Thursday, September 15, 2011

Interview: Outspoken: Conversations on Church Communication

I'm always on the look-out for items about church communications in general and social media especially, hoping to find resources to share. Sometimes resources rate much more than a tweet or RT, resources like this new book from the forward-thinking folks at the Center for Church Communication

Here's my interview with Tim Schraeder (@Tim Schraeder), lead editor for this collection of thought-provoking, inspiring, and useful reflections. Thanks be to God!  

Meredith Gould: In his post about Outspoken: Conversations on Church Communication, Kevin Hendricks mentions seven years have passed since someone thought about gathering content and a book – this one – appearing. What have been the benefits of having that amount of time elapse?
Tim Schraeder: Seven years ago things like Facebook were just being conceived and Twitter was still two years away from coming into existence. Smart phones were still a luxury and most churches still thought Yellow Pages advertising was the most effective use of marketing dollars.  

Outspoken is coming on the scene while we're still on the leading edge of this cultural communications revolution.The need for the resource is still great and the lapse in time has allowed us to provide first-hand accounts of how churches have used new media to reach people in our hyper-connected world.

MG: Outspoken is about church communication in general. What do you hope folks focusing on church social media will gain from reading this book?
TS: The future of church communication is social. While there will probably always be bulletins, brochures and websites, the reality is that as our world becomes more social, so will the church. I hope those engaged in social media will find affirmation for the work they’re doing and glean new insights and ideas from contributors to this book.

One thing that's unique is that instead of providing lots of how-to’s, Outspoken provides a context for understanding the role of communication in the church, as well as encouragement and affirmation for those involved in communicating on a day-to-day basis, whether through print or social media.

MG: Looks like 99.9% of the contributors to Outspoken hail from non-denominational and evangelical megachurches in the forefront of using technology. So, here’s a three-part (!) question:  What do you hope ordained and lay leadership from liturgical and mainline churches will learn by reading this book?
TS: Let's be honest: the idea of Facebook, Twitter, websites, microsites, texting during services, etc. all seem a bit foreign and out of place in churches, but it's the world we live in. I often think about Jesus reminding us to be in the world but not of it.

I hope that regardless of denominational tradition, we recognize the role and responsibility we have, as believers, to be engaged and involved where people are. Today, many people live great portions of their life online. So, if people are online, so should be the Church. This doesn't mean online relationships or "online church" replaces face-to-face interaction or physically gathering with other believers. It means using what's available online to create offline experiences and relationships.

MG: What might the contributors to Outspoken learn from their sisters and brothers in liturgical and mainline churches?
TS: I think liturgical mainline churches can teach us all about the reverence and sacredness of the message we are communicating. These churches have a rich history and depth of experience that's beyond what many of us have had. There’s a lot we can learn from one another, both in how to be respectfully relevant and how to brave new territory. 

MG: What needs to happen for these sectors of church communicators to start collaborating with one another?
TS: We need realize we’re all on the same team. Regardless of our different viewpoints on social or political issues or theological framework, if we’re preaching the Gospel, we’re on the same team. 

MG: Closing thoughts?
TS: The early church didn't have social media! No one was tweeting #SermonontheMount, no Facebook invites announced when Jesus was arriving at different cities, and no one used Foursquare to check in at the Upper Room. What the early church did have was a compelling story. People couldn't help but share what they’d experienced.

Salvation spread and the church grew-- person-to-person, household-to-household. Today, social networks help us define choices we make and shape our worldview. And, in an odd way, this new social media revolution is a 21st century take on how the 1st century Christian church spread the Good News. Person-by-person. Household-by-household.

We, as church, have the most compelling message out there: the Gospel. I hope all of us who carry the burden of helping churches communicate by using social media choose to be outspoken and share this message as widely as possible.


Michael said...

I think Meredith makes some interesting points, many of them are not entirely accurate and this thereby is the rub. Just take one simple statement he makes. "I often think about Jesus reminding us to be in the world but not of it." It was actually St Paul who said this. When Jesus was talking of this in John 17 it's an entirely different context.

What I see in Church & Communication is a constant following of trend, we are always in catch-up. As an established church that has had a website for over 15 years, we were in the forefront of this technology.

Now the Church follows the changes, whereas Jesus whole ministry was about innovation, about leadership, about change, we seem to wait for the world and then copy. Jesus did not do this.

Let's not ape the world in order to impress. Let us by all means 'be all things to all people in order that we might win some', but let our message be simple, direct and inclusive:

"God so loved the whole world that God gave us Jesus"

Meredith Gould said...

Michael: Tim is the one being interviewed...and I hope he comes back to respond to your comment! #PBWY

Kevin D. Hendricks said...

Hey, I contributed two chapters (and helped edit the book) and I go to an Episcopal church. Yay for liturgy! I even admitted it in one of my pieces (which we excerpted here).

That should get us a little better than .1% liturgical/mainline representation. ;-)

Thanks for plugging the book!

Meredith Gould said...

Kevin, I know! Nearly keeled over when I saw you admit THAT in print/PDF/e-format. Love how you refer to the Episcopal church as one of the "little guys" and suggested some baby steps to take. See? I noticed.

And, I confess to Almighty God and to you, my brother, that I stink at arithmetic. 1% liturgical/mainline rep? More, if you add everyone who left that tradition?

All kidding and snark aside, really appreciate the book and will be posting quotes from it.


Josh Burns said...

Love this!

Social media used by the church is crucial today in most contexts. Meredith I love to see what you write about in this context, and to see that you are interviewing my good friend Tim. It was a blast to contribute to this book, and really glad that it can serve as a resource for others doing these things in church.

Keep it up!