It sounds crazy, doesn't it? I mean, how will people reach you if they need help, want to share good news, or need pastoral care?
It would be crazy to give up your phone for Lent.
And yet, we quite easily, and in some cases flippantly, talk about giving Facebook and other social networks for Lent like its no big deal.
This reflects a profound misunderstanding of the role social networking now plays our lives and ministry.
When we talk about giving up Facebook for Lent we usually mean that social media are simply a form of entertainment, that they are ancillary to our "real lives." When we place them in the category of giving up meat, coffee, chocolate, we insinuate that Facebook is a guilty pleasure that we are probably be better off without, but usually don't have the willpower to give up.
However, digital social networks have become an integrated and, for many, an essential, part of life, relationships, ministry, and, yes, faith. Just as much as any phone.
2012 was the most challenging and gratifying in my professional career. I published my first book, left one call and accepted another, and relocated our family of six from Boston to Philadelphia. It was a great year to be blogging to document it all.
What I've learned about blogging is that one does not only write a blog to process the present moment, but also to observe how one's own perspective, style, and interests evolve over time.
I blog, in part, to discover what I'm interested in, what seems worth writing about, and to chip away at larger ideas and challenges in 1000 words or less. In short, in blogging, like all writing, I suppose, the thing you learn the most about is yourself.
So, in a new a new tradition (drum roll) here's the best of my blog, 2102 edition:
Here's the 2012 edition of the blog in raw numbers:
“And the word became flesh and lived among us....” (John 1:14)
Last summer, one of my Facebook friends I’ve never met, Tracy Pasche-Johannes, a fellow Lutheran pastor from Muncie, Indiana, and her husband, Jeff, were in my hometown of Boston on vacation. “We’re in Boston! Would you like to meet in person?” they asked in a Facebook message.
We had never met before and we had a pretty thin connection to start with: we shared one common friend, who, at one point thought it would be a good idea for us to know each other and introduced us on Facebook. We had observed one another’s status updates, messaged back and forth a few times, but that was pretty much it.
We agreed to meet up for an Italian dinner in Boston’s North End. Over pasta and Chianti, canolli and cappuccino, we fleshed out one another’s status updates and blog posts, putting a voice with our writing, describing our families, locating one another within our ministry and community contexts.
Over the course of the meal, all the words, links, and video we had shared back and forth on Facebook became embodied and enfleshed, and our digital connection grew into a deeper personal relationship. Our dinner was, in the Johannine spirit of “the Word made flesh,” a feast of the incarnation.
Church judicatories, such as synods and dioceses, have a unique set of challenges and opportunties when it comes to employing digital social media to further their mission and ministry.
In this webinar I led for ELCA synod communicators, I suggest some crucial and often overlooked steps in developing a judicatorial social media strategy by applying the approach to social media for ministry that Elizabeth Drescher and I put forward in our book, Click2Save: The Digital Ministry Bible.
In the course of the webinar I quote Elizabeth, who once noted that, "Institutions don't do social. People do social." One of the dangers of judicatories and larger church institutions is that with the understandable need to disseminate news and information, we lose sight of the point of social media—actually developing relationships, not only with the judicatory or its staff, but congregation to congregation, person to person. It can be more difficult for larger instutions to make the shift from broadcast to social media, marketing to ministry, from the instituitional to the personal—but this is what will ultimately prove most effective.
Much of the advice here also applies to congregations and individuals.
Photo by Andrew TaylorIf you want to keep your preaching fresh but don't have the time or money to attend a big conference, consider using podcasts to spark your imagination and become a better preacher.
At its heart, preaching is storytelling - whether its retelling the Bible stories, the story of what God is up to now in the world, God's people, places, or encounters.
However, storytelling is becoming a bit of a lost art. We have less time these days to sit and weave together tall tails and stories. We are not as steeped in story as we used to be and, I fear, if only for myself, losing something in our proclamation.
Podcasts are a rich resources for modern day storytelling. They are schools for storytelling, if we listen not only what they say but how they say it - the pace, timing, wordsmithing. Best of all, it's free and you can listen from home, on a run, or in the car.
In the last year, I've made it a point to listen to storytelling podcasts, and I have definitely noticed an improvement in my story telling and preaching.
Here are three of my favorite storytelling podcasts:
Photo by Ally AubryElection season is in full swing and social networks are crammed full of all kinds of political messages. There has been a collective groan across Facebook and other social networks as many people share their sometimes surprising political convictions.
Ministry leaders often wrestle with how to respond and also how much to share their own political convictions, personal and pastoral considerations - how much to advocate, persuade, share news, be snarky, when there is so much at stake - even more so in the height of an election cycle.