March 22, 2010
To Tweet, or not to Tweet?
Is Twitter worthy of a pastor's limited time? Here are 3 reasons for and against the medium.
I'm really excited to introduce you to a new Urthling. Jonathan Acuff is the author of the recent book from Zondervan, Stuff Christians Like and the founder of www.stuffchristianslike.net His humorous exploration of the church subculture is a perfect fit for Out of Ur. We're thrilled to welcome him as a regular contributor. His first post is intended to help those of you still debating whether or not Twitter is worth your time.
The other day I told a pastor friend of mine that it was weird that one of the few people he was following on Twitter had a photo of their bikini top for a profile picture.
There are a million different people to follow with a million different profile photos, so to have a bikini bust greet you every time you went to his profile on Twitter was bizarre. I’m not opposed to bikinis, I don’t live and die by its more tasteful cousin, the tankini, but it seemed like a Twitter fumble. He didn’t really know the bikini girl. He didn’t know how he had started following her and he quickly remedied the situation.
But not every Twitter donnybrook is that easy. Not every fiasco gets such a fast resolution when it comes to pastors and this toddler of a medium. (If you’ve never used Twitter, it’s a simple service that lets you write 140 character updates that people who follow you can read and respond to. Think of it as a nano blog.) The question becomes then, “How do you as a leader know if Twitter the right place for you to be?”
I’ve been thinking about that question ever since I started using Twitter to grow the blog I write, stuffchristianslike.net. And I’ve come up with three reasons pastors should be on Twitter and three reasons they shouldn’t.
3 Reasons You Should Be on Twitter
1. You’ve got something to say.
Ugh, what a boring way to start a list, but you would be shocked how many people skip this first, crucial step when it comes to Twitter. If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t feel compelled to tweet. Don’t give into peer pressure, don’t feel like you have to do it just because every other pastor is. I stayed off Twitter for a while because I felt like the sandwiches I ate weren’t that interesting to me, never mind other people. But when I felt like I had something to say I joined. If you’ve got something to say you should too.
2. You are missing considerable chunks of conversation with your community.
When my dad was a pastor in New England, he got involved in little league soccer. Part of the reason was that he had kids who loved soccer. But I think another part of the reason was that it kept him connected to real people in our town. People who would never come to church normally. The same can be true of Twitter. If you have the sense that people in your community are actively involved in Twitter than consider possibly jumping on yourself.
3. You’ve got a project that can benefit from the strength of Twitter.
My friend Matthew Paul Turner summed Twitter up for me, “It’s a community of doers.” By that he meant that if you’re on Twitter, if you regularly use it, then you tend to be prone to action. You’ll click a link, read a blog post, forward on an idea to someone else. It’s a community of people who do things. I found that out last November. With my blog and Twitter, we raised $30,000 in 18 hours to build a kindergarten in Vietnam. No print ads, no traditional marketing or fundraising. Blog posts and tweets was all we used. If you’ve got a project that needs lots of folks to get it accomplished, join Twitter.
3 Reasons You Should Not Be On Twitter
1. You’ve Got Lousy Boundaries in “Real Life”
If you don’t have good social awareness or relational boundaries in real, 3D life, the Internet is going to be a challenge. It’s kind of like guys who go away on business trips and feel like the rules on the road are different than the rules at home. Folks get crazy when they get online. It only takes a tiny spark of over sharing to start a slow burning emotional affair. If you have an inkling you might have some cracks in your armor, at the bare minimum identify some friends who love you enough to ask you tough questions.
2. You’re Going to be a Twitter Taker
It’s always a bummer when people introduce themselves to you by asking you for a favor. We’d never do that in real life. We’d never knock on someone’s door, barge in without even saying our first name and then say, “Hi, I’d like you to tell all your friends that they should trust me and give me their money.” But that happens all the time online. People tweet you and say, “Hey, please forward this or retweet this for me?” But you don’t know them, you don’t know they’re not perpetuating a scam, you don’t know anything. You do know however that you don’t want to be that person. (And I’m pretty sure he has a wispy mustache. Something to think about.)
3. You’ve Got Lousy Time Management Skills
Twitter is free, but it does cost us a lot. Every time you take 30 seconds to tweet, “Me and my kids are watching a movie, I love movie night” you lose a little bit of that day. We don’t know the consequences of constantly being connected. We don’t know what the small bites of space and time will cost us in the long run. There’s not a 50-year precedence to fall back on. So if you feel like you’re going to ignore the very real, very important people and projects that need you in order to be online updating your life, be careful.
I don’t know if Twitter is right for you. It’s still such a young medium that it’s hard to tell whom it’s right for. But in the last two years, it’s allowed me to stay connected to the community I’m part of online. In fact, more than 112,000 visits have come to stuffchristianslike.net, from Twitter. And with some good boundaries, a willingness to give instead of just take and the ability to not tweet every single thing that happens to me, I think I just might stay on Twitter. And maybe you should too. (If you do, follow me @prodigaljohn, I’ll never wear a bikini in my profile photo. Promise.)