The Social Media Gospel (or #SocMGospel for those in the know)

You may get the feeling that the Patheos Book Club is a primary source of my reading these days, and you’d be partially right.

I’m okay with that. Even the books that leave me enh give me something to think about and force me to formulate my thoughts (it’s good practice for a hack reviewer to read a variety of books). I also find, sometimes, that these books give me an exposure to things outside the echo chamber I prefer to hide within, the one that consists of things I like and agree with.

All of that might lead you to think that the book I’m sharing today is one that I’m not enthusiastic about, one that I’m not impressed by, one that I’m enduring because I said I’d review it.

WRONG! WRONG! WRRRRRONNNNNG!

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The Social Media Gospel: Sharing the Good News in New Ways, by Meredith Gould, is nothing short of wonderful. It’s filled with information that’s useful even to those of us who consider ourselves old hands at new media.

Church communications have changed over the last ten years that I’ve been working in a parish, and I’ve been blessed to work with a pastor who’s game for trying just about anything. Our parish website is mobile enhanced, we have an active Facebook page, and we’re always talking about and trying to implement new tools to keep our parishioners involved.

So I thought, as I picked up this little tome by Gould, that I had a pretty good idea of what was in it. I thought, leafing through it, that I’d be nodding a lot but not so much taking notes.

Apparently the theme of this post is me replying, WRRRRRRRONNNNNNG! even to myself. :)

I still think we’re doing a good job as a parish with 300ish families. (We’re small, yes, but not tiny.) However, in the next few weeks, we’ll be making some adjustments based on Gould’s suggestions.

Quality content will enhance your audiences’ knowledge, deepen their understanding, strengthen their faith, stimulate conversation, and build community. Change becomes possible when content helps visitors discover new aspects of self in relation to others. Community emerges when content stimulates interaction with others and among online visitors.

I found a few things especially helpful in this book: the discussions about social media usage across generations, social media tools and learning styles, and the topics that are best handled by each of the tools. As we consider who we’re reaching with each tool, we have to also consider what each tool is good for. Some of this is intuitive, especially if you’ve been using the tools for any length of time, but I found many helpful tips and insights throughout the book.

Who knew that Pinterest was the “common ground” across both personality types and learning styles? I had no idea that I was a kinesthetic learner, but that must be why I love Twitter (and don’t so much love Facebook). And the “thing” I keep flirting with with Pinterest? Hmm…there’s something to that.

Gould has put together a practical guide that’s appropriate for anyone who’s involved with church communications, whether you’re an expert with social media or a bit terrified of it all. She explains (without putting those of us who have been around the web to sleep), enlightens, and, best of all, encourages.

As with everything else having to do with church and faith, prayerful discernment is at the core of sorting times for embracing from times for refraining. Instead of unplugging from all social media, first try using it to reinforce your devotional practices and receive support from people of faith. Use it to be a blessing to others. If that doesn’t help, then turn the social media ministry over to someone else for a season before doing too much damage to self and others.

I’ll be sharing this gem with my pastor and then probably at least one other person on our parish staff. I’ll also be referring back to it myself.

If you want to learn more about this book (so you can share it with your pastor, your parish secretary, read it yourself), stop on over to the Patheos Book Club and learn more. And if you want some delight of your own, check out Meredith’s other work.

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