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Last week I wrote about why I believe Willow Creek and Saddleback and Losing Influence while North Point and LifeChurch.tv are Gaining Influence. The article ignited a lot of discussion, including the most comments we’ve ever had on a blog post. If you haven’t read it, where have you been? Click and get reading!
Thanks to all of you who joined in the conversation. Thanks in particular to all of you at Willow Creek, Saddleback, North Point, and LifeChurch.tv folks who added your insight to the post. It’s been a fascinating discussion.
Based on your comments, there are 4 areas I want to address. (And sorry to disappoint some of you, but Reveal is not one of them.)
1) There’s a difference between being on social media and using it exceptionally well.
There were a few comments from Willow and Saddleback folks that were more or less saying, “Hey, we have blogs and are on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.” That’s great, but if you have 200 Twitter followers and your posting once or twice a week to a blog and getting maybe a couple comments per post, you’re not in the same league as someone with 5,000 Twitter followers and dozens of comments a day on their blog.
It’s like the difference between being in the minor leagues and being a Major League All-Star. There’s no shame in being in the minors leagues (I put myself in that category), it’s good start, you’re doing good work, and there’s even the potential to make it to the bigs, but being an All-Star is a whole ‘nother level.
2) There’s a difference between linking to social media and integrating with social media.
This week I’ll be participating in the Willow Creek Leadership Summit from the satellite location here in he Tampa, FL. This will be the third year that I’ve blogged my notes live, and the first I’ve Twittered. So, I went to the Summit site several times looking for a blog, chat, twitter profile, and a twitter hashtag for the conference. I couldn’t find any of that stuff.
It turns out, it was partially my fault. If you look at the very bottom left of the Summit site, there are little circular icons for Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. The @leadersummit Twitter profile has 500 followers (modest IMO considering the 50,000+ conference registrations) and it looks like the hashtag #tls09 for the Summit was only announced last week. But I’m actually quite impressed with the interaction on the Summit Facebook page. It’s got 2400 fans and more importantly regular updates and quite a few comments. I was disappointed to hear there will be no blog or chat for the Summit, though.
Now, take a look at the website for the Cultivate Conference, which is a small conference that will take place for the first time this year. Cultivate has links to Twitter and Facebook built into the site’s navigation menu. The homepage has links to all the facilitators’ Twitter profiles and it shows the last 5 tweets with the #cultivate09 hashtag.
Also take a look at the Echo Conference website. It’s got links to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Vimeo at the top of the site. Plus there’s a blog. During the conference, someone I follow on Twitter tweeted the URL of the live video feed, and so even though I wasn’t there I was able to see an interview with some of the participants and chat with others watching the interview. So, using Twitter, a free video feed, and chat, they were able to expand the influence of the conference well beyond its registration totals.
Granted, Cultivate and Echo are tech-related conferences, but the point is they’re ahead of the Summit site in terms of social media integration.
3) Willow Creek and Saddleback are Doing Some Excellent Stuff Online.
I mentioned above the very popular and well-trafficked Summit FB page.
Just yesterday, I got an email from Saddleback for the Life’s Healing Choices campaign. Here is a screenshot of the page in Pastors.com for the campaign.
They did a great job with it. There’s a video on the right. Below the video are links to share the video in various social media sites. They’ve got a Facebook page and Twitter profile for the campaign, they seem to be updating them consistently, and there are lots of comments on the Facebook page. And as you can see on the screenshot, links to the FB page and Twitter profile are prominently displayed. Props Saddleback!
Additionally, I give Rick Warren props for giving Twitter a go. He’s got almost 17,000 twitter followers. And though I think he tweets too many cutesy, church-sign-esque Christian sayings and too few links, retweets, and off-the-cuff comments, I give Rick Warren a lot of credit for actually tweeting himself rather than having someone on staff ghost tweet on his behalf. Authenticity matters in social media and Warren gets that.
4) A Lot of Influence Takes Place Behind the Scenes
I thought Bill Donahue, director of group life at Willow Creek, made some good points in his comments about how Willow Creek is influencing churches behind the scenes. It’s Leadership Summit is the largest conference for church leaders in the U.S. and the Global Summit will take place in 57 countries this year. The Willow Creek Association has put a ton of work into building relationships with the pastors and churches at each site and helping them to facilitate each summit location. Bill Hybels has flown all over the world n an effort to maximize the number of church leaders who will get to participate in the Global Summit this year.
I might see a Christian leader with 10,000 people reading his posts and Tweets, but never know about a Global Summit site in Eastern Europe that serves pastors who minister to 10,000 people in their churches. And yet whose to say which is more influential?
I’m sure similar things could be said for Saddleback’s pastors.com website and PEACE plan.
Wrapping it up
So, yes, I still think no churches are influencing the culture and the church through online communiation more than North Point and LifeChurch.tv. And, yes, I still believe Willow Creek and Saddleback have room to improve their online communication. They certainly have the resources and leadership, it’s just a matter of whether they want to focus on it and make it more of a priority.
Maybe they should, but then again maybe not. God doesn’t call any individual or church to be great at everything. God calls us all to focus where He’s given us gifts and passions. And ultimately our goal is not influence but it’s to follow God’s leading in our life each day.