Social Media and Ministry


We asked readers: Share an instance in which you have used social media in your ministry in a unique way, or a way that had a surprising outcome as a result of your interactions. Are you evolving with the technology, or resisting the change? What type of information would you like to receive from PTS via Facebook and Twitter? We received many answers, but could not include them all. All responses are in inSpire online.

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PTS social media can provide information on seminars and public programs as well as updates on changes in leadership. It can also be used to address student needs and recognize achievements. However, I think emails work better.
Jay Harold Ellens (Th.M., 1965)
Farmington Hills, Michigan

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YouTube is an unparalleled collection of clips to supplement public presentations of every kind. The principal use I see for Facebook is a way of broadcasting my “news” or announcements. It is a great funnel for humor and for intelligent links of which I would not otherwise be aware. On several occasions, though, I’ve had the opportunity to jump into threads of really controversial discussions and throw in my two drachmas. It has actually felt, sometimes, like Kingdom business was being done; and I was as grateful to participate as in earlier, more traditional venues.
Gene R. Smillie (M.Div., 1982)
Elmhurst, Illinois

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Two examples come to mind: a small one with my new iPhone (not my choice, our adult kids and my wife got it for me—I’m 59). I usually carry a New Testament/Psalms. Now using my phone I can look up any scripture verse in any translation when asked at a bedside or a home!
Today I heard from a member whose mother had died. Her brother Skyped from Germany each day for three hours during his mother’s last days and was on Skype with the family and nurses when she died! It was good for him, and the family was accepting of his choice.
On a different note, I have yet to find someone willing to regularly update our web site—after “everyone” wanted to get one. So it’s not updated on a weekly basis, but only with our monthly newsletters. On the other hand, a member of the church is posting each service on YouTube. However, he has just raised the concern of his family lawyer that we may need to get releases from the congregants for permission to post videos (of individuals). We’re pursuing the best way to handle this, but at this point the lawyer thinks a regular “This is what we do with morning worship, if you have an issue with this, let us know….” In the newsletter or from the pulpit will suffice.
Jon Carlisle (M.Div., 1977)
Coshocton, Ohio

 

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My appreciation for the power of social media was inspired by comedian Jon Stewart, who had a guest on his show named Gigi Ibrahim, a leader in the Tahrir Square Egyptian Spring. He asked her what inspired her to lead the effort and she replied that she was taking a course at the American University in Cairo (AUC) on revolution.
The next day’s mail brought my copy of the New Internationalist (NI), which featured Jon Stewart interviewing Ibrahim. The article contained this paragraph: “Twenty-four-year-old Gigi Ibrahim was active in the unprecedented number of protests in 2010 which prefigured this year’s uprising. As an inveterate tweeter she helped report army abuses and arrests for human right groups.”
Presbyterians and Congregationalists founded the AUC under the old American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission. I wrote a letter back to the New Internationalist that said in part: “Adjacent to Tahrir square, the AUC’s first campus was being organized in the early 1900s, modeled after the American University of Beirut (opened in the mid-1800s). In both cases, many Middle Eastern Sunni and Shia Muslims, Jews, and Christians (Copts, Armenians, Eastern Orthodox, etc.) shared classes and democratic ideas. Many students from the West learned to listen seriously in a new way. Such education fostered the first “Arab Spring,” which, among other factors, encouraged most minorities of the Ottoman Empire to side with the Western Allies in the “dark winter” of World War One, to defeat Germany and the Ottomans.
I have not used the term “Arab Awakening” because I do not think it was the Arabs who have been sleeping. Gigi Ibrahim, and the thousands like her, may cause a tsunami of critical thinking across the USA that reminds us that democracy has always been shared more effectively by education and mutual respect than by invading other countries, arming their governments, etc.
A special high five to NI, etc. Since this revolution is digital, less time may be needed.
Henry Bucher (Th.M., 1962)
Sherman, Texas

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Certainly, we have heard of the social media revolution. But so far, I have limited myself to email. I guess this must be due to time limitations and having to sit behind the computer. However, I think the change is good.
Samuel Kofi Osabutey (M.A., 1991)
Accra, Ghana, West Africa

 

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Trudging on with my very special ministry, which has been the ministry of a mentally disabled patient with schizophrenia and allied disorders, I am keeping abreast with technology these days. My income, the supplementary security income has been $150 per month. The subscription for Internet would cost $20 per month and it is unaffordable for me. Now, I am turning to the use of carrier pigeons! If someone could donate a laptop to me, it would indeed turn my ministerial activity high-tech overnight.
Tamas Barnabas (Th.M., 1985)
Budapest, Hungary

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I am currently the staff chaplain coordinator for surgery/trauma at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, a level-one acute care University of Texas Southwestern Medical School teaching hospital. It is home to the regional burn center. On a regular basis I use podcasts and music over my iPhone and iPad for inpatient support and care. I always carry my phone and I am continually on the hunt for spiritual and religious thought-provoking materials to broadcast through this media. It’s easy to access and carry. On several occasions an intubated ICU patient has responded to music with good outcomes. I carry calls to prayer from several religions, meditative music, and details regarding religious practices related to healthcare for staff references (MedScape, PubMed, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Plainviews, etc.). I rely on the Internet (via my phone) to connect me to the most up-to-date information in evidence-based research related to spirituality, trauma, religion, and acute care challenges in order to be present to “my unique congregation.” The iUniversity function allows for direct connections and podcasts to hundreds of academic institutions. I am still waiting for Princeton Seminary to hook up with this fantastic vehicle of education.
Judith A. Crilley (M.Div., 1986B)
Dallas, Texas
Editor’s Note: The Seminary has recently been approved for an iTunes U account and we will share the news with alumni/ae when it is ready to access.


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When email arrived on the scene I was overjoyed. I liked the ease of it and its speed. But, it had its dangers for sure. One could say things in an email that he or she would not say on the phone, and sometimes the heat of the moment overtook good sense. I’m resisting Facebook and Twitter. They offer less reason for restraint. Communication is too precious a gift to make it trivial. If it’s important, send me an email.
Harry A. Freebairn (M.Div., 1962; D.Min., 1984)
Easton, Pennsylvania

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One thing we did last year was use Facebook for daily readings for our members. We were doing a study of the Gospel of Luke and had readings for each day of the series (from January to May). We set up an automatic message to be posted each day to our Facebook page with the full text of the reading. Many of our members said it made reading the Word much easier for them and they really grew through the experience.
Edward Goode (M.Div., 1999)
Wyoming, Ohio

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I just don’t get social media. Cell phones and email, they are kind of helpful, but also get in the way of real communication. They are a minor convenience and often a major waste of time. A web site seems to be enough. Why all the rest? I don’t think the emperor has any clothes on. I’m going back to my cave.
Bruce Kochsmeier (M.Div., 1985)
Carson City, Nevada

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Thus far I’ve chosen not to use social media for several reasons—privacy concerns, technological intimidation, time constraints, and my introverted nature. As a retiree, I’m grateful for my part-time tasks, but I already spend more time on my laptop than I prefer. So, the thought of even more time and effort expended on social media is not appealing. No doubt a minority perspective though affirmed with conviction!
Stuart Plummer (M.Div., 1956)
Fraser, Colorado


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