The BeDeviant Social Media Summit is coming to Des Moines, Iowa on Oct. 23. The Summit will focus on the why and how of social media for ministry professionals, emphasizing education, innovation and networking. The man behind the event is our own Justin Wise, the creator of BeDeviant.com and the project catalyst behind Firestarter. We sat down with Justin to talk social media and the church.
Why should a pastor care about social media?
Justin Wise: A pastor should care about social media in the same way that he or she should care about the printing press. The fact that the printing press is almost universally accepted across cultures and continents blinds us to the reality that, at one point, it was cutting-edge technology. We’re so familiar with it that we’ve taken it for granted.
But can you imagine where we’d be if the church had not adopted the printing press? Can you imagine if pastors protested the mass-printing of the Bible, in a language (read: not Latin) that most people could understand? We’d still have scribes who copied Scripture by hand; word-for-word, page-for-page.
Social media has taken on a “printing press” feel. It’s a tool for communicating, just like the printing press, but it’s a new tool. A tool that needs to be studied. Pastors should care about social media because, hopefully, they care about communicating effectively. Social media isn’t the only way to communicate, but it’s fast becoming the most popular.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve see a church do with social media?
Justin: I don’t know if this officially “counts” as a church, but Jon Acuff and his readers (or congregation) over at Stuff Christians Like raised $30,000 for an orphanage in Vietnam. In two days. Not just once, but twice. All by using social media tools. I think that’s pretty impressive.
The readers of Jon’s blog have nothing in common other than their online community at SCL and faith in Jesus. Yet Jon was able to lead his readers using his blog as a platform to create a new reality for children half a world away.
Using Twitter to post what you had for lunch may be trivial, but no one can argue with the real-world results like those above.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen churches make with social media?
Justin: When churches make social media the focal point is when it becomes counterproductive. I believe this is the biggest mistake churches can make. We use social media to build a new kind of relationship with those around us. Social media allows communication to become a two-way street. It’s interactive, unpredictable, conversation and fun.
When churches use social media as just another marketing tool, it shows. When churches use social media as an “info dumping ground” of sorts, it shows. Social media is a good place to let people know what you’re up to, but that can’t be the only reason you use networking tools. People will sniff it out a mile away and your results will show that.
Similarly, the tools for social media aren’t the point. Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo, YouTube–those can never be the focus. Twitter will not save your church. Facebook will not directly cause your attendance numbers to go up. What they will do is allow you a chance to interact 24/7 with the people who call (or may call) your church home.
How do overworked church staff members or volunteers find time for social media?
Justin: This is one of the most widely-asked questions I get. With so many demands on church staff members, sometimes social media gets pushed to the bottom of the list. It goes there because of the mistaken belief that social media takes a lot of time.
The best thing people can do is to simply start. Two tweets a day. Start a fan page. Add a video of your worship team to Vimeo or YouTube. Anything to just get started.
Once you do that, you can begin to schedule out your social media strategy. With tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite, you can schedule updates across multiple social networks. While you’re at it, batch your response times as well. 30 minutes scheduling updates and 30 minutes responding to your online community. Spend an hour per week on your social media presence and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
What makes the Social Media Summit different from any other conference out there?
Justin: We’re building the Social Media Summit on three main pillars: Education, Innovation and Networking. We believe that anyone, no matter the level of expertise in social media, can walk away experiencing at least two of the three pillars. If you’re a “pro,” we hope you can walk away with some new ideas (innovation) that you got while talking with someone outside your normal social circle (networking). If you’re new to social media, we’ll give you some practical ways to implement social media (education) and some new friends as well (networking).
We believe that people must understand the “why” of the social web before getting the “how.” It’s so crucial to understand both. At the Social Media Summit, we’ll spend time giving people the understanding they need as well as the practical tools to get started.