book review: The Social Media Gospel

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book review

The Social Media GospelIt just happened. I was skulking on Facebook, minding my own business…when one of our 85+ year old congregants “friended” me. When little-ole’ church ladies are jumping headfirst into The Internets and The Social Media, you know it’s not just “for the kids” anymore.

And, speaking of “the kids…” I’ve also noticed that they’re a bit more absent these days from The Facebook. I’m seeing them pop up more and more on Instagram and Tumblr. In fact, I’ve stumbled into several incredible communities of young people on Tumblr having the most amazing, in-depth, conversations on God and the church.

By now, it should be crystal clear to everyone in society, and even to those of us in the church, that social media is here to stay—and that’s  an ever-evolving landscape.

I recently finished Meredith Gould’s The Social Media Gospel: Sharing the Good News in New Ways. I’ve was an “early adopter” of Facebook, consider myself fairly adept at social media (my Klout score rocks!), and I’ve read several books on the subject including the recently published Speaking Faithfully: Communications as Evangelism in a Noisy World (which I reviewed here) and 33 Million People in the Room—so, although I’ve followed Gould on Twitter for some time now and I really respect her and her work, I wasn’t expecting to get much out of the book.

Holy cow was I wrong. I learned a lot from her. And, she was able to put words to experiences and hunches that I had yet to be able to come up with.

Three things stand out for me:

  1. She invites us to think generationally. Different generations have different ways of seeing the world, understanding themselves (and God), and different ways of communicating. Because social media isn’t just for “the kids” anymore, it’s become an intergenerational tool for communication and connection. But, social media isn’t one-size-fits-all. Older generations gravitate to social media that is more “wordy” and younger generations gravitate to those that are more image based. (Think about it, who’s sending you all those angry-cat-meme’s??) Instead of pushing churches to choose, she invites us to see the totality of our audience, and connect with that totality—while being mindful of who we’re communicating with and how we’re communicating.
  2. She invites up to think about personality types. Honestly, this was the most enlightening part of the book for me. We’re probably all familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality types—and you may even know your own type. (I’m an INFP) (When I realized that my wife is an ENTJ it explained SOOO much to me!) Gould, quite astutely notes that it’s the extraverts who tend to “worry” about social media replacing “real” communication, and it’s the introverts among us who experience social media as a breath of fresh air, where they are able to connect with others without draining their energy levels. In church, the coffee-hour is the natural habitat for the extravert. (My vision of purgatory is an endless coffee hour. Good Lord, deliver me.) But, churches could use social media as a tool for introverts to connect socially, theologically, and spiritually. The possibilities there are exciting.
  3. She insists that virtual community is, in fact, “real” community. I’ve experienced this to be true, but I don’t think I’ve ever had the courage to swim against the mainstream naysayers mantra that “social media isn’t real.” And, if community can spring up there, then we as people with Good News have the joy and privilege to bring that Good News there. And listen to the angst, worry, skepticism, and fears of the world right there in the midst of community. I found this part of the book so liberating, and permission-giving.

Those three insights have fueled many conversations over the past few weeks. Gould’s book energized me to not just swim in the social media waters, but to also think theologically, spiritually, and strategically about social media. AND, these three insights come from just the first section of the book! There are two more sections! In section two she invites congregations and its leaders to think intentionally about social media and the various outlets and options out there. In section three she gets down to the nitty-gritty of the “how to” and offers some best practices for making social media an effective tool for congregational life.

So, whether you’re a noob, or whether you simultaneously juggle Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on your iPhone, iPad, and iBook…Gould’s book will make you think, and help you see new opportunities for integrating the Good News into your News Feed.

Even to the octogenarians.

The Author

follower of Jesus, father of two, husband of one, Episcopal priest, with one book down, one blog up...surrounded by empty jars of nutella

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