Hello, everyone. This blog has moved to JOHNVOELZ.COM!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Twitter Church

This past Sunday, Westwinds tried another “why the heck not” idea and hosted our first “Twitter Sunday.”

I blogged in anticipation of the weekend and now that it is past; I’d like to give you all an update on how it went and a peek inside my head.

I’m not gonna lie—I love technology. I love blogging. The computer. My iPhone. If you read this blog you’re saying, “duh.” But, though my love of technology and our penchant for taking risks as early adopters at Westwinds played a role in Twitter Sunday, there was a much deeper inertia.

First of all, I know Twitter isn’t for everybody. I also know that half of the people who say it’s not for them simply don’t understand it or a need hasn’t surfaced for it. There is another large contingent who are simply “afraid” of technology. I get that. And, while we are not trying to push the techie envelope to change those people, there is part of us that feels like it is our duty to make sure our people are speaking the language of the culture and learn new communication platforms.

15 years ago, I had a conversation with a friend about multi-screen auditoriums as we were building our new building in California. It was like pulling teeth to get people to think about the possibilities. Then, once we did it, half the church hated it. “Screens are distracting.” “I can’t pay attention, I keep looking at the art behind the words.” “I don’t know which pastor to look at—the one on the stage or the one on the screen.”

We have come a long way.

And, still, we are having the same “kinds” of conversations about technology today. The conversation will always be there. There will always be something to fear. Something not to trust. Something new to learn. Something that makes us feel like the world will pass us by if we don’t seek to understand.

We don’t have to adopt all new technology and wave the banner of the new kid in town. We don’t have to be fans of every new web app. But, I do believe it is important to be able to connect with the world around us—the people who ARE having the conversations about technology and are being saturated by it and in it.

The world has changed. Mayberry went straight from the VCR to managing your life and your entertainment in the palm of your hand with an iPhone in seconds flat. We need to be able to speak intelligently into the conversation as Christians.

On top of all of that, we now understand that Westwinds reaches more people outside of Westwinds through the web than we do on a weekend. To the tune of thousands more. Our podcasts/vodcasts/teaching atlases, etc. go out to way more people than we ever dreamed possible. We need to create more ways to connect with those people.

Enter Twitter.

I will admit. There are some things I don’t like about Twitter. Surprised? As with any technology or social networking platform it is easy to have a love/hate relationship.

BUT . . .

In my church, I have seen life-altering small groups formed and forged through Twitter. I have seen teams of people mobilized to do volunteer service like nothing else in the past through Twitter. I have seen needs met financially through Twitter. I have made friends through Twitter. I have witnessed theological discussions, seen prayer answered, seen surprise rendezvous’, connected with leaders better, I've seen friends come to the aid of others health . . .

So we started wondering, what would it be like to bring the Twitter kind of participation into Fusion in the same way we would think through any other worship interactive—something that gets people involved in what is happening—so Fusion isn’t happening “to” them but rather “with and because of and through” them.

Sunday morning there was electricity in the air. iPhones and laptops were carried in one hand—coffee in the other. The live stream was going. Over 70 people were following “westwindsseries” on Twitter.

The big screen as well as two other screens were live with the Twitter feed as people came in. Through communion, songs, message, etc. Twitter was live for our inaugural Twitter Fusion. Live and VERY present.

The conversation began light.

  • “Nice shirt JVo,”
  • “I love this song,”
  • “So glad they are doing Lenny Kravitz,”
  • “Somebody turn Jimmy’s guitar up,”
  • “Westwinds rocks,”
  • “Thank God for coffee at church”
One girl Twittered from home she was late and on her way. Ha.

And, while the light conversation was present through all of Fusion—both Fusions—there was also some great interaction with the message, restating what was said, personal struggles shared, opinions, agreement, etc.
  • “to be selfless, humble”
  • “The more I press in to Him, the more He presses me out to be useful”
  • “sometimes healing is painful”
  • “I have a hard time recognizing God in the middle of everything.”
  • “It is easy to give Him credit after the fact but it is my prayer to see Him now.”
  • “God is challenging us to live for Him in a culture that rejects Him—His own peers did that”
  • “He has given me so much”
Both kinds of interaction were important. The “deeper” thoughts allowed people to process out loud, be affirmed by others’ responses, and have a bit of public confession.

The light talk only added to the sense of community, family, fun, and not taking ourselves too seriously.

It “felt” like a success right off the bat.

Sunday night, our leaders got together at “Loveshack”—our leadership gathering. The feedback was just about split down the middle. Some loved the whole experience and couldn’t stop talking about it. Some hated it and found it distracting. Then, those who hated it found things they liked about it and those who loved it understood why it was distracting for some.

Now ask me if I’m surprised.

I am not surprised at all. As with anything new, some will be early adopters, some will love it, some will hate it, some won’t care . . . and, they are all entitled to their opinion. We are just grateful to be in a place where this kind of thing is expected. We WILL try crazy things. We WILL go out on a limb. We WILL fail. What a kick.

The positive buzzwords for this were
  • “I felt like part of what was happening,”
  • “I felt part of the community,”
  • “I felt like a leader,”
  • “I felt like it was more than just about me.”
Bottom line, it is worth it to try these kinds of things. Out of this experience, we came up with a list of 20 other ways to use Twitter in Fusion and outside of Fusion.

And, now that our group is going on Twitter, the conversation hasn’t stopped. The day after, many were Twittering about all the things they loved at Twitter Fusion and how they love being part of our community.

I highly recommend giving it a shot. This weekend, we will use Twitter in a more limited capacity, on different screens, and for a “focused” time. The following week, we will not have Twitter on the screens but rather encourage people to Twitter throughout while monitoring their laptops. The possibilities are endless.

blog comments powered by Disqus