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This is a guest post by Kevin J. Duncan.
You would be hard pressed to throw a rock out a window and not hit someone who would wax poetic on the virtues of Twitter.
Granted, they would later Tweet something along the lines of “Some jerk just hit me with a rock and then asked me if I liked Twitter”, but that’s neither here nor there.
Mark 16:15 tells us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.”
Many churches today are using Twitter to help them do just that and many more are hoping to start. I myself have written an article or two helping churches do this very thing and, as I’m writing these words, Paul Steinbrueck right here on OurChurch has posted an article based on a quote from Twitter’s founder, Ev Williams.
So, great. Twitter is good. Case closed, right? Well, not necessarily.
Just as every rose has its thorn, Twitter and its social media brethren have their drawbacks.
5 reasons your church should maybe not be on Twitter
There is a reason professional athletes and celebrities frequently quit Twitter. (On any given day, actor Alec Baldwin will have quit Twitter, signed up again, then quit again all before you’ve had your first cup of morning coffee.) The reason? When you are in the spotlight, people like to take shots at you. They like to heckle.
Now, combine this phenomenon with the typical backlash those who preach the Kingdom of the Lord receive for preaching the Kingdom of the Lord.
There are people in this world who will be more than happy to heckle your church simply because you’re a church. And if you put your church on a public forum, such as Twitter, you may very well become a punching bag on said public forum.
Can you handle that?
Hackers like to hack — it’s why we call them hackers. And if your church has a Twitter account, you run the risk of having your account compromised.
If you’re fortunate, you will notice what’s happened before any damage has been done.
If you’re unfortunate, your church’s Twitter account will do various things which most definitely do not further His Kingdom.
3. Takes time
If your church is big enough to have a position such as Social Media Director, time likely isn’t an issue for you. You have someone to handle Twitter duties for you. You’re covered.
However, if you’re a smaller church, it could very well be your pastor or someone else with existing church responsibilities handling such duties.
If all you do is post announcements on Twitter, this isn’t such a big deal. (And if your church’s website uses WordPress, you can use plugins to automate such announcements.) But if you want your Twitter account to engage with your audience, retweet prayer requests, really dig into Twitter and all it can do…
It’s going to take time. And if it’s your pastor doing it, time very well may be the last thing he has to give.
4. One voice?
In 2011, the Chrysler Group got into some hot water after the agency it hired to handle its social media accounts Tweeted an offensive message to Chrysler’s 8,000+ followers.
Needless to say, this reflected badly on Chrysler.
How does this relate to your church?
The person handling your church’s Twitter account is representing your church. They speak for your church and, as far as the viewing public is concerned, are your church.
If your pastor handles the Twitter duties, this isn’t much of a concern. After all, your pastor is very much used to speaking on behalf of your church.
However, what if someone other than your pastor is in charge of your church’s Twitter?
They are speaking for your church. Are you comfortable with that?
Nathan Heflick, a post-doctoral researcher at The University of Kent, discussed on Psychology Today a study which found recipients of online communication could accurately guess the emotion — sarcasm, humor, seriousness or sadness — of the sender only 60% of the time.
Hopefully, no one who reads a Tweet from a church stating something along the lines of “We will be looking at Romans 9 this Sunday…hope you all can make it!” will think sarcasm is involved. Or sadness. (Although, with Romans 9 you never know.)
However, the reality is things get lost in translation all the time.
And if your church Tweets a lot, it’s possible, if not likely, you will eventually post something people take the wrong way.
What are some other dangers and concerns of which churches should be mindful when it comes to Twitter and other forms of social media?
Are Twitter, Facebook and the rest more trouble than they’re worth?
What steps can a church take to alleviate some of these concerns?
Leave us a comment below to tell us what you think.