Tag Archives: community 2.0

i am socially inept.

I have nearly 600 people that follow me on twitter. I follow less than 100.

I have 21 suggestions of friends on Facebook. Many of the suggestions are for people from my graduating class in high school. I haven’t added them.

I have an incredible number of things that people have given me or thrown at me or mentioned to me on Facebook. I have let them bounce off from me.

I have written thousands of words in posts. I have commented on most of the comments that people have made. But I haven’t consistently gone to the commenters’ blogs and written comments there. I haven’t even followed all of them.

I am a pretty clumsy social media person.

However, I am exactly the same way socially. At parties I stand around the edges. Or I help clear the tables. When I was in high school, I spent three years not connecting to those same people because of being incredibly shy. And then, in the fourth year, I only sort of connected.

I do way more teaching than I do conversing, at least with informal conversation. In many settings, I do way more listening than I do talking (though there are a couple people in particular that would argue that point. At great length.)

In short, I am in social what I am in social media. Because that is what I can handle.

I would love, I guess, to follow the 500 people who are in an unrequited following relationship with me. But I can’t keep up. And that isn’t likely to change. Because there are probably 1000 people that would call our church (my ’employer’) their home, and I ‘follow’ between 100-150 of them. I know more, I’m willing to respond to the comments of more, but I’ve got capacity limits.

This post isn’t a fishing post. This isn’t a “that’s awful, I’m going to unfollow you” post. This isn’t a “that’s fine, Jon, we love you anyway (you doofus)” post.

This is a “find your comfort level in social media and don’t feel guilty for not being exactly like everyone else” post.

For those of us clumsy ones, that’s a pretty important piece of permission.

I hope the rest of you don’t mind.


8 ways to use social media in church

Chris Brogan is helping people figure out how to apply social media tools in particular contexts. I offered to do the church application. Of course, because Chris has been helping me explore the possibilities for the past couple years, he has been mentoring this post.

I’ll start with a couple of principles which I try to remember.

Church buildings are tools. So are social media.

When people think about church, they think location. They go to a building. But the building is a convenience, a place to gather and stay warm and dry. Although we want buildings that are useful, if we get stuck on making them too cool, too amazing, too vast, we use up resources that could go elsewhere. Not just money, but time and attention and energy. When we think about social media, we often get captured by the coolness.

I do. As a result for example, I have a pownce account that I never check, which has left one person thinking I left the internet. When I am at my best, however, I am looking at social media as a set of tools to be used for a variety of specific purposes…and I will choose carefully based on what I want to accomplish.

Church is by definition about community and relationships. So are social media.

If you take what Jesus said about what we know as church with some seriousness, it is a set of vertical and horizontal relationships. It is about the people. And so it is with social media. How are we building relationships? How are we developing connections and using the connections to help people grow?

The curtain is pretty transparent

For some reason, people who are exploring social media for proselytizing seem to think that no one will know what they are trying to do. For example, if you are creating strategies for saving people and you publish those strategies online, the “lost people” who are the “target” of the “assimilation strategies” can read them. And will understand that the appearance of authenticity is just a strategy. Maybe of the borg.

I understand this struggle. It is the struggle of every brand that is trying to create a social media strategy. However, at some level, church isn’t a brand. My solution is to just live and talk and explore as if my Invisible Friend is real. Just like Big Bird did.

What I’ve done:

1. Share work trips with flickr and audio blogging. I was part of a team that went to Gulfport as part of Katrina reconstruction. While we were there, we put pictures on flickr, we audioblogged with hipcast, and just blogged. People back home were able to look and listen and read. Even people who didn’t know what the technology was could follow the links that we emailed around and also put on the church website.

2. Share corporate gatherings with ustream. A year ago we started turning on a video camera and streaming our services. These weren’t services produced for broadcast, with great camera work, stellar audio, and TV timeouts. Quite the opposite. The service existed and we let people at home watch it through an unobtrusive camera. For the first couple months, we just used the mic on the camera. We just took what was happening inside outside. And people watched. A guy whose wife couldn’t get out because of early Alzheimer’s disease. People who are living on the other side of the world. And one day, people who couldn’t safely travel because of the ice. (Though I haven’t tried it, I’m guessing that you could use blog.tv and chat back)

3. Share your heart with blogging. I’ve been writing here for a couple years. My friend Rick sometimes tells people what he will be preaching about to get ideas and suggestions. The key, however, is to wrestle.

4. Share community development with a corporate blog. During Lent this year I was part of creating a small group. 7 people wrote once a week each about a lent-related theme. They talked with each other. They talked with commenters. They ended up having as much interaction as a face-to-face small group might have during its first 6 weeks of meeting. They want to keep going.

5. Share your life with twitter. I can’t ever figure out how to describe twitter. Even calling it microblogging doesn’t help. So I just send people here. Especially when I am traveling. And then they discover that they can find out what I’m doing and where I am. And then they understand.

6. Share your heart with youtube. I’ve created a number of pieces of video to use in services and other places. Some are citizen journalism, showing what people connected to church are doing in the community. Some are thought pieces. (Bonus: that video used audio that was captured by on a digital voicemail service. People could call in, leave a message, and then I was able to edit it in.) Some are, well, odd. But all of them are quickly produced and connect to particular people. The secret is to remember that an apology or a birthday greeting with only one intended audience member can be absolutely huge in impact.

7. Share attention with a note. Yep. You can actually handwrite a note to someone. Of course, if you take a picture with your cameraphone, order a print through walgreens or snapfish or other photo sites, and then glue it to cardstock before you write the note, you can personalize a moment or an event in a way that merges multiple media for maximum impact.

8.  Be human. Are people at facebook? Friend them. Building networks at Linkedin? Connect. Writing a book on conversation? Sign up. Raising money to fight cancer? Join in.

Chris has had a ton of other ideas I haven’t done. One of the best? Have kids interview old people on camera and produce videos together.

Oh, one other thing. I know people that I didn’t know a year ago because of all of these things above. I have cried and laughed with, prayed for, talked to, understood, taught, been taught by these people. There are real people behind these words and screens and cameras. Out here, outside the church building.

Building bridges

Becky McCray gave me permission to steal from her. Of course, since some of the ideas are mine, and she credited me, it’s not really stealing. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s called collaboration.

Becky wrote to me one day and said, “Chris did this great post. Here’s what my ideas are. Do you have any ideas?” I wrote back and she published it as a post. It follows here.


Chris Brogan wrote a great post about promoting your media to the online world. That made me (Becky) think about increasing your audience by reaching out to new people.

Jon Swanson and I (Becky) decided to collaborate on a follow up, how to promote your online 2.0 media to the offline 0.0 world.

Here are my (Becky’s) suggestions:

  • Talk about it. Tell people what you are working on. Ask for their opinion.
  • Invite offline friends and experts to co-author or contribute.
  • Mention your media project in your regular printed materials.
  • Print business cards specifically for your blog or podcast. (credit: Vaspers)
  • Put it in your bio and resume.
  • Teach a class on how to create new media.
  • Reprint your writings in offline venues: newspapers, newsletters, journals.

And here are Jon’s ideas:

  • On your regular business card include the data for your Flickr and blog and LinkedIn and…
  • Talk about it all the time.
  • Use online friends as references for 0.0 jobs.
  • Collect your posts and print as a book.*
  • Email your posts from reader to people who only check email.
  • Have low expectations so you are more subtle.
  • Talk about online friends as real friends.
  • Get family members involved.

*In fact, compilations of all kinds of media would make great handouts. Booklets, audios, workbooks, PDFs, etc.


The more I thought about this post, and this conversation, the more I realized that Becky and I both do a lot to try to build the bridges between 2.0 and 0.0. And I realized that one of the things that is true about Becky, and I hope about me, is that the whole point is people.

That’s an odd phrasing. Let me try again.

Our goal isn’t to be merely to connect people to new technologies. Our goal, our passion, is to connect people to people and we do it using whatever technology we can get hold of.

Yes, that’s better.

I know that the technologies we use inevitably shape the message that we convey (yes, I used to read McLuhan). I know that some technologies are more user-friendly to produce (facial muscles) than others (books). I know that some technologies are more reliable, more data-rich, more nuance-rich, than others.

And that’s the point, I think, of using the social networking technologies. We are wanting to bring us much richness to our relationships as we can. We have a friendship in first life. We can’t see the person all the time. We want to stay in touch. We add email. We add text. We add twitter. And all of this to a real-time friendship.

(Okay, to be truthful, we can even add this to a marriage. Nancy and I, after nearly 25 years of marriage, have added all of this technology to how we interact. We actually do talk…but we text as well. It adds richness. And someday, she may tweet.)

Think the other way. We start relationships with twitter interactions. At some point, for many of us, we add other levels of interaction (email, blog.tv, skype, telephone, fedex packages). At times we even add face-to-face conversations. (This can become odd, like the time our son’s friend asked who the guy was sitting on our sofa. “oh,” said Andrew, “that’s my dad’s internet friend.”) Pretty soon, it becomes difficult for some of us to maintain a meaningful distinction between 0.0 and 2.0 friends. Our levels of interaction are almost the same, as we bring each group to a state of communicative equilibrium.

I know the point of this post was getting media (messages) from one venue to a new audience. Somehow it turned into something different, something about people. And maybe that’s the point. Thanks to Becky’s question, I’m thinking not about content, but about context, about human context, about relationships.

Thanks, friend.

Better together

I spent Advent blogging in two places, here and over at advent2007.wordpress.com. Over there I was creating a blogged advent calendar. It was an interesting adventure in daily blogging.

At the end of that time I reserved lent2008.wordpress.com. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, but I figured that it would be a good project.

Then one morning, I realized that I needed to make it a group project. As a result, there are 8 contributors who are signed on to write for the Lenten season. Although Lent starts with Ash Wednesday, February 6, the first of the posts is up today.

As people responded to the invitation, their hearts were pretty open:

I am interested. Willing. And scared. But fear is fleeting. And obedience … obedience is better than sacrifice. You obeyed the calling to do this in community, so I’ll answer the call too.

Well, it sure beats coming up with stuff for my own site, I’m in.
Thank you for hearing this call and for being so brave as to invite me

This is a little scary to me, but I would like to ask the Lord to teach me through this opportunity and to share His answer to that prayer with others–count me in.

I am honored and humbled to be included in this holy mess. I was going
to give up writing for lent. Thanks for screwing that up Jon! But,
hey, if God says “Kill and Eat!” who am I to say it’s unclean?
I pray, and beg, and fully expect that we will draw things out of one
another we didn’t recognize in ourselves. And as we stumble around,
expectantly looking for the right words, that we may encounter The
Word, find Our Way, and discover Truth and Life.

May we be broken to be given.

What has been happening already in the email conversation is that these writers are already helping each other rethink the traditional “giving up” approach to Lent. There is a shift happening from giving up to offering up, from giving up to acting. It is a wonderful thing to watch.

We’ll be posting a couple times a week between now and Ash Wednesday. At that point, we’ll start writing daily. We aren’t sure where were going, but wherever it is, we’ll get there together.


Thanks to Rob Hatch, Thomas Knoll, Anna Lenardson, Laurie Nichols, Connie Reece, Tom Swank, and Amy Van Huisen, spread from Maine to Texas to Minnesota, for being willing to live out here.

Subscribe to Lent

Where I’ve been – 2007

pathI wanted to look back at 2007. I really did. But somehow, finding the time to look back has been challenging. There were lots of trees and leaves.


Enter Robert Hruzek. Robert does a monthly (or so) writing challenge asking for posts on the theme, “what I learned from…” The “from” varies each month, but the challenge of writing to a theme is a helpful thing. (I’ve written a couple times in this series).

His end of year challenge was, “What I learned from 2007” and the project was to pick one post from each month of the year that represented some significance. I finally settled down to write that post, and Robert has it up here What I learned from 2007. (He did this as a blogapalooza which means that all of the posts are put up on his blog, Middle Zone Musings, with links back to here.

It was a great exercise, realizing how much I’ve written, how much I’ve learned, how much you have meant to me. So head over there and see whether you agree with my choices.

In the process of compiling that list, I realized that I’ve been writing in other places as well.


A couple times this year, Liz Strauss let me guest post on her blog. This has been a privilege and a challenge. One of the things that marks Liz’s blog is that she comments on every comment. Every one. In almost real time.

And Liz gets a lot of comments.

When you write for Liz, you want to keep the conversation going, which means a significant commitment for the day or two following. Having done that twice, I have a deep appreciation for the commitment Liz has for her community. In her blog she talks often about relationship. In her comments, she lives that commitment.

Thanks, Liz for letting me stop by on December 5 (Are you blogging for as many or as much?) and August 15 (Shaping the world in little ways.)


Through Liz this year, I met Joanna Young. She lives in Edinburgh and writes well about writing well. I mean really well.

One of the things she did this year was to try having guest writers. She opened up her sitting room in September and invited three of us to take the lead in conversation about authentic writing. (Robert wrote one, and Emma Bird wrote the other. Growing out of that collaboration, Emma and Joanna are hosting a writing holiday in Italy.)

So thanks, Joanna for letting me stop by September 13 (Sometimes I write hollow.)

Next Wave

Next-wave.org is an online journal about church and culture. Thanks to editor Bob Hyatt, I was able to write twice for them, once on Twitter (June) and once on the advent blog I wrote (December).

Related Blogs

In addition to writing here at Levite and at these other places, I wrote at two other blogs I created (deliberate disciple and advent2007) at various times this year.

Looking ahead.

There are several projects bouncing in my head, particularly as I begin understanding how social media is going to interact in my new position at Grabill Missionary Church.

In the works already, and unrelated to GMC, is lent2008.wordpress.com. This blog will start running within a week or so. Eight of us are working together to write this, attempting in community to reflect on the lenten season. The challenge is that only some of us know each other face to face. Most of the relationship has developed on-line. We are very excited about the interaction already happening. You’ll enjoy it, too.


I’m thinking that I generated a lot of words in 2007. Thanks to each of you who reads and comments, whether face to face or in the comment section or through email or through a twitter reference or other link. I am grateful for the community that stops by here. I’m grateful for you.

dragging people along

On Monday, I finished clearing my stuff out of the office formerly known as mine. That was the day I finished my time helping pastor First Missionary Church in Fort Wayne. As I was down to the last couple of boxes, and my friend Kay was getting ready to leave, she said, “hand me your phone. I need to get a picture. You’ll want to write about this, right?”

This is her picture.

Kay is one of several people around me who have moved into the blogosphere because of, well, because of me. I don’t like how self-serving that sounds, but I don’t mean it that way. The truth is that I see my work, in part, as helping people get more connected with God and with each other. I’m meeting lots of people and building relationships through this digital world. I’m doing most of my writing and reflecting in this space. I’m watching people from both of my worlds get connected and grow here, and so when people start following me, I see that as just another way I can help people follow others and God.

Kay and Sue and Nancy are people who don’t blog themselves, who seldom if ever comment here, but see themselves as part of a community which includes people that they and I have never seen. I can’t link to them. I can’t point you to their online presence because they really don’t have any. But they and many others have a significant presence that intersects with the online world in interesting ways.

Those of you I know in the 2.0 world, they ask about you. They want to know how you are doing. They care about your lives. They are interested. I am, for you and they, the mutual friend. And I can assure both of you all, 0.0 and 2.0, that you would really like each other.

What you all need to know is that you are all reflected here. As I write and think and pray and write, all of the life I am living blends together. My words are shaped by all of you and are written to all of you.

Some days it would be nice if you could talk with each other. However, forcing “my” 0.0 friend/readers to blog would be like forcing “my” 2.0 friend/readers to come to Fort Wayne.  It’s not likely because of different communication styles and community styles and geography styles.

As I’m moving from one church to another, I am very mindful that I am not disappearing from the lives of some people from FMC because our relationship has taken on a 2.0 component. We will continue to meet here, in many cases as often as we ever have. That’s a pretty cool thing. In fact, what I’m pretty sure will happen is that my 2.0 community of 0.0 and 2.0 friends will soon begin to meet some people from my new 0.0 church – Grabill Missionary Church.

So Kay? Thanks for the picture. And welcome to being published on flickr and here.  But you need to know that I took another picture, after you left. Once that reflects the sense that although I know that this move is healthy and will have great positive impact for both churches, there was still a moment of stopping and realizing that this office was home for more than 7 years, a time of great growth and shaping and opportunity.

And all of you, and you know who you are, thank you for being my (0.0/2.0) friends. I’m glad you are coming along for the ride.


I wanted to write a wonderful theoretical post about conversation and community.

The train of thinking started with a post by Joanna Young, talking about responding to comments on blogs. It’s a great post, suggesting that if we are going to write, we have to listen to the comments and respond to them because we are the social in social media, because these are conversations that, when continued, grow into relationship.

I commented that I like to email rather than respond on my blog to the comments. Joanna suggested that the former is nice and helpful and friendly, but if we don’t do the latter, we don’t help people to understand that this is a friendly place to be, that the writer of this blog is a listener, a dialoguer, a conversationalist.

It was a very good caution, a very well written, caring reproof.

I am, by nature, a one-on-one person. My counsel is private most often. I don’t like to talk to one person in front of others. In fact, when Nancy and I go out to eat, we are the quiet table. We talk, quietly, but if there are other tables close to ours, our conversation is limited. This is in marked contrast to the tables around us who seem more than ready to share every detail of their lives.

As a result, when I come to social media, I am far more comfortable with the email interaction than with responding to comments. I can speak more directly to heart needs that I sense. I can relate at a different level.

And, as I said, I was going to have this much more closely reasoned.

And then I spent the evening in conversations, with a long-time friend, with family, in the emergency room with someone injured in an accident (not seriously). And I realized that I am built to encourage best in one-on-one conversations. If there are four of us in the room, I’ll defer to those who seem to know better what they are doing. If there are two of us, I’ll defer to the one who seems to know better what they are doing.

We each work best when we work in ways that fit with us best. And at times that will cost us reach, and breadth, and audience. However, when I am most likely to change a life, it happens with personal time where I don’t have to worry about others listening in. I can better ask obnoxious questions. I can more comfortably share my particular struggles.

So yes, Joanna, I will do my best to respond publicly to comments. And I love what you and Liz do with specific direct comments to everyone who comments on your blogs. But I’m thinking that I have to know how my voice best works, and put my energy into that way of speaking.

Or that’s what I think way too late at night.