social media to communicate with the church *during* church, but if you could go back and audit the communications that happened during a particular service, you’d find probably none of them communicated anything about church. One person interacting with his phone amidst a group is not about the church as a whole anyway. The church is a collection of individuals coming together for a purpose and can we not have just one time and place during which we are considerately recognized and acknowledged face-to-face?

  4. I hear you Amy, but who are we kidding? Capturing the attention of the congregation is something the church has struggled with for years. From crying babies and restless kids, to dads nodding off, singles day-dreaming, and across-the-room hunger pangs.

    Years ago, I was reading my bible during the sermon from my Palm PDA. I don’t remember it having an adverse affect other than causing the occasional double-take; usually from someone who wanted to believe I was doing something I “shouldn’t,” instead of minding their own business.

    If I’m playing Tetris on my iPhone, complete with bells and whistles, that’s one thing. But if I’m silently sharing with my sphere of influence the value of a sermon, is there not legitimacy in that?

    How about the TV cameras stationed throughout the sanctuary? I’ll bet someone at some point argued they too were a distraction. The vibrating pager alerts to parents of unruly children in the nursery, or the numbers that flash on an LED screen in the sanctuary alerting a parent to a problem I’m sure at one time were a tough sell. Now, they’re an after thought.

    Granted, this idea won’t work in every church, nor should it. I’m just saying there are at least some churches that have people sitting in the pews every Sunday who, with the push of a button, could begin to impact the life of another human being half-way around the world whose last thought is of ever setting foot in a church, but who wouldn’t think twice about engaging in issues of faith with someone who’d taken the time to get to know them and build their trust over time on Twitter.

    I agree “the church is a collection of individuals coming together for a purpose,” but does that mean if you’re not physically in the room you’re not welcome? You seem to assume that the interaction (or twittering in this case) is taking place in a vacuum and amongst “each other” only. I challenge you to think outside that box a little more.

  5. Interestingly enough this topic should come up. My wife and I renewed our wedding vows a couple of weeks ago. Once the ceremony had started, we noticed that the Communion bread was not in it’s rightful place. One of the Pastors officiating the communion sent a text, from the stage, to one of our ushers in the back of the room to get the bread and bring it up. Needless to say, technology saved the day once again. I even wrote my vows on and read them from my Blackberry. HAHA

  6. That’s a great story Ernst. There’s also the request you made of me, as one of the people who introduced you to your bride, to share thoughts about the two of you. My attempt (although too late) to send my thoughts to said Blackberry via Facebook from 300 miles away during the ceremony, is just one more example of the wonder that is social media.

  7. I’ve thought so far out of the box I came back around, climbed inside the box and now live here permanently.


  8. As a follow up here, I will point out that perhaps the church I attend is not a format conducive to using twitter during church. We have a very town hall sort of feel. Our pastor asks questions, and we answer them. A couple of weeks ago, we actually went around the room discussing our “age” as Christians – the Bible speaks of the young needing the milk of the word, and more mature Christians needing meat, but often still clinging to milk. The conversation was where are we – children? Teenagers? Adults? – the answers are varied and surprising, but to twitter would not be effective there, since these conversations sometimes steer completely away from the pastor to conversations between the people in attendance – it generally manages to stay on topic, and keeps everyone who desires involvement INVOLVED in the service. Perhaps in a larger format, twitter could be that involvement. I believe Brant has discussed this at least twice on the morning show – involvement I mean, not twitter.

  9. Good stuff Drew. Keep ’em coming everyone.

  10. We just started encouraging people to “Twitter” about the service DURING church. Of those that do, they said their retention rate is MUCH better than just listening. Plus, they can refer back to their Twitter “notes” at any time.
    Definite plus in my book!
    Joe Case, Senior Pastor
    The Uprising
    Nashville, TN

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