The 140 character sermon: How churches use social media as a core part of ministy

Every morning, Pastors from all over wake up in their homes, pray, and read Scripture, and are starting to come up with the day’s first tweets.

By 8 a.m., their followers on Twitter and Facebook know the day’s reading and the latest news.

For them, social media is as much his ministry as visiting the sick in hospitals. It’s where they need to be,” because it goes to the core of spreading the good news.”

Faced with declining membership and participation, more priests, ministers, rabbis and nuns are on YouTube discussing tattoos and the dangers of gossip, tweeting regularly, and posting podcasts. Some scrutinize Facebook analytics to see if a posting a psalm at 6 a.m. gets more traffic than 7 a.m. and hire consultants to help create an online identity for their church.

Nowadays, to reach those 35 and younger, pastors have to learn their language and the world they live in.

Social media isn’t always a comfortable fit for priests and ministers. They feel digital media can become a black hole that sucks up all their time.

Meredith Gould, author of “Social Media Gospel: Sharing the Good News in New Ways,” advises churches and clergy on developing a social-media strategy, and she sees a lot of wariness. “When it’s always been done one way, changing that is scary,” says Dr. Gould. Many ministers are used to delivering a message, but social media quickly generate two-way conversations, which may turn negative.

Many ministers feel they need to maintain a proper distance from their congregations and aren’t comfortable with disclosing too much about themselves, their personalities, quirks, or hobbies. They also fear a digital message will undermine the in-person Sunday worship experience. Often, too, they have no clue where to begin: whether to have private or public Facebook pages, where to post sermons, how to do podcasts, and when to use hashtags and Instagram.

Dr. Gould, a sociologist who was raised Jewish, confirmed as Catholic, and attends a Lutheran church, urges clergy to think visually. Videos are particularly effective because they tend to be remembered, liked and shared, as long as they are short—no more than five minutes and preferably less than three, especially when it is an interview or commentary.

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