Celebrities use it, ordinary people use it, churches use it. Even the Church of England is on Twitter. What’s more, some churches are using Twitter to connect with people and inspire them before, during and after church. Unless you’ve been living in a cave in the depths of the Himalayas for the last year, you’ll know that Twitter is the latest social networking fad spreading across the world faster than Swine ‘Flu. Just to refresh your memory, the object of Twitter is to tell everyone what you’re doing in a mere 140 characters, known as “tweets”. You can “follow” other “twitterers” – people who use Twitter – and others can choose to “follow” you.
Everyone’s tweeting. Stephen Fry, Lily Allen, Downing Street and The White House. Even churches are tweeting in 140 characters or less.
For churches with large, growing congregations, Twitter is the perfect way to keep connected. It can help to bring those on the fringes into the core. It is an easy and relatively effective way to update people on what’s happening, which helps to develop a sense of community. Twitter is even being used to encourage churches that has done just that. In June 2008, Westwinds,- knowing that through podcasts, videocasts and other online resources, they reached vast numbers of people via the internet – decided to set up a screen in their church solely to stream tweets sent to their Twitter account, westwindsseries, during the service.
John Voelz, pastor at Westwinds, said, “I have seen life-altering small groups formed and forged through Twitter. I have witnessed theological discussions, seen prayer answered and much more because of Twitter. It’s helping people to feel like they belong at church and like they have a role to play.”
It’s not just American churches embracing Twitter. Hope City Church and Abundant Life Church, both in the UK, are using Twitter to encourage their congregations and promote community. Hillsong Church, based in Australia and with churches in England, Kiev, France and South Africa, uses Twitter to unify the congregations. Even the Senior Pastor, Brian Houston, tweets, although he’s banned his key team from tweeting during services.
Twitter is strengthening communities in an age where it’s easier to connect with someone of the other side of the world than with our next door neighbours.