Missions 2.0: Spreading the Gospel using Social Media | Christian Creative Digital Communications
Christian Missions, Online Publishing, and Interactive Web 2.0 Platforms:
I’ve been pondering the ways in which ministry could leverage internet technology and social media in the missions context–particularly as it relates to micro-enterprise and missions based social entrepreneurship (part of Business as Missions). I listened to an inspirational Greek missionary speak at church tonight and simultaneously brainstormed a couple basic ideas about emerging media platforms and technology empowered missions.
Church 2.0: A Cornucopia of Social Media Communication Tools:
Its all about show and tell. First, the use of Slideshare to post existing powerpoint presentations slideshows online. Its a very easy to use tool and you can create groups around issues like “missions”, “theology”, “sermons”, “evangelism”, or “christian social justice.” This would allow missionaries to stay in visual contact with churches without having to visit each and every church.
Pick a crayon and get creative. Second, blogging, podcasting, and video blogging each offers unique advantages for spreading the gospel. If you can use a microphone, a camera, or email you can pretty much do all the above. Cameras are super cheap these days. You can purchase a flip camera for around $100 to 150 which is a (super) small hand held camera you can use to record key church events. And you should be able to grab a tripod on craigslist for around $15-25. (Ebay or Listpic may work too) [Lack of picture stability, bad lighting, and bad sound are some of the most unfortunate criticisms of most online video] Also, most new Macintosh’s come equipped with technology and software to be multimedia studios (you can purchase a new mac for $1,200 – $1,600 or a used one for half that price) You could post lessons and sermons, as well as short 1-3 minute updates about what God is doing in the lives of people in your church.
Get that in writing. Third, if you go the video or audio direction, you may want to pay for transcription. You can find cheap transcription via one of many outsourcing websites like Get a Freelancer or e-Lance. Search engines can’t “see” your video or podcasting content, so it helps people find your content. Also, it can help people spread your content by simple cut and paste. You may also choose to use Safari’s summarize function to create an executive summary of your lessons.
Adapt to your audience(s). Fourth, you should think about the bi-lingual nature of your ventures. Add a Google translator and even consider having a member translate your content.
Start a digital water cooler to connect for free or almost free. Fifth, you may want to consider a Ning social network, a message board to share information and ideas internally, a wiki, a Change.org website based on your particular issue of concern. There are tons of options for using social media platforms for christian communication and kingdom ends.
Create an inviting digital living room. Sixth, you will want to look into simple, user friendly navigation which can be provided by WordPress. With wordpress you can get inexpensive webdesign for under $300 by purchasing a professional looking premium theme (such as Thesis or Revolution or a lovely WordPress Theme by Chris Pearson) or by using a free WordPress design theme.
Plan for the future. Seventh, down the road you may think of creating a group blog that key members of your staff or volunteers can blog. Or you may want to target one blog for the surrounding community and one blog to churches overseas that have funded your ventures. This will allow you to target your message to a very specific audience.
Ignore these Droids. They aren’t the ones you’re looking for: Don’t fall for “shiny new object syndrome.” You don’t need to stay up to date on the technology. You only need to learn how to use it. The technology is only an enabling platform. Creating relationships is clearly the goal and focus.
Its Balancing Act: Creating an information diet, time management and workflow are all issues you will want to consider. The key is to find time you weren’t using before, such as surfing online, playing video games, or watching television. All in all stay focused on God and relationships and you should be fine.
Principles to Consider:
• Focus on Gods word and God working through you. In other words, how does your story and your communities story tell His story.
• Once you’ve listened a while, its important to dive in to explore to get your feet wet. Its actually a lot of fun.
• Its easy to be come a stats-o-holic. Be forewarned. Connections beat stats everyday.
Step by Step Social Media Tactics:
Last night while I was writing this I ran across a fantastic post by Jeffrey Sass that sums up the social media learning process in L-E-A-R-N. You may find it helpful:
L: Listen. Social Media provides you with the tools to be the ultimate eavesdropper and be a fly on the wall to virtually thousands of conversations. What should you listen for? Your name, your company, your product, your industry.
E: Engage. Social Media provides you with the tools not just to listen, but to easily step into a conversation and engage with strangers. With that in mind, you must be REAL and be OPEN.
A: Accept. Now that you have listened and engaged, you need to accept what is being said about you, your brand, your company, your product. Take the feedback to heart because to the world at large, their perception is their reality, whether you agree with it or not.
R: React. What you do next is important. Are you going to be defensive or helpful? Remember, just as you started your Social Media exchange as a fly on the wall, there are others now listening to you, and seeing how you engage with your “followers.”
N: Nurture. Social Media is all about relationship building. That first random encounter can, over time, become a valuable and rewarding relationship. Nurture your Social Media connections and you will build an army of evangelists for you, your brand, your product, your company, etc.
L-E-A-R-N is a great pneumonic to focus your social media efforts. Here are some addition ideas and resources for your journey into the world of the Live web.
Some Critical Initial Issues to Consider:
• Listen first, exploring different social media platforms and communities.
• What is your purpose in using social media?
• Who is your audience?
• What is success?
• How much time do you have to spend?
The Role of Digital Story Telling in Missions:
Social media helps tell stories. The story of Jesus working though you and your congregation and your community.
“If you want understanding you have to reenter the human world of stories. If you don’t have stories you don’t have understanding. From the first accidental wiener roast on a prehistoric savanna, we’ve understood things by telling stories.” ~ David Weinberger, Cluetrain Manifesto
Consider checking out theses fantastic Christian and church social media resources:
• Church Social Media and Internet Christian Ministry
• Church Social Media Staples: The Fundamentals of Church Social Media by Aaron Marshall
• Jared Goralnick’s Guide to Social Media Its an intermediate guide, but very helpful.
• The Blogging Church by Brian Bailey is an excellent read
• Mission Minded has a great post about social media in missions
• You’ll find more church specific tech and social media advice at the Digital Sanctuary.org
If you have any additions, please feel free to add them in the comment section….If you have questions about church social media or web 2.0 for christian missions please contact me or leave a note in the comments section. (it only takes 30 seconds to register to leave a comment)
Nathan Ketsdever is the chief editor of Compassion in Politics and is passionate about music, off beat and independent movies, and all things Mac. Nathan also is a lifetime learner, a Christian search engine optimization consultant, and and ethical link building specialist. He writes about social media, citizen journalism, non-profit social change, enterprise 2.0, crowd sourcing, faith as well as the leading technology and media trends.