With smaller ELCA churchwide and synodical structures, my guess is that we will become increasingly reliant on smaller, informal, grass-roots networks for learning, sharing, communication and coordination.
Much of this is already happening in the social media world. Here are seven important the characteristics of these social media networks — networks that this church can use and learn from.
The ELCA is changing and no one quite knows what the future will look like. To quote Seth Godin in “Tribes,” “In an era of grassroots change, the top of the pyramid is too far away from the action to make much of a difference. It takes too long and it lacks impact. The top isn’t the top anymore because the streets are where the action is.”
Innovation is happening on the ground and being shared through social networks.
Not necessarily geographical
Most of the ways the ELCA is currently organized are geographical, which makes sense in many ways, but not others. More important than geography, I believe, are shared context, style and mission.
ELCA congregations from around the country with similar challenges and aspirations are connecting online and learning from each other.
Virtual and personal
Many of these connections and conversations are only possible because of social media. These connections invite ongoing engagement and may lead to meeting in person when possible.
One note here: I would much rather follow a person than an institution. I’d rather follow your communication director on Twitter than subscribe to your press releases.
I’d rather be friends with a pastor on Facebook than get my congregation’s weekly email (although I do both). In social media, personal connections, not institutional connections, are the driving force.
Some great conversations about the way Christianity and the greater church are changing are happening right out in public on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. They are open to everyone and welcome your participation. You can eavesdrop and then engage.
People are freely sharing ideas and experiences in the form of pictures, video, blogs, sermons, emails, status updates, tweets and making materials available online. People are generous with giving advice and encouragement.
These networks are self-selecting. There is no formal obligation. Participation and commitment come from a sense of responsibility to the community and the ideas they share.
People belong to many different, overlapping networks, which transcend geography, interests, practice and denomination.
Keith Anderson is the pastor at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Woburn, Mass., and co-author of the forthcoming book “Click2Save: The Digital Ministry Bible,” He blogs about social media, spirituality and church.