by Scott Greening

Who is your church following?

Who is following your church?

The answers that leap to your mind may reveal your familiarity with the micro-blogging website twitter.com. Twitter allows individuals, organizations, magazines, television hosts, and even churches to communicate with their followers in 140 character bursts. These brief statements make up a feed that is broadcast to interested Twitter users. Followers of a particular feed can reply with 140 character bursts of their own. Scores of people are encouraging this social networking. If you have watched television in the last three months, chances are that you, too, have been encouraged to follow and respond to a Twitter feed. The growing ubiquity of Twitter must cause churches to consider their stance toward this Internet resource. Can Twitter help churches follow the Head of the church, Jesus Christ?

In this part one, we will consider some benign uses of Twitter for any church with Internet presence. In part two we will consider the validity of embracing Twitter as a part of church community life. In part three we will consider using Twitter as part of corporate worship. The fourth and final part will consider how pastors as individuals can use Twitter effectively.

Churches can use Twitter in several ways. One way is to communicate announcements and reminders about church events. Walnut Ridge Baptist Church uses its Twitter feed in this way. A recent tweet from RidgeChurch communicated, “VERY SPECIAL service Sunday night @ 6pm – affirming our core values – DON’T MISS IT!!!” Churches can remind Twitter followers of Bible studies, fellowship times, and outreach events with a few keystrokes and the click of a mouse. These reminders are pushed out from the church to their followers instantaneously.

Twitter can also be used as a marketing tool. Twitter allows people to search for key words. If a church tweets, “We love families in Anytown, USA.” Individuals searching for tweets mentioning love, families, or Anytown would see the church’s tweet appear on their screen. This individual could then click on a link to the church’s website and find out more.

Twitter can also drive traffic to the church’s website or other online resources, as Walnut Ridge Baptist Church does. The church regularly points followers to video updates from their pastor (e.g., “New video update http://bit.ly/k7tzL7”) and audio archives of their pastor’s sermons.

Churches can also encourage participation in a Bible reading or memorization program. A church could daily tweet a passage of Scripture that congregants are to read. Congregants could then reply their thoughts on the passage through Twitter. This usage can encourage individuals’ spiritual growth and participation in spiritual disciplines while encouraging church community through online dialogue.

A church’s imagination expressed in 140 characters or less is the only limit for using Twitter in these types of ways. We have considered in this article mainly marketing usages of Twitter that churches can effectively use. Our society is increasingly web dependent. Churches must take advantage of resources such as Twitter to communicate their identity and ministries to the world around them.

Twitter is a valuable communication tool, but can it be used to foster genuine Christian community? Should Twitter be used to encourage participation in corporate worship? These questions require a more discerning Biblical examination. This will be the consideration of the next two parts of this article. Let me know your thoughts by commenting below or tweet me @chicagoscott.