Last week Rick Warren challenged any church in America to a who’s godlier contest with this tweet:
“I challenge any church in America to match the spiritual maturity, godliness & commitment of any 500 members of Saddleback.”
Reaction was swift and incredulous. Before the day was over he removed the tweet. He followed up with several tweets defending the idea of challenging and comparing, and replied with the explanation that, “I delete tweets when people misjudge motive. It’s a waste of time to blog a full explanation to those who want to argue.”
Rick Warren gets a tough break. Being the biggest name pastor in America means all sorts of attention, especially when you do something people don’t like. Rick Warren tries, but social media isn’t very forgiving.
But we’re not here to poke fun at Warren’s flub, we’re here to learn a little something from it:
1. Get out there and try.
You have to hand it to Warren—he gets out there and tries. Social media isn’t very forgiving, so the safe thing to do would be to sit back and ignore it. But Warren dives in and tries it. You’ve got to take some risks in communication if you want to connect with people.
2. Failure happens.
If you’re going to take risks, you’re going to screw up. Those are just the odds—you can’t always be perfect. The important thing is to remember that, have an attitude of humility and move on. Social media may be harsh, but people can be forgiving (sometimes).
3. There are no take-backs.
Warren may have removed the tweet, but what’s said is said. You released that statement on to the Internet and now it’s permanent. If you want to take it back, well, you can’t. You’re better off leaving it up and admitting it was an ill-conceived (or misunderstood—pick your own description) tweet.
4. Don’t argue with trolls.
In Warren’s response we see little patience for people who want to argue. This can be a tricky one, especially for leaders like Warren who are in such a prominent position. People give you less slack and expect more from you. Social media is a conversation, but it has to be a helpful back and forth. There’s a time to offer an explanation and a time to just move on.
As pastors and churches experiment more and more with Twitter and social media they’re going to experience ups and downs, wins and loses. The important thing is to learn what works, what doesn’t and how you can better connect with people to effectively deliver your message.