Are you a Tweeting pastor or church leader? If you’re anything like me, you may have joined Twitter once upon a time just because it was all the rage, and after sending one or two test Tweets, realized it wasn’t for you and quickly found a different techno hobby. I didn’t start using Twitter aggressively until just a year or so ago. Now, I have a small following and I follow more people than I can possibly keep up with. I even tweet three our four times a day. Recently, I did a little experiment on Twitter, and I want to tell you about some things I discovered.
In preparation for this article, I decided to pull some tips from the audience. So, I sent a direct message to fifty of my followers. It was a simple, polite and personal inquiry, seeing if they had any tips to proffer for today’s post. Out of fifty personal messages, guess how many responses I got within 42 hours.
Not a whole lot of response for fifty messages. Which is fine, of course. People are busy. However, to preface the list of ten ways the pastor can use Twitter, one thing needs to be said. If you are a tweeting pastor or if you tweet for a church, make it a point to be active. My test mimicked and corroborated the CMS work, which reports that “Churches Aren’t Paying Attention on Twitter.” Admittedly, with so many different types of accounts, each one with its own set of messages, inquiries, updates, and push notifications, it’s hard to keep up with it all. Nonetheless, responding to direct messages is important.
Twitter is an optional tool for pastors or churches. If you’re going to use it, then stay engaged. If you choose not to use it, then disable your account to prevent confusion.
So, without further ado, here are ten ways that pastors can use Twitter.
- To provide encouraging quotes. Here’s a classic use of Twitter (and Facebook for that matter). Quotes. They’re everywhere! In fact, Charles Spurgeon has four Twitter accounts, and every one of him is tweeting his quotes! A good quote from a big name will go viral in seconds, getting retweeted by anyone who got a buzz from it. There can be something a bit cheap about too many quotes all the time, but nonetheless, edifying others with biblical quotes is a good way to use Twitter. Be advised, however, that theology in 140 characters or less runs the risk of reductionism.
- To link to edifying articles. Twitter is also helpful for posting links. You can even tweet the amazing articles on Sharefaithblog.com.
- To quote Scripture verses. A helpful snippet of Scripture now and then is also a good way to use Twitter. Since you’re limited to 180 characters or less, you must be selective.
- To announce Sunday’s sermon topic. Help people anticipate Sunday’s message by sharing your sermon title, sermon text, or a thought from the upcoming sermon. For that matter, announcements of any kind are fair game for Twitter updates.
- To share prayer requests. Use discretion here. Don’t tweet personal prayer requests. The following is an example of a very bad Tweet: “Pray 4 Beth. She told me she wants 2 divorce Joe.” Here is an example of a good tweet: “Today, pause and pray for the more than 140mil orphans in the world.”
- To learn from others. Twitter is not a one-way street. Besides being “followed,” you should make it a point to follow others. In fact, it’s a nice Twitter courtesy if you follow a user who follows you. (Of course, you don’t have to.) You can also follow Tweeters from whom you want to learn–say, a pastor you respect or a theologian whose blog is brimming with valuable stuff. Follow other tweeters to learn from them.
- To listen to others. Twitter is a conversation. Sure, everyone’s talking at once, talking over people’s heads, talking about a million different things, and doing it all with mere keystrokes. However, there is some cohesiveness to the conversation. For you, the pastor, it’s a way to keep your pulse on the culture, to find out how different people think, and to learn from the electronic jabber that fills peoples minds. It’s another way for you to connect with your people. Listen and learn.
- To open up doors of discipleship and edification. Some people will tune you out within thirty seconds of your sermon. No joke. But some people will give you a few seconds to read your Tweet. It may seem silly, but Twitter is the world where some people live. It is a primary source of communication and interaction for them. For you to be on Twitter is for you to have access to this kind of person in a whole new way. Being on Twitter can open up a fresh chance for discipleship and edification that you didn’t have before.
- To be real. Now, you may think it’s silly to say that a pastor can be “real” by using Twitter. Isn’t Twitter an artificial mode of communication? Not at all. Twitter is genuine human exchange of thoughts and ideas. A pastor is too often perceived as merely the guy who gets up every Sunday and gives a talk. However, if you’re on Twitter, people may think, “Huh. So Pastor John is on Twitter. That’s cool. Maybe I’ll follow him and see what’s up.” When they do, you’ve gained another connection point with them whereby they can see that you’re more than just the guy on the platform every Sunday.
- To be salt and light. Twitter is a worldwide platform. Anyone can see what you tweet. Anyone can see whom you follow. Anyone can find out who follows you. Thus, Twitter provides yet another way that we can demonstrate Christlike living in our culture. This doesn’t mean we must try to “redeem” Twitter and wrest it from the hands of people whose Tweets issue forth iniquity. Nor does it mean that every tweet has to be a Bible verse or Christian quote. It simply means that we, as Christians–as pastors–can use this tool in a God-honoring way.
Finally, to come full circle to my opening gripe, let me issue this repeat caution. If you get on Twitter, use Twitter. If it’s not your thing, please don’t feel bad. You don’t have to use Twitter to be an effective pastor. It may be that Twitter is downright distracting for you. Let it alone.
I want to give a shout out to John Manna, a drummer brother from Canada who successfully uses Twitter. Here are his valuable contributions to the conversation. You can tell I learned from his list as I prepared mine.
- Be authentic. Be yourself. Your people know who you really are in person. Don’t try to be someone you’re not on Twitter. (Tell them what you’re eating for breakfast, take a pic and upload it, etc…)
- Network with other pastors around the world. You can follow the “bigger guys” and gain insight and leadership ideas from their world.
- Don’t use it for self-promotion. Instead, promote others that you’re following; let others know who they should follow and why (the benefit of following them).
- Contribute to the Twitter community. Join in on a discussion and give your input. (Share relevant links, point people to solutions, etc…)
- Share what’s coming up with in your next sermon series, church event, concert, etc… . This is different that self promotion, as you are contributing what might be of interest/benefit to others.
- Listen to the conversation. This will give you great sermon material and will put you in line with today’s culture, society.
- Get Feedback. I once threw out a question to my Twitter community that was going to be used in my message the next Sunday. Got great feedback and perspective on the subject (3 reasons why you won’t go to church).
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