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!
Oh, and by the way you can be my friend on facebook by going here and you can follow me on twitter here.
Great article Jenni…
Twitter can be a useful tool…not only can you develop a following there but twitter can easily update your other social networking sites like facebook. For some tips to get your mind rolling with twitter I suggest twitip.com
Like we were talking about I think myspace is already dead (dying?) and there will always be something new coming along. For example some very respected techies in the industry are now making a real push for friendfeed.com
I do use these tools although our team website and email still probably work most for us because most of my vols don’t twitter regularly. But most are on facebook and I started some groups and send out info on series, chat, etc. It’s just another means of communication. i seem to twitter more with other leaders.
I think one of the beauties of twitter and facebook is that it IS more social and not administratively oriented so it helps build the relationship, not just reduce communication to things that are about church work.
I use a lot of the social networking tools available to communicate to the people I need to stay connected with, it is also amazing the connections that can be made around the world.
The sad fact is, if someone is not using these tools it is harder for me to stay connected with them. I basically have to tell people now, if they need to stay connected with me or want to, they need to get either a facebook or twitter account.
I love that you’re posting about this–we’re trying to figure the best mode. We’re on Facebook, and mySpace(yup–mySpace is dying) and have personal blogs. Considering volunteer blog–updates, links to resources, kudos, feedback, etc and text messaging. Am on a phone list for my kids’ school and that can be annoying at times. I love this conversation—helps as we look to set up and launch! Thanks!!
Thanks for the resource suggestions @Aaron!
Great post Jenni. One new tool we’re considering is Whoop. http://www.whoopmobile.com/
We haven’t tried it yet but are considering it for Fusion, our environment for Singles.
We have a Buckhead Church twitter account, but no Facebook. Your post convinced me we need to do Facebook because of the easy communication access to volunteers.
OOh, I love this.. I want to approach my pastor with this, is creating a Facebook easy for a church too.? I would love this for my voluunteers… love it!!
@Heidi – one of our volunteers actually created our page for Cross Point so I have no idea how difficult it was… couldn’t have been too bad.
My heels are still firmly dug in. I just can’t bring myself to do it. I’ve had three different people just this week tell me to get out of the Dark Ages and create a Facebook page. I know you can control who visits your page, but there is still something that weirds me out about having people check in on my life, my pictures. I also have the same fear you did about becoming overloaded and too accessible. Guess I’ll just stick to my antiquated ways for a bit longer until convinced otherwise… I know… I’m a dork!
be sure to check out ping.fm as a way to update your social networks all at once.
lot of talk about facebook…we just switched from a group to a page. some limitations with the group–can’t add apps, fb threatens to shut down if message too much (even just to members), etc. Hoping the page route is better. Anyone have input??