Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Online Social communities...and the ministry that I serve.

There is so much happening online these days that it's almost overwhelming. I can spend hours - hours - just reading about all the online communities and what different ministries or organizations are using them for.

I have a love/hate relationship with all of it. I am slightly addicted(read - on all the time) to facebook and twitter - I can access them through my phone now. But I hate cell phones. I still leave my phone behind when I am with people. I don't want these things to control me but I love how I can check in on my friends whenever I like...well, at least the ones that are on facebook and twitter. I mean, I even found my childhood best friend who lives in Germany! And now we are slowly reconnecting! But I really, really don't always want to know everything that people update...some people update all the time. And for whatever reason, that bothers me. And I am starting to carry my cell phone with me more places - like staff meeting. That is something that I started about a month ago...weird. I still get annoyed though when people constantly look at and use their phones when they are in a meeting with me or we are talking...but now I am doing it to. (I know, I know - hypocritical). Struggle.

So. I don't let my students use their cell phones in the youth building - or they aren't supposed to or I take them away till they leave. But they constantly try to use them and are quite successful at times...and sometimes I ignore it or I take them away. But at this point...it is time for me to accept/acknowledge that cell phones/online communities are definitely around for awhile. There are many ministries that use cell phones/myspace/facebook/twitter as a way to allow students to interact during teaching or prayer times.

So is this what I should do? I am encouraging our worship committee/team to use twitter/texting as a means for building social community and prayer and feedback in our new ICON service that will begin on January 11th. But do I encourage my students to join twitter and use cell phones while I am teaching? While other adults are teaching?

I have talked about all of this with many of my friends and EVERYONE has a different opinion.

Reasons to use twitter and texting within the ministry:
1. Instant prayer requests
2. Instant feedback
3. Can ask questions during the week that people can give a quick and short response to.
4. The ministry can send info about what is going on in the future.
5. Most of my students have cell phones now and can't imagine not having it on them for even 5 minutes.

Some good questions about twitter and texting:
1. Is there a way to filter what people say - if we post the info immediately on a screen
2. not everyone knows how to use the technology/application
3. Some students won't/can't use texting/twittering - costs too much, just don't want to, etc.
4. Sometimes twitter doesn't update info as quickly as you need it to.

I am not sure if I really asked any real questions in this post - I am still trying to figure out what I think about it all. I know that I think that some people are way too connected and run the risk of not having enough face-to-face interaction because of their online communities. I think that we tend to be less cautious when we speak/write something online because there isn't instant feedback and it seems safer to email/text/IM/twitter something to somebody. I know that I love connecting with people through these venues. I know that I don't want it to control me.

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