Why give up Facebook for Lent?

wordle of things given up for lent

I was visiting my friend Mark’s facebook profile to wish him a “happy b’day” where I stumbled across his profile picture saying that he has given up facebook for lent.

My first thought was, ‘Well that stinks.’ Then I adapted my birthday message to say, ‘in 40 days’ or something along those lines. Then I began to wonder, why would you give up facebook for lent?

Maybe I have a different understanding of the social media sphere than many. I use these mediums for work and creative outlets. I’m not sure God cares for me to stop working and stop creating..

But what is lent & the practice of sacrificing that comes along with the season of lent? Is the lenten fasting just a stopping of practices that we hope to take back up again? Or are our lent fasting practices putting aside something that we know is harmful to us and we use this season to rid ourselves of the habit in order to not bring them back into our life? If smoking is bad for you, stopping for lent (except for the sundays) with the knowledge that you will start smoking again Easter Sunday seems totally counter to the spirit of preparing yourself for a resurrection & ministry in Christ.

Again, I see facebook as a relationship enabler. For example, I saw Mark just a week or two ago. I had no idea that his birthday was looming (I am super bad at birthdays, even my own). So one of my practices is to check out who’s birthdays are happening that day in facebook, and then wish them well. I don’t see anything harmful about that practice. It takes me a few minutes. I see everyone in my list of ‘friends’ and enjoy checking in on who has changed (checked out one persons new child this morning, that was news to me).

Maybe, facebook / twitter / linkedin, email etc become some distraction to people. Okay, I get that. However, is it a distraction more because of how you use the medium? Or is it a distraction because of how you let the medium use you?

Facebook, and the other social media mediums, connect people to people. That is not a bad thing. However, a sacrificial practice that is life giving in my opinion would be to not give up outlets to a mas of people, but to take the medium to focus one or two people.

You see, we now have some hyper-relationships, many relationships saying & doing many things. How about slowing that down to say, I’m going to take one day during Lent to scan my ‘friends’ and then pray for them, read up on their profile, check out their photos, ala. updating my understanding of them. From there you have a deeper understanding of the circle of influence that God has placed before you and are more able to live into that ministry of being neighbor.

Speaking of, I believe my neighbor is having their 3rd child (a girl) today, but she has yet to post it on her facebook profile to make it official. I’m waiting!!

How Good is Your Church Facebook Presence?

I get to call some really creative people all over the world my friend. I’m so blessed that way, but not so far away is a super group of creative types that I hang out with as our Hendersonville Geekbreakfast. Once a month we all meet up for breakfast, talk some shop, make fun of somebody and plan collaborative projects. The in between times we’ve become a real solid group of friends. One of my ‘geek’ friends is Jason Elkins. Jason has started doing some really cool things with his media company, Transparent {social} Media, on facebook. They are helping all kinds of businesses, and churches, leverage facebook for to reach their clients in an open and relational marketing.

I asked Jason a couple of questions

1. Where do you see most churches going wrong on facebook?
I see most churches going wrong with Facebook in the way they view communication. It’s not a one way street:

1) They are utilizing Facebook like a traditional media outlet. They think of it like a flier or pamphlet with information that they are getting in front of their congregation. In fact, it’s a platform for communication/interaction and engagement. For example, instead of posting your favorite bible verse, perhaps you should ask your Facebook audience what their favorite verse would be.

Instead of saying “we had a great time at the youth event”, you are better off asking “what did you think of our youth event?” or “How could we make it better next time” or “Tell us what you loved about the youth event”.

“Praying for our congregation” is good. “Click ‘Like’ if you need a prayer today or send us your prayer requests” is better.

“Listening to Skillet” is good… “What is playing on your iPod right now” is better.

Announcing service times/cancellations/upcoming events is a great use, but engage with your audience.

2)Two things you can do with Facebook now that are new/unique:

1) Incorporating a podcast of your sermons online is a revolutionary feature in Facebook. Using a custom tab combined with Soundcloud (a hosting application) you can serve up your sermons on Facebook and people can share them with their audience. Because of the way we are developing these pages, an administrator can upload the latest sermons to Soundcloud and they will appear on a custom tab.

2) Other things a church could do on a custom tab would be to incorporate an introductory or testimonial video, show pages of a sermon or a book, take donations for a mission/tithe and incorporate a form to build an e-mail list. The Lifebook page is a good example of utilizing all of these features

thanks Jason for taking the time!

Here is part of an example of Transparent {social} Media’s latest work on a church here in middle Tennessee.

They set up the standard fan page, but tweaked out the welcome to have a matching graphic layout to the ‘profile pic.’ It doesn’t show up, but my cursor is floating over the sermons active link page. I think that is pretty cool.. but it gets better..

At the bottom it has email / contact info capture capabilities. You don’t have to wait for the person to show up in the pew to fill out this form. They can do that over facebook. Not to mention, your parishioners can donate through this facebook portal. Pretty darn cool. They have the rest of the page tweaked out with those things that are pertinent to a church body.

So how are you using facebook for your church? You might want to contact my friend Jason and see what all is out there.

So the Bible is just a mass of Tweets & Facebook Status Updates

This posting originally written for Sticky Sheep

I’ve been reading this article by a Jewish Rabbi about social media, its impact on youth culture, and what the bible has to teach us about participation in social media.

(I read)”..much of the narrative element of the Tanakh as a series of facebook or twitter posts. Frequently, the biblical narratives come not in long flowing prose but in short burst – often, dare I say of less than 140 characters a passuk. One of the great joys of the brevity of the biblical narrative is that it leaves much room for commentary. We are left to guess at the motivations at the contexts. And we do.”

A couple of things I’ve gleaned from this Rabbi’s thoughts.

  1. Never thought of the bible as a mass of Tweets and Facebook Status Updates strung together, but when you do string that stuff together you can get a glimpse into the life of that person.
  2. There is an embarrassing side to sharing everything. Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder doesn’t get into the fear factor thing of, employers are going to look at your drinking pictures and assume you are bad, type of thing. But instead takes a bit of a higher ground in suggesting, David’s story was a bit of an over share.. Same with Abraham. Surprised didn’t mention Amnon.. <Awkward!>
  3. The short ‘missives’ leave a lot of room for interpretation. Sometimes we do that intentionally. But when we want to truly be understood. Or when others, more importantly, want to be understood we need to know we operate in this short text world. Instead of interpreting what the story is from folks, take that extra moment to listen more deeply and understand more clearly. That is remarkable
  4. Apparently this guy wasted his time.. God already did it.

“History is written by the winners” or so that quote is said. In today’s world, we might as well change that as “History is written by the players” (or those who play social media).

Makes one think of how people perceive us through our social media interactions (or the lack of interactions). We are able to write our story, but it ultimately is rewritten by those others we might call critics, customers, congregations, friends, family, & more.

Now I’m wondering what the bible has to say about texting?…

top tech trends of 2009 for youth ministry : new day in @ymtoday

i was asked to write a, shorter than this, article for ymtoday on the tech trends of 2009. this is my unedited & proper use of capitals article for your review.

are the days where spent calling everyone on the youth phone list,
cutting clip art books and taping graphics to papers for making
posters, and sorting slides into a projector carousel. Today's youth
ministry is full of early adoption to new technologies to communicate
and build relationships. It seems to be 2009 amped that trend of
leaving behind the those things we used to do so routinely in the early

Here's a little list of technology trends from the past
year used, being used, or to use for your youth ministry. Not all were
created in the last year, but they did seem to pick up more steam.

1. Facebook: Do you remember MySpace? I do, and I thought it was pretty cool. Facebook though is just a fabulous youth ministry tool where MySpace
wasn't. Create a group or fan page for the ministry you are a part of,
easily send messages to the whole group, create events, post pictures
& videos. It is easy to do, takes less time, and its where your
teenagers are hanging. Have you watched your teenagers spend time onFacebook, it borders on problematic. If you have some cash, you can invest in ads on Facebook
, the metrics for adverts is amazing, not terribly expensive either,
plus it shows who are 'fans' in your ad extending the trust
relationship. You can even get on board with a free mission trip via the social media network.

2. Twitter:
People are up in the air as to whether Twitter is a usable youth
ministry tool. My teens many follow a few friends and a bunch of
celebrities. I don't have a youth who would create a twitter based newsletter for us like Adam. Twitter for me is brain trust
& community of other youth and ministry leaders. Have a question,
need prayer support, want to celebrate, need consolation after loosing
a job, and more you can join into the community of youth workers on
Twitter. I sought help developing this list via my Twitter community.

As a program, Twitter is a mobile based application, so it has txt and alert capabilities. Which leads us to our next item.

3. Mass Text Services:
If you think it is going to be a pain to get all your people onto
Twitter and then to enable the cell phone alert tweets for your twitter
account, just set yourself up for one of the many mass text messaging
services. If you are like me, youth gathering times are their normal
loud and crazy, but now its all that with the teens staring at their
cell phones. They have entire conversations overtxt . I've even caught
teens not answering their phone calls but then answering text messages.
Tap into that behavior with some of the paid services like txtsignal or a free service like broadtexter.

Note: Txt services use two basic formats: One is where message is more like an email going thru the system. Different cell companies handle that information differently, so a txt
service will have you indicate what type of provider the corresponding
phone number is. Other services are more like a phone to phone
communication, big difference with those is you do not need to know
service providers, but they will most likely charge by the number oftxt's and phone numbers (ie. each txt to 1 number is 5 cents, so one mass txt to 50 people is $2.50).

4. SmartPhones:
I was told once that 'there haven't been any new inventions, only
inventions making everything smaller.' This is certainly the case with
the fusion of computer & cell phone. Whether you are iPhone,
Blackberry, or now Droid the day of a phone being just for talking is

The smartphone as it continues to become more affordable
& builds in development will become the youth workers greatest
tools (might even out do the guitar,haha!). As new applications are being developed from YouVersion's Bible app, Youth Specialties Tough Topics, productivity apps like Evernote, GPS directions, to even creating your very own phone application
more & more will administration and communication will be done
through the phone. I can be sitting at an sports match and send out
emails & text messages to the whole group or just our leaders, make
notes for the next days to-do list, take pics of the game and load them
up to ourfacebook group or flickr page, and then post new information to our website.

5. Flip Cameras:
Video used to be the toughest thing in the world. Cameras cost a bunch
of money and then you had to edit the videos. Chances are your computer
was not powerful enough to deal with all the resources needed for
video, so it took many days to put together and render videos. Those
days are gone.

With the advent of YouTube being the quality
standard and the destination for most created video content the Flip
Camera is the new video must have. Not only are they extremely cheap
($100-180, for a decent one) they shoot really good quality video,
transfer extremely easily (digitally, so you don't have to do the tape
playback recording), and portable so they can always be on your person.
You can purchase one, two or three of these gems & hand them out to
youth during events to capture footage for a highlights video. Pull out
a camera when you are out on the town and inspired to do a little
devotional for a video podcast. Get some of the youth to create a
news/announcement video. Have a bunch of cameras to do a scavenger hunt
and post stuff immediately to your presentation software or to the web.

what's on your list of big trends for the year? Leave a comment or two,
I'm sure there is something I'm missing or maybe my numbering is off.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Digital Photography: Every youth event I go to seems to have youth & youth
    leaders in tow with high quality cameras. Bye bye disk camera &
    slide film.
  • Digital
    Publishing: All those pictures & graphics can be printed into
    beautiful books & posters for affordable prices & effort.
    Forever keeping the narrative of that ministry
  • Netbooks: Though I'd say that might be more for the college scene
  • Google: From Google Voice, Docs, Earth, Ocean, Maps, Latitude to the beta test of Wave there's something for everyone
  • Affordable
    Presentation Equipment: Doing the projector thing was a huge ordeal
    (not to mention projectors were HUGE!) now the hardware & software
    is small in size and price
  • Collaborative Tools: Maybe its Basecamp, could be Google Wave, we all are using stuff to help us collaborate with our team of ministers & cohorts.

chris brogan & trust agents : stories & philosophy of social media

today i spent my morning (and greater part of the rest of the day) with chris brogan. if you do not know who chris is, my quick description would be that he is the mayor of twitter & one of the most recognized people in the world of social media 'who gets it.' i stumbled across his blog some years ago and have been a constant reader since, many times sharing his postings via google reader or twitter. he's good stuff. so good, i even payed a decent penny to attending this sucker.

anyways, he has a new book out called 'trust agents' and was in nashville as per a promise in a psuedo book tour live web event. a crew of local tech geeks & other business types showed up to hear from the guru for a special 1 hour pre-web conversation with chris & then got to be front and center for the rest of the web event (which was an interesting thing to be a part of).

here is the footage i took from that 1st hour with chris. its on my mini tripod, so the angle is something you might have to get used to, but its doable. with that said, he's tall, but not nearly as gigantic as he looks in video.

Chris Brogan : Trust Agents conversation : Nashville 2009 from Gavin Richardson on Vimeo.

you can follow the twitter stream of thoughts and conversation by visiting #cbnash at twitter search. check in next week for some expanded thoughts off some of the footage i have from his live web session.