There is no doubt that our world is always changing through the blessings of technology.
When my older pastor friends tell me about the days without email, I just have a hard time believing how one could do my job without it.
The way we communicate with each other is quicker, frequent and often to the point. And, often impersonal. In the age of Skype and video conferencing, face-to-face meetings are rarer than ever.
For example, when was in charge of the youth program at my previous congregation, calling the youth to tell them about an event was labeled “very uncool.” But, texting them or sending Facebook messages would the only way I could get a response sometimes– it the language of the kids and thus the langauge that they spoke back to me. And it is not just about “kids” anymore. Committee discussions, pastoral care, etc for adults all find a home online these days. Our church even has a Facebook fan page!
A couple weeks ago on my Facebook status, I posed the question: “Does social networking like Facebook and Twitter (and blogging for those of us who do) make you feel more connected to others? Or are we wasting our time anonymously peering into one another’s lives without real relationships?”
The response I got was mixed. While most said that they felt like social networking was a meaningful way of connecting to others that they might not otherwise talk to, no one deigned the fact that twitter updates, Facebook status and blog posts have all changed the ways which we relate to one another.
For example with one of my “friends” on Facebook, I can learn about his or her political or religious views, read postings from their friends I’ve never met, or look through their photo albums without them ever knowing what I was specifically looking at or the two of us talking about what I saw.
What I think occurs in this is a false sense of “knowing” another person, so that when real, face-to-face encounters happen, can I saw awkward? There are those who I met who might not have anything to say to me other than what I posted on twitter or Facebook the previous week. Very weird.
But, I don’t mean to say this is all bad. Nor, that I don’t find social networking an invaluable tool in my pastoring.
Twittering with community business leaders and prospective church members is a great way for message of our church to “get out there.” And, for those who need to most connect with the church body at large and might feel comfortable first getting to know me. Blogging is a great way for me to share dreams for the future and celebrations with a larger audience than just inside the church walls, and also to continue the conversation about faith throughout the week for church members.
In the end, I enjoy being connected with others and others with me. And, I also don’t want to limit any opportunity in this online age to share the good news about what God is doing at Washington Plaza.
So, why do I Facebook, twitter, and the rest?
Is it wasting time? Well, sometimes it makes for a great procrastination tool . . . but usually it has a great purpose. I loved when a church member came up to me one Sunday recently and began a conversation about something I had tweeted about. I was like “Wow, someone is actually listening out there!”
Is it about peering anonymously in others lives without real relationships? If I never have face-to-face interaction with any of you Facebook friends or blog readers, it is. (And, kind of creepy I think, but the price I pay for wanting to get the word out about the church) But, if we pick up our offline conversation in person where our online conversation left off, real relationships are growing and life is springing forth.
I have come to see that it is important to go with the flow of technology, but also at the same time not to let it control me entirely.
Because really what makes me smile the most as a pastor are invitations to afternoon coffee or folks who drop my office to chat. I’ll keep conversing with you online, but ultimately, I hope that we have a chance to meet face-to-face!