Most of us have heard of Twitter, the social networking site where users post updates (called tweets) in 140 characters or less. Professionals love to use Twitter for networking, celebrities for self-promotion, and ministers for evangelizing! With the use of a shortened url, a tweet becomes a launching pad to send people to an image, a website or a blog post… there really is no limit. A Twitter chat can build up your ministry by encouraging community among members, helping you identify areas to focus on teaching, or even promoting special events.
But what IS a twitter chat? This is simply a way to have a conversation online, on a specific topic, gathering many varied folks together over a similar time period (generally a specific hour or over the course of one day). These chats can be regularly reoccuring ones, or once and done (for a special event). Tweets are linked, as usual, by the #hashtag, but because people are online at the same time, it encourages more interaction. The sponsor or leader of the chat generally starts things off with a specific question or set of questions to which people respond. As the tweets start flowing, the conversation begins with users asking or commenting on each other’s tweets. A good place to learn is to follow the Tuesday night chat for the Church Social Media – learn more here.
Warning: twitter chats do not flow as regular face to face conversation does! If you’re logged into Twitter and following the #hashtag your newsfeed, a number of tweets will pop up – some replying to each other, others asking or commenting to the group. It takes a little practice to follow along… but once you get the hang of it, you’ll have a lot of fun.
Besides being fun, what good could a twitter chat be for your ministry? Imagine inviting parents online once a week to ask a faith-sharing question: “who is Jesus to your children? #catholicparent.” It’s another avenue to begin talking with each other… and as a bonus, it could help you see what they really understand, or not.
Or perhaps following up an RCIA session with a conversation about the topic of the week: “how do you experience Jesus as another human? as God? #stceciliaRCIA.” This gives your participants a chance to reflect on the Church teaching within their daily prayer… and may surface additional insights or questions.
Or church leaders could survey general parishioners after a specific event, such as an Advent Taize prayer service: “which Taize song means a lot to you? #sun5pm.”
The goal, of course, is using a twitter chat as another method of networking, all to build up the face to face ministry that happens at Mass and Church. If you haven’t tried it yet, where do you see it being successful? If you have, what’s your favorite way to follow chats?