I am an extrovert by nature. I also exhibit characteristics of someone with ADHD according to my pastoral coach. For me, I need to be around people like some folks need to breathe. Relationships energize me and drive me forward through life. A day without a phone call or video chat or lunch makes me grumpy. Even a text chat via IM is better than nothing!
When I worked for 3 Internet start-ups in Florida, one of the things I hated was sitting around a computer all day. The computer couldn’t talk back to me. It blinked a few things on the screen, but social interaction was truly impossible.
When Twitter and Facebook arrived on the scene, I was skeptical. I really didn’t use them much. There weren’t many people on these social media platforms and so though I had an account, I didn’t participate much. It was an additional energy drain because there was very little interaction.
Slowly, as these platforms have grown, I have fallen in love with them as interactive media where I can have discussions, interactive chats, catch up with old friends, and get to know people I’ve never met. As a people person, I’m finding that it is a way to really enjoy people wherever I am whether it’s by myself in my home office, another state or in the middle of Panera Bread. More and more of my time is spent there; it really is an energizing discipline for me. Now don’t think I don’t get work done. I actually am more productive, creative and energized through this. It’s the nature of my personality.
A few months ago, it really was driven home to me how uplifting for me social media can be when I mentioned via twitter that I was having a bad day. My twitter account is connected to my facebook account, so when I twitter something, it shows up on facebook. I made that tweet in the late afternoon in May. That evening, I had prayers tweeted on twitter for me from people I did not know. On facebook, I had several folks ask and pray about what was going on. I even had a text message from a high school friend whom I still chat with from time to time. I was blown away.
In March of this year, I had to defend my dissertation. When I tweeted that I had passed and would graduate, friends from high school, college and from other walks of life congratulated me. I turned 40 in June, and I had so many birthday wishes on facebook, I couldn’t count them. I even got a birthday wish from Margaret Feinberg, whose books I absolutely adore but whom I’ve never met. My major professor sent me a birthday tweet which teaching a class! Again, I was amazed.
A few weeks ago, I was on facebook and was checking out who was in the chat area. I noticed that a high school friend, Kim Denson Cook, was online so I started a conversation with her. She makes handmade items, and I knew of a website where people could sell their handmade wares and I wanted to make sure she knew of it. In fact, I was hoping to see some items because I thought my wife or mother might like something from her collection. During the course of that conversation, Kim asked me how my workouts were going. She hadn’t seen me mention those recently and was just asking.
I have a Wii and a program called “My Fitness Coach” which is a great workout program that develops a specific plan for you. Maya is the fitness coach and she’s tough. In the afternoons I would often tweet that I was about to spend time with Maya. Kim noticed that I had not made those posts in a while and called me on it!
This really impacted me. Kim and I didn’t hang out much. My junior and senior years of high school, I video taped the basketball games and ending up riding on the bus with the basketball team to away games. Kim was a cheerleader, a year below me and she rode on those same buses. She was (and still is) a great person with a great smile. However, we didn’t really run in the same circles. I was a brainy nerd type (some say still am) who was involved in everything and knew everybody but only hung out with a close set of friends. She was a popular cheerleader. Those two groups of folks didn’t tend to hang out together. So it made an impression on me when she was concerned and interested enough in me to not only ask me that question, but to cheer me on when I did note how I had started working out again. I think of her asking that question every afternoon around 3:00, which is when I usually tweeted my time with Maya.
Those instances have me examining my tweets and facebook messages even more intently. In the past week, a friend whom I met through the blogs tweeted that he was having a bad day. I lifted up a prayer for him on twitter – nothing long, just a short prayer that he could see that someone was interested in him and his needs. I’ve done that on several occasions and hope to do it more frequently.
In USAmerican, the cry of the heart is for relationships. We are an incredibly lonely nation. People need others to celebrate with them, to cry with them, to pray for them, to encourage them and to understand them. A colleague told me recently that he and his staff do more and effective pastoring via facebook and twitter than they ever have in the past. People are able to stay in communication at work quickly and quietly and church members are encouraged, provoked and ministered to. He has embraced social media (and whatever comes next) as the means to pastor to a new generation of people.
I don’t know how much you participate in social media, but your ministry and you as a pastor need to participate. You can move crowds and congregations with these tools. I actually think these are transitional tools to a more virtual church methodology. It’s going to be interesting to see how this all works out. I for one am anxious to find out!