On Saturday, April 26, several of us from St. Philip’s, as well as representatives from several other Tucson congregations, attended a “e-Bootcamp” sponsored by the Diocese, held at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU. The beautiful facility provided a high-tech ambiance for our training.
About 50 people from the diocese attended the conference, including Bishop Kirk S. Smith, who opened our session emphasizing the future of technology. There were folks completely new to technology and a few “old hats” who offered wisdom and deeper reflections.
The main speakers were the Rev. Kyle Oliver, Digital Missioner and Learning Lab Coordinator at Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS), Prof. Lisa Kimball, Director for the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at VTS, Eric Carr, volunteer social media coordinator at Grace St. Paul’s (Tucson), and the Rev. Nick Roosevelt, Curate at St. Barnabas, Phoenix.
After our opening session, we attended sessions on:
- Social Media: Facebook and Twitter
- Blogging Best Practices: Editorial and Pastoral Considerations
- New Ministry Models: Learning in Person and Online with Hybrid Faith Formation Networks
- Advanced Social Media: An In-Depth Look
- Church Website (re)Designs
- How #Tweet the Sound: Best Practices for Clergy on Twitter
We learned that the churches who are most successful at using social media are those who know who they are, who are clear about their theological commitment, and who do it well. Some of the advantages of using social media include the fact that it helps multiply communication efforts through comments and “sharing,” it is more personal than a web site or print communications, and casual interactions on social media can lead to more substantial connections. We took special note of the importance of using social media to tell stories with photos and explanations.
A session on web sites detailed their four functions: to introduce, to inform (provide information), to enhance users’ spiritual and missional life, and to manage (serve as a hub for efficient administration). Some food for thought by the numbers — 17.4 million American adults who don’t regularly attend worship services have visited the website of a local church or place of worship; and the top three pieces of information people check web sites for are service times (43%), listings of activities (29%), and directions (28%).
The clergy-only sessions on tweeting and blogging provided inspiration through vibrant discussions, exploring ways of engaging “nones” (persons who claim to have no faith connection at all) with connections such as #needprayer or through simple blogging that gets to the spiritual heart of the priest.
The starting point, regardless of method or media used, is the message itself — focusing on why we do what we do, how we try to carry out God’s work in the world. That is the good news that we can tell through social media — with your help. Stay tuned for information about you can participate.
—Photos courtesy of Diocese of Arizona