Social Networking & Volunteers
Whatever comes next…
I’ll be honest. Up until about a year ago I was a very slow adopter to social networking tools. I figured I already had enough bombardment through phone, email, texting. My circuits were already on overload. Why do I need “another thing” to consume my time, right?
Last January I took the plunge. I started a facebook page and I started blogging. Truly I had no idea where this was going to go, but I didn’t want to be left in the fray, so I jumped in. And what I’ve found is, as with most things, you can use them productively or unproductively, positively or negatively. You just have to be intentional to make these tools work for you rather than against you. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that a lot of time can be idled away through these mediums, but I’ve also learned the power of connecting with people if I’m intentional to use these tools for that purpose.
There are a lot of things I could discuss regarding the power of social networking tools, but I want to zero in on how I’ve found these mediums helpful in my role as a church leader. One of the most challenges things that church leaders face is communicating effectively with the congregation, specifically volunteers. Something I remind our team of repeatedly is that volunteers do not spend 24/7 thinking church. I wish they did, but they don’t! They have lives, work, families, lots of things competing and consuming their time. Oftentimes our team will get frustrated if they haven’t heard from a volunteer, don’t get a returned call or email. As full-time church staff we live and breathe church, and sometimes we forget that this just isn’t the case for the volunteers that we rely on to help make ministry happen. This paradox makes our jobs tricky, but I believe that’s one of the primary roles of our staff – to invite and engage volunteers to be a part of the work God is doing.
So, how does that connect with social networking?
Our role as ministry leaders is to communicate, encourage and empower volunteers and I believe we need to go to any length we can to do this effectively. I remember when I was first entering the workforce and was learning how to communicate in an office environment. I quickly learned that some people communicate better via email than phone, others better in person than email, etc. I discovered that if I could identify someone’s preferred method of communication, I could more quickly get things accomplished with them. That sounds a little manipulative, but honestly it benefited both parties if I tried to work with their preferences rather than my own.
Enter new mediums of communication such as facebook and twitter and I’m discovering a whole new level of communication opportunities. I’m discovering that some volunteers will more quickly respond to a comment I post on their facebook “wall” versus an email and that I can get real-time feedback from someone who twitters.
Additionally, I can hop onto facebook at the end of a Sunday and post quick “thank you’s”. I can send an encouraging word to a volunteer via twitter and I can recap a Sunday, complete with pictures on my blog within minutes of a service or event.
In a day and age when people are moving at warp speed, these little points of contact can make a huge impression and can go a long way to invite, encourage and include volunteers. I believe it’s my responsibility to reach out in any way that I can and I’m thankful for these marvels of the modern world that enable me to do just that.
I have no doubt that very soon there will be another social networking tool for me to add to my repertoire… in fact, there probably already is. (Feel free to make suggestions in the comments.) For me, I want to continue to be aware and responsive to tools that work and mediums that will help me effectively engage. They will constantly be changing. I have to accept that. I’m pretty sure someone once thought the telephone was crazy and swore they would never own one. 🙂
Let me challenge you to not dig your heels in and refuse to embrace new technology. I’m not suggesting you should chase every fad, but I am encouraging you to be aware of what is happening around you. Ask the media savvy folks in your circles what they are using and give it a shot. You don’t have to become a technology expert, just become an educated user who is relentless in their passion to reach out, communicate, inspire, encourage and motivate the volunteers you’ve been entrusted to lead!