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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Twitter Church Hurdles?

I have received a couple of comments lately from people who are itchy to hear about the negatives of us using Twitter in church.

I am very much a technological early adopter and optimist so that’s partly why my posts about Twitter Church have been so void of negatives. It’s not that we didn’t encounter negatives—they were just few and it is early in the game.

I like to expect great things to happen.

I don’t mind a little ready-shoot-aim every once in awhile. We learn through the process of taking risks and if we try to figure it all out cautiously and have too many meetings with the devil’s advocate, we never get anything done. No guts, no story.

But, I know not everyone is like me and some of you are working with church staffs that need to “weigh” everything before proceeding. Okay. Fair enough.

Here is a list of hoops we jumped through, negative responses, and hiccups in the process. Hopefully this will help mobilize you rather than paralyze you as you try something fresh for your church.

1. There is a semi-steep learning curve for some in your church when it comes to tech. I had to host a Twitter how-to clinic the week before and still got questions through email.

2. Some won’t/can’t participate. There is a possibility they will feel “left out.” A lot of the burden is on you for this one as a leader. Point out the benefits of observing if you are not Twittering.

3. Twitter went over capacity a couple of times while live. Not a big deal, but a little annoying. It refreshed quickly in all situations.

4. You may have to do some IT work beforehand to boost your WiFi signal strength and increase your bandwidth. We did. We've got it screaming fast in the auditorium but it took a bit of time and a very small amount of money.

5. We did not censor our feed—Twitter it is happening in real time and we were up for the risk. Some things that came across were “silly” and/or “dumb.” But, I still thought they were fun and added to the community feel. It is possible someone will say something you don’t like. You just have to count the cost. We got in front of this by planting a handful of people to steer the conversation.

6. Many said it was “distracting.” Some said it was distracting “at first” and then wasn’t. Some said they watched the screen the entire time. This didn’t bother us a whole bunch because with any change and new idea there is going to be this kind of feedback. Part of the burden is on you as a leader to talk through change and method and mission, etc. Part of the burden is on the people. Some will just hate it. But, some people hate lots of things. If you find something useful and meaningful, educate and communicate. 15 years ago, half my church in California hated screens and projection . . .

7. It takes some time to promote. I started four weeks out. I still felt like I could have done a better job and I talked it up QUITE a bit.

8. You need to do some resolution adjustments to your screen so that it projects big enough. This takes some time and could be a pain if you don’t have multiple computer feeds and switchers to go between during the service.

9. Twitter takes a while before you start understanding all the wonderful benefits. When a person first starts out and does not have a lot of people in their network, Twitter doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Some people told me they tried it and didn’t get it or like it. Those people gave up before they came to church. So, it was a bummer at first but, once they saw it in action, all those people went back home and started updating their Twitter.

10. The last negative I can think of is I made a “service flow” error and wrecked a mood once. It wasn’t a Twitter negative; it was my error of judgment. Specifically, I programmed communion at the top of Fusion and it was self-guided. Instructions and reflections about communion were on the screens side by side with Twitter. While there was some good communion reflection banter through Twitter, it didn’t “feel” right to me. I don’t think it was bad or wrong, I just earmarked that as a “do not repeat” moment. We want the Twitter to bolster and augment what is going on—not just fill space.

So there you go. Those were the “negatives” and how we dealt with them.

I hesitated to put them out there but did so to help you think it through and plan if you are going to give it a shot. The benefits FAR outweigh the negatives at this point. I have had many many emails and conversations this week about how people dug it.

P.S. Below is a great video of Jack Dorsey--the CEO and founder of Twitter talking about all the wonderful applications Twitter has. Wait till he hears about Twitter Church!

Jack Dorsey Presents Twitter from biz stone on Vimeo.

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