Tag: social networking

Students Open to Faith and Culture Conversation

ut-knoxville-campusToday I talked with 35 students who expressed interest in contributing to a faith and culture news website written by college students.  I was one of 14 roundtable discussion leaders who met with over 100 University of Tennessee journalism students today.  The seminar was a “public conversation of web journalism.”

The event’s organizer, Dr. Jim Stovall, journalism faculty member, was pleased with the turnout of both students and media professionals.  I represented the religious community.  I talked to the students about blogging and building an online presence.  I also discussed how blogging can lead to other opportunities like conference speaking and writing books.

Jim Stovall told me that several students sought me out because they wanted to discuss faith in the media.  I presented the idea of Krayo.com — a faith and culture news website.  The articles, we hope, will be written by students and for young adults.  Krayo.com is a news site featuring a faith angle to news and feature writing.

Ed Stetzer’s new book, Lost and Found, concluded that young adults (under 30) were more open to faith conversations and were more spiritual than those over-30.  My experience today seemed to bear that out.  Tomorrow I speak to two journalism classes and meet with a book publisher.  I’ll keep you posted.

5 Lessons Churches Must Learn To Survive

Another newspaper closed last week and more are on the way.  Print journalism is dying faster than the dinosaurs did, and for the same reasons — the climate changed.  Not the atmospheric climate, but the social climate.  TV ditto, and throw in retail while you’re at it.  What hasn’t changed in this new always-on, always-connected, we-want-it-when-we-want-it age?

Churches.  And that is the problem.  You might think churches and denominations would look around and see the disaster in broadcast TV, print journalism, bricks-and-mortar retail, and figure out that this same tsunami is washing over churches, too.

David T. Olson predicts that by 2050 church attendance in the US will be only 10%.  I think he’s wrong. I think church attendance will drop much faster, much sooner.  Currently we are at about 17% of the US population who attends church on any given Sunday. (Forget the old 40% attendance figures — pollsters have determined they were asking the wrong question to get an honest answer.)

Here are the 5 lessons churches must learn from newspapers, TV, and retail if churches are going to survive as a viable social institution:

  1. Institutions no longer make the rules. Newspapers, TV, and even retail stores were the only places you could get news, entertainment, or goods in the old world.  But in the new world there are multiple options, multiple venues, multiple times.  People now are always connected, always on, and set their schedule based, not on the TV schedule or store hours, but on their preference.
  2. Institutions have no more credibility than individuals. Newsday, the NY tabloid daily, has decided to start charging for some of its articles because “people ought to pay.”  I predict they will fail miserably.  If I can’t get my news free from Newsday, I’ll get it from a 100 bloggers and citizen journalists.  Churches take note: We no longer are the only voice in the room, and the scandals of churches — sexual abuse, marital infidelity, leadership failures — only weaken our moral stance further.
  3. Our lives have taken on a different rhythm. Society’s life rhythm is different now.  Work is not confined to Monday thru Friday, leisure activities are not reserved for Saturdays, and going to church doesn’t need to happen on Sunday (if at all).  People will continue to connect, but churches need to change their rhythms, too.
  4. The “customer” owes you nothing. We sometimes think people should pay more (Newsday), come when we’re open (retail), and watch when we broadcast (TV).  Churches must realize that while we think people should come/attend/participate/etc they no longer have to.
  5. We’re using the wrong metrics. For newspapers it’s no longer about how many papers are on the lawn; for TV it’s no longer about how many people saw American Idol at 8 PM last night; for retail it’s no longer about how to get people in the store.  We continue to measure people coming to us, when we should be measuring church going to people in service, small groups, meetups, projects, and so on.  News is now being pushed out digitally via internet and mobile, TV is now on TiVo more than live, and retail is moving to the web.  Churches cannot continue to measure church attendance as the only, or prime, measure of viability.

Will churches change?  Many will not and they will die.  Some will linger on, shadows of their former glory, and others will adapt and thrive.  We’ll explore what the future holds for churches, particularly small churches, later this week.  Stay tuned.

Networking news you can use

Most of you who follow this blog do it by feed reader.  If you get me on a feed reader, you may not know about some of the new tools I’m using.   I’m finding them useful:

  1. TwitterEd Stetzer evangelized me to Twitter at NOC2008.  Twitter is micro-blogging with a max of 140 characters per post.  That’s characters, not words.  Short and sweet.  Or silly.  Or stupid.  But, short.  But, you ask, how can I “follow” all those “tweets?” The answer is, You can’t.  But, you can search terms from “chuck warnock to “small church” to “happy pastors.” Subscribe to the feed for those and other terms, then anytime someone tweets those phrases you get it.  Helps you sort out the noise from the helpful info.  Plus, the people who follow you are doing the same thing.  Anyway, check it out.  Oh, and follow me here.
  2. Brightkit.  This is a brand-new app that lets you schedule your Twitter posts (I have a real hard time typing ‘tweets’).  Just opened this past weekend, and you can get in on it free!  I just discovered Brightkit, and it will make Twittering much more useful.
  3. Ping.fm.  Ping.fm allows you to post to your Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Plaxo, blog, and other social networking sites from one entry.  Amazing, but true.  Saves lots of time.
  4. Facebook.  Okay, this is not new, but I am just now getting the hang of this.  If you’re not on Facebook, you need to be.  It’s fun and useful.  My wife, Debbie, started a Facebook group called Goodthoughts to do good deeds each day — 49 people signed up the first day!  I had some real problems with the fake ‘friend’ thing at first, but the jargon is what it is.  I order a grande soy latte wherever I go now, and I learned it from Starbucks.  I’m learning ‘friend’ on Facebook doesn’t mean best-buds, but on-line connection.  So, ‘friend’ me here at my Facebook page.
  5. Blackberry.  Okay, I already mentioned this, but I had no idea!  The internet (sort of) in your pocket.  Mobile is coming on strong.  Nokia just premiered their new N97, touting it as a mobile internet device.  Asia is light-years ahead of the US, and mobile everything is there now.  Get ready and get into it now because mobile is how all this social networking stuff will be done — on the fly, not at a desk or with a lappy.
  6. Mobilesitegalore.com provides a template-based mobile site design service for free!  They’ll even provide the domain name, and host it for you.  I’ll announce the mobile version of this blog for the New Year, so watch for it coming to a mobile device near you.

Does all this take a lot of time.  Yes and no.  I consider it networking time, not wasted time, but it does take some time.  You may not want to take on all the social networking tools, but experiment with at least one of them.  I’m convinced that this is the wave of the future, even for church networks.

If you’re using social networking, tell us how you’re doing it, and what benefit you get.  I’m putting together an article on how social networking can be used with small churches and I’d like to hear from you.  Thanks.