This sort of service is a great way to combine technology and the traditional. With new techniques and technologies, sermons can become less of a lecture and more of a conversation. What ways does your congregation use to engage people during or after a service? – We repost this piece from Divining The Digital Reformation. — Ed.
Longtime, no see. The last few months since my sabbatical I have been catching up and thinking through how to actually implement some of these ideas in a real life church. I have also being hanging with my children, going to a 40th High School reunion ( a shameless excuse to post a favorite photo again).
Last Sunday we tried our first Tweet service at the Unitarian Church of Edmonton. To stir interest we picked a lively topic, “Healthy Sexuality”. During the summer I took an online course for UU Ministers (mostly) from the Religious Insitute, that reminded me that positive sexuality ought to be a pulpit topic in our churches.
We invited folks to tweet and post Facebook answers to “What is healthy sexuality?” ahead of time and then to keep doing so during the service. (The links were @BrianKiely1 and #ucesermon. About 15% of the congregation that day tried to take part, although a few folks were trying Twitter for the first time with mixed results. We also used a ‘video reading’ from Upworthy to add another technological aspect.
Oh, and I put away the pulpit and did the service from my iPad while wandering around with a headset microphone.
Finally, my worship chair John Pater managed the “21st century news desk” from the side of the stage both sending out pre-selected tweets of the main sermon points and following what came in. John used to be a CBC newsman, so this came fairly easily to him. We also projected the incoming posts.
I preached about 2/3 of the sermon and then paused to let John share the received comments. I spoke to a couple of those and then concluded the sermon.
1. The tech side was pretty easily managed, although two hands were definitely needed. I also had to get the sermon done by Friday so John could extract points for tweeting.
2. We did draw in a lot of younger adults, and quite a few new faces for this one, though I can’t say whether the draw was the tweet idea or the idea of sex .
3. People seemed to have a lot of fun! And the non-tweeting folks were undisturbed by the thumb action of the others.
4. It is both possible and necessary to meet the needs of the different age and stage groups. The ‘matures’ got a familiar service with a sermon, meditation and hymns. The ‘millenials’ (and others) got to be in their comfort zone and be in contact with their world.
5. There weren’t that many tweeted questions in the service but there were a LOT of retweets of sermon content. I am taking part in an NTEN course on technology for non-profits Today’s presenter spoke of “Friendraising”. That was the new discovery for me. The folks who were broadcasting from the service were introducing their friends a. to the idea of they go to a church, b. church can be kind of cool, c. content from a service was shared live showingwhy they like church. This is living breathing outreach, the old ‘Bring a Friend’ Sunday done in a whole new way. I have 8 new Twitter followers as a result.
If you’re interested you can check out the content of their posts in the Healthy Sexuality sermon post on our church web site.
I still need to poll some of the non-tweeters for their reactions (coffee hour was way too busy last week), but this might be a keeper.
Brian Kiely is the minister of the Unitarian Church of Edmonton.