the wonderful web of social media (a theme)

It’s always interesting to watch as my various road trips take on particular “themes.” Sometimes these are ministry topics that keep popping up over and over, sometimes they’re college ministry trends that become noticeable through repetition, and other times they’re more “random,” but redundant, events.

The recent 6-week road trip had its fair share of themes, to be sure! So with the expectation that God brings up many of these things for my – and our – benefit, I’ll be examining those themes occasionally over the next few weeks.

One of the most prominent – and surprising – themes was the continuous value of social media for ministry connections.

Clearly, the idea of using social networks for, well, networking is neither new nor surprising. But in all my past road trips, I hadn’t had the chance to see its value so extensively. And through that, I’ve been realizing some of the ways these networks can help us even more than they have been.

Twitter was the most dramatic of aids, in large part because of the immediacy of results – and the unexpectedness of some of those results. For example, when I stepped onto campus at Belmont University, I wasn’t planning to do much more than observe the campus – and I tweeted to that effect. But within a minute or so, Guy Chmieleski, University Minister, tweeted me right back – and we ended up having a great conversation on campus that afternoon. My first-ever “Tweet-up”!

But that wasn’t the end of it, for sure. Some notable Twitter-enabled (or -enhanced) activity:

  • After I tweeted about some of the University Ministries staff from North Park University attending the Princeton conference, the official “NPU Twitterer” wrote me back, encouraging me to tell them hi. That meant a perfect opening for a reconnect with the NPU UM staff, and we all ended up eating lunch together the next day.
  • Several times I was able to announce my itinerary publicly – a campus I was visiting later that day, for instance – and get responses back about people I should meet, things to do, etc.
  • I also had the chance to report immediately on my campus visits, my meetings with college ministers, and the other adventures of my trip. With pictures! It’s been lonely enjoying the “little things” of the last two years almost entirely by myself. So sharing the fun in 140-characters-or-less made the whole thing more enjoyable for me – and hopefully for others!
  • Twitter also served the purpose of directly connecting me with fellow college ministers I hadn’t met before. Like Facebook and blogging, Twitter provides the opportunity to discover people involved in college ministry – and the Twitter crowd tends to be particularly interested in making connections like that. In at least one case, I ended up getting to stay with a minister I’d only Twitter-met! Providence, tweeted my way.

I noticed similar results with Facebook – and sometimes to an even greater degree – as I began using my Status and the Exploring College Ministry Facebook group to keep people updated on the major activities of my trip. While Facebook seems better suited to a little less frequent updating than Twitter, when I did send an update, I tended to get some really helpful responses – even from some surprising sources!

Soon, what I’m learning about applying this directly to our college ministry work.

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