Workshop Perspective: Getting Social at Assembly 2012

BY: Betty Shanks

As administrator for the Anglican Diocese of the South, communication is a big part of my job. Therefore, I was intrigued by a breakout session on captivating disciples at Assembly called “Shout It from the Housetops: Social Media and the Church” presented by Mary Ailes. Since I already had the pleasure working some with Mary, I was looking forward to learning more from her. 

Like me, others in attendance at this session were intrigued by the term “social media.”  We all seemed to be well-versed in communicating from the housetops, the pulpit, church bulletins, church newsletters and on occasion, housetops, or at Ridgecrest, the mountain top. Most in attendance had established websites for their churches. However, many were unaware of the benefits of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube or were struggling to learn how best to use them.

Mary also recommended everyone should take advantage of all the applications (apps) that the smart phones and tablets now offer.  She evoked a laugh when she said, “If you still have an older ‘non-smart phone,’ you should box it up and send it to the Smithsonian.”

We learned that social media is the “in” way to communicate and reach out to the younger generation. Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who share similar interests. Twitter instantly allows you to communicate what’s most important to you and to follow your friends, experts, other churches, and breaking news. YouTube is a way to share your videos with friends, the church family, and the world.

Facebook and YouTube are monitored by millions and forwarded on to millions more. Many times, Twitter provides instant communication from where an important event is taking place. Tweets become pieces of news that alert the world as well as the traditional news media to what is happening. In addition, Twitter can be very useful in communicating last minute schedule changes or road and weather conditions.

Today, more than ever before, it has become essential that every possible form of communication be used to spread His word to the world. Traditional forms of communication that we have used for centuries are still important. However, they often do not reach the younger generation.

Mary stressed that it is not enough to just post to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the church also needs to respond to those who post responses to the church’s original posting on the sites. This can be a daunting task for one person. Therefore, Mary suggested forming a committee to monitor Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube sites and provide a proper and timely response. This can become both enlightening as well as an educational ministry.

Mary invited everyone to visit her online here to get a better idea of how she uses social media.

Her session, as expected, was not only very educational, but was lighthearted and interesting—enough to keep us all yearning for more. Most, if not all of us, were forming ideas as we left as to how we could best use social media to spread His word from our churches or dioceses.

Betty Shanks serves as diocesan administrator for the Anglican Diocese of the South. She is a member of Holy Cross Anglican Church in Loganville, Ga.