Twitter plus church has been getting some attention. Even Time magazine had an article about it last year, titled “Twittering in Church, with the Pastor’s O.K.” The discussion has been raging ever since Twitter’s popularity explosion. Still, as Twitter continues to stalk the land, attracting more and penetrating deeper into the fiber of our culture, many pastors and church staff are wondering, “Is this Twitter thing for us?” It’s a good question. What’s the answer?
This article isn’t about whether or not pastors should Tweet (it’s a good idea) or whether or not Twitter is for Christians, too (of course it is). It has to do with the firestorm topic of Twitter and church. Do they go together? If so, how? There are two major viewpoints.
You should not use Twitter in church! It’s such a distraction!
Those who are against tweeting in church have some valid points. Most importantly, tapping away on an Blackberry during church can be a major distraction from what you should be doing–listening to the sermon. At first, you may be tweeting a devotional thought, but then you quickly get sidetracked by an interesting link on your Twitter feed, which turns into a web-surfing-tune-out-the-sermon distraction. Besides, preaching or worship ought to be a time for people to shut out the world, and listen to the Word. Can’t there be a few minutes in your media-filled week, when you simply and silently learn from God? Or, think about others. Will they know that I’m engaged in a worshipful act of tweeting the sermon as I whip out my iPhone, or will they think: “He’s probably bored with this dull sermon and wants to play Tap Tap Revenge. I wonder if he’s even saved.” Ok, maybe that’s overstating it, but you get the point. People won’t think such judgmental thoughts if you’re gazing at an open Bible, sans wireless device.
But Twitter is not a distraction! Dude, it’s an aid to worship!
The pro-Twitter crowd comes back with some similarly strong arguments. Let’s start with the basic fact that Twitter is the medium of connecting with our culture. The church doesn’t run from culture. The church ought to embrace it, and use it for kingdom purposes! Besides, Twitter takes the sermon, the message, and the story of Jesus outside the four walls of church and into a massive stream of information that could potentially reach millions of people! How’s that for broadcasting the Good News? Rather than distract, as the naysayers would propose, Twitter pulls people into the sermon. They are engaged, listening, meditating, and as they do, the abundance of their heart translates into a quick Tweet about the sermon. Tweeting is a symptom of their rapt attention and their intentional integration of sermon to life. It aids fellowship, enhances evangelism, and improves learning. From having online sermon notes, to improving your online testimony, to providing free advertising for your church, the pro-church-Tweeters are all about it.
Should I use Twitter in my church?
Let’s be clear. Tweeting church isn’t for every church. So, if you were looking for a Yes/No answer to the “should we be tweeting church?” you’re not going to get it. Rather, you must discerningly analyze the pros, the cons, the Bible, and your church. Here are three questions that you can ask as you make the decision.
1. What’s my church culture? Twitter tends to to a certain culture. What kind of culture, you may ask? Godo question. However, culture is something more accurately felt than described with words. Here’s how you can feel the culture of churches who promote tweeting. First, check out John Voelz’s blog, Vertizontal. As one of the pastors of Westwinds Church, Voelz was a primary instigator in a religious Twitter revolution that caught Time’s attention and stirred his tweeting churchgoers to action. Another church that proactively tweets is Mars Hill.
2. What’s my church demographic? Demographics has a lot to do with it. If the median age of your congregation is 62, then most of your congregants probably won’t have a Twitter account. The most Twitter-savvy churches are those which are located in metropolitan areas and have a mostly middle-class attendance bracket.
3. What’s my church worship approach? While the Bible has a lot to say about worship, the word “Twitter” appears neither in the Old nor the New Testaments, not even in the original languages. The attitude, reverence, and focus of worship are obvious in the Bible, but what about all the other stuff? If your church favors a subdued atmosphere of reverence, reflection, and quietness, chances are, Twitter won’t be quite as popular. If, on the other hand, if your church readily adopts elements of culture and integrates a louder and more expressive worship style, Twitter may get a swifter uptake. The more plugged in your church is, the more readily it will adopt elements of tech.
Four Approaches to Using Twitter in Church
1. The no-noers. “Don’t do it. It’s wrong. Turn off all electronic devices except your hearing aids.”
2. The don’t-bring-it-uppers. “I think people are using Twitter in church, but I’m not sure. There was a guy last week, and I saw him with his Blackberry behind his Bible. I think we should just ignore it. If they want to do it, we’ll just let it go for now.”
3. The whenever-the-Spirit movers. “Twitter is pretty cool, so we don’t mind if people do it…if the Spirit leads!”
4. The church-is-for-Twitterers.” Our church is tech-saturated and uber-cool. We require Tweeting if you want to be a small group leader. We even have a live screen of Twitter feeds during our service.”
Check out These Resources
- Anthony Coppedge, self-titled church techie has written a guide for churches to get into Twitter. You can purchase his http://twitterforchurches.com/. For only five bucks, you can let your whole ministry team read it.
- ChurchCrunch talked about the book and responded with a hold on a sec approach in this article.
- Voelz has a popular blog article from his Twitter experiment in the summer of 2008.
- John Piper writes convincingly (and convictingly) about “Not Using Twitter During Worship Services.” It’s worth consideration as you mull the issue.