I don’t often go to Christian conferences but when I do I tend to engage more with the seminars than with the Main Stage stuff. I don’t know whether it is the large crowd or the high volume and emotion in the bigger rooms but I have never felt overly comfortable there.
At a conference I attended about a year ago there were a number of seminars about building your own or your ministry’s online presence. It spoke of good web design, good social media and how to build a platform online. There was some good advice in there and also some suggestion of a strange like-total based objective that I’m not too sure about.
When I started at Hay Hill this was something I worked on. I began to use the church’s Twitter and Facebook accounts and added more content to the website that a talented church member had made. It definitely had some success in helping people find our Sunday services.
Part of the advice in that seminar was to be present in the conversation of your community. Good advice. So I’ve sent a few tweets and followed a few people. Again, it helped build the church’s presence online.
Today, as I was adding some content to the church website, the question popped into my mind, “How will you build your offline presence?” Whilst I am not a fan of ‘clever’ plays on words as rhyme as reason is a trap we can so easily fall into there is something in this that caught me. I’ve thought about it through the day and at one point intentionally got to know the staff of a coffee shop I was working on in an attempt to process the challenge. I’m poor at small talk, so initially it was a difficult task.
Is Twitter the best way to be part of the conversation of our towns and cities? Surely, it is better to show up in person. Isn’t it better to speak to the person at the big communal table in the coffee shop than to tweet a pic of your flat white? It is great to tweet about local education and to praise teachers online but even better to show up in the reception with a box of chocolates for the staff.
It’s great to like a friends tweet or to reply to them on Facebook but so much better to call them or knock their door. So much of the world has moved online but nothing beats being present in real life. Let’s not retreat to the space behind our keyboards and communicate only in cyber space. Our life could so easily become an endless stream of selfies and pictures of our food. Do you know your neighbours? Do you know the name of the person who serves you coffee everyday? How often to you have a conversation with a stranger in real life? Is it as often as you do over the internet?
Yes, work on your online presence but work harder on your offline presence. Make friends. Get involved. Show up.