This post is part of the Social Media Sunday series. Read the introductory post here.
Through conversations we had as a worship planning team, we were able to construct a way of engaging with social media that was probably a good compromise for our staff as a whole. We decided to find ways to incorporate it directly into our liturgy for Sunday morning, so that those who weren’t going to participate in the social media aspect could still participate in a service that felt like worship for them.
I should say, just as a practical matter, that our church doesn’t have a screen up front in worship, so doing anything up front like that (like you may see at conferences or other larger churches) wasn’t going to be possible for us. I think it would have given us some more creativity and opened up some other options for us – but that’s not where we’re at right now.
We knew that we wanted to invite folks to live-tweet, take photos, post updates and more, throughout the service, but we felt that it might be helpful to give folks four specific actions that they could do (especially if they were new to social media). These four actions also corresponded with our four moves throughout the liturgy. I’ll share some screenshots from our bulletin, and briefly explain how each worked.
Checking In: This is one of the easiest things people can do related to social media. All they have to do is take a moment while they arrive at church to get on Foursquare or Facebook and check in. Someone who was new to our church a few months ago did this, and a few people asked her about WPC on her Facebook profile, and she got to share that she chose this new church after they had recently moved and she loved it. It’s easy and great/free PR for your church. And you never know…if someone’s friend is looking for a church, and while you may never have had a conversation with them about church, if they see that every Sunday you’re checking in to your faith community and sharing something cool or meaningful about it…that could be a draw for that person to check it out.
Sermon Interaction: Instead of a typical sermon, my colleague (David Lower), preached a conversational sermon that engaged folks in the pews first, by allowing them to share (with a mic) some responses to questions he posed. And then he continued with his sermon, and posed various other questions throughout the remainder of it that you could engage with on Facebook and Twitter.
We didn’t have as much engagement with folks online during the sermon as we had hoped for, but it was also the first time we had done it, and I think people were just getting used to the rhythm of what that might look like.
Tweeting Prayers: This is the part that I was most looking forward to – the Prayers of the People (which is the part of the service that I typically lead). We planned for a pretty typical Prayers of the People (prayers for our world, country, city and faith community), but gave space in between a brief introductory prayer by me for each section so people could share their own prayers online. I would introduce the specific prayer, then I was up front picking up my phone, tweeting a prayer, while we all sang the Taize song “Lord, Hear My Prayer,” and then we would move on to the next section.
I liked this for a variety of reasons:
- It made the Prayers of the People actually the prayers of the people, and not just the prayers of the pastor up front leading the prayer time.
- Adding the musical interlude (especially with that specific Taize piece) was a really meaningful touch, and allowed us to both pray through words, but also pray through song.
- It actually challenges people to practice praying in public.
I will say that, again, we didn’t have as much success with this portion of the service, in that not as many folks tweeted or posted their prayers online. I think, again, that it was the first time we were doing it, and some folks said they needed a bit more time to think of their prayer, and type it out. But I also know that for even some adults, it’s awkward or a little uncomfortable to pray out loud, so to compose a prayer and share it online with all your social media connections to see it…that could take some practice and some becoming more comfortable with the idea.
Tweeting a takeaway: At the end of the service, we encouraged folks to think about what their one takeaway from worship was, what their one golden nugget from the morning service was, and share that online. A chance to put in their own words what they heard and experienced during worship that morning; certainly a good practice.
Finally, we wanted those who weren’t going to participate with the social media portion of the service to still have a way of engaging with the idea, so we provided this “Offline Twitter” option, that a few people took advantage of and shared with me.
These were our four primary focuses for the morning. We still encouraged people to engage as much as they want, but having something like this format was going to make it easier for folks who weren’t quite sure how to engage to have some clear suggestions.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about what we did to advertise and prepare for Social Media Sunday.