I'm sitting in on a workshop a friend is leading next month talking to pastors about what social media is at its most basic and how it can be leveraged to encourage community and relationships in the church (hint: I'm a pastor). I'd like to ask this community for their thoughts in regards to this discussion. As pioneers in this arena what do you believe pastors and church folks need to understand about social media and how to best engage? Thanks!
I am a freelance writer and Ning social network administrator/creator (not developer) living in Indian Trail, North Carolina. I am also a Christian. I stumbled upon this social network by "googling" Ning Church Networks in Charlotte, NC out of curiousity. I think "pastors and church folks" need to understand that a properly administered NING social network is first of all safe and can be used to honor God. Rules can be created for the site and social network administrators can choose to approve all members and monitor all activity on the site. A church social network is one way for members, newcomers and visitors to find out about activites, events, groups, missions, etc. The broadcast and invitation features can be used by the administrator to remind members of special events, etc. A properly run social network is just one more way to build community among church members.
Quick story from a mom who had a youth pastor using Facebook to post and share pictures of the youth and their activities:
If you're a youth pastor, and you don't want every single parent in the church/temple etc. to friend you on Facebook, you need to find an online way to control the walls and privacy of your online stuff. Ning seems to do that better than Facebook. I didn't feel comfortable (and neither did my daughter) barging in to her youth network on Facebook, but I still wanted to see photos of youth outings posted by the youth minister, without him feeling as if I was stalking him. Only way to do that (this is a couple of years ago) was for my daughter to log in to FB and show me on screen. I couldn't grab copies of the photos at my leisure. (This was when my daughter was 16 or 17, before she felt comfortable "friending" me on Facebook. Then again, some parents insist their teens "friend" them if they want to use social networking. Likely, the teens find somewhere else to hang out or have private conversations away from parents at that age.)
So it's good that you're taking time to think about strategy, and which content should be behind walls and which content should be wide open.
Likewise, if you're a church that wants to reach beyond any walls to a broader community, using something like Twitter would reach those people who aren't already members.
That's just a quick thought; hope it helps.
Andria makes some very good points. You do not have to be a member to view pages on Ning but you do have to be a member to leave comments or make any kind of post.
I recently closed my Facebook account (temporarily) because all kinds of requests from all kinds of people were coming out of the woodwork and I couldn't possibly respond to them all and didn't want to respond to them all. As a middle-aged Mom it was fun in the beginning but it quickly got out of control because of the way it is administered. Not that Facebook is sinister - just annoying. You have much more control with Ning.