I recently dove in to a social networking site called seesmic.com, which is like a video twitter. I am not on there much at all lately. But I learned a few things from that experience that translate quite well to church. So, here goes.
Social networks can be hard to crack. The community is set. People mostly know each other. And for the newbie, it’s hard to know what to do, what is acceptable, and how to break into the community. Church is really no different. As soon as a first time guest walks in, they have the same feelings. What will the experience be like? Who will talk to me? What am I supposed to do? Will I like or dislike this experience?
Social networks seem to be averse to change. In the four months I was hanging out on Seesmic, it seemed that every change sent a ripple through the community. And churches seem to be the same. Change is required to keep the organization moving. God is a God of advancement, not stagnation. And change has to be introduced to adapt to God’s advancing of the church. Resisting change can often be an increase in resisting growth.
Social networks don’t miss you when you are gone. I have been off Seesmic for about a week now. I got maybe three messages. Not complaining mind you. It’s just that they move on with or without you. And in church, it can’t just be one or two people that call you when you are gone. It has to be the community loving and caring for those that are in the community. And when one goes missing, there should be a flood of calls and visits.
Social networks can be time consuming. It takes a bit of time each day to check in, stay updated, and engage the community. The church can’t be a one hour event on Sunday. It can’t be a host of events. It must be a group of people doing life together and spending time together.
Social networks can be intolerable. I witnessed on more than one occasion someone coming into the community, saying something inflammatory, and being ostracized or rejected. Seems to me the church has to be the place where we tolerate alot more and love alot more and share what God has to say about the conversation alot more.
Social networks are full of people who really appreciate someone caring about them and genuinely trying to help them. Church is no different. People are so appreciative when we take time to listen, to care, and to be there if nothing else for a sympathetic ear. But we can also pray and counsel and bless.
Social networks look a whole lot more like the church. But the church has to take a cue from these networks and rise above the pitfalls of the downsides of social networks.