social networking and the future of the church

a friend sent me this fantastic post about social networking, including this brilliant summary of the rules of social networking:

Defining Social Media: Some Ground Rules
(as we understand them circa January 2007)

Communication in the form of conversation, not monologue. This implies that social media must facilitate two-way discussion, discourse, and debate with little or no moderation or censorship. In other words, the increasingly ubiquitious comments section of your local blog or media sharing site is NOT optional and must be open to everyone.

Participants in social media are people, not organizations. Third-person voice is discouraged and the source of ideas and participation is clearly identified and associated with the individuals that contributed them. Anonymity is also discouraged but permissible in some very limited situations.

Honesty and transparency are core values. Spin and attempting to control, manipulate, or even spam the conversation are thoroughly discouraged. Social media is an often painfully candid forum and traditional organizations — which aren’t part of the conversation other than through their people — will often have a hard time adjusting to this.

It’s all about pull, not push. Like McKinsey & Company noted a year ago or so , push-based systems, of which one-way marketing and advertising and command-and-control management are typical examples are no where near as efficient as pull systems where people bring to them the content and relationships that they want, instead of having them forced on themselves. Far from being a management theory, much of what we see in Web 2.0 shows the power of pull-based systems with extremely large audiences. As you shape a social media community, understanding how to make embrace pull instead of push is one of the core techniques. In social media, people are in control of their conversations, not the pushers.

Distribution instead of centralization. One often overlooked aspect of social media is the fact that the interlocutors are so many and varied. Gone are the biases that inevitably creep into information when only a few organizations control the creation and distribution of information. Social media is highly distributed and made up of tens of millions of voices making it far more textured, rich, and heterogeneous than old media could ever be (or want to be). Encouraging conversations on the vast edges of our networks, rather than in the middle, is what this point is all about.

i was forwarding this to our leadership team, and it struck me that the church has been operating — in so many places and in so many ways — on a web 1.0 platform. these “rules for social networking” could just as easily reflect the “rules” (i use quotes there, because i don’t think they’re hard and fast) of the new house church movement gaining momentum around the world (i’m differentiating here from the older house church movement, particularly in england, in the 80s, which has long since become entrenched and institutionalized). seems to me it would be a great exercise for leadership teams in churches to have a long discussion about each of these values and reflect on whether they’re embodying these or not.

4 thoughts on “social networking and the future of the church”

  1. I think businesses such as YS find 2.0 particularly challenging. Not so much the NYWC because my limited experience of them tells me that they very intentionally embrace many of the ‘rules.’ The publishing side however seems ‘push’ rather than ‘pull.’

  2. tim, i would say i already do follow rule #1, since i can only think of a few times in almost two years of blogging, and over 7000 comments, that i’d deleted someone’s comment. that said, i’m not sure a blog (at least the blog of one person, like mine) is really the web 2.0 those points are addressing. there is some great, open conversation that takes place on this blog from time to time (and on others more frequently). but there’s no question it’s “moderated” in the sense that it’s springing off of something one person (me) wrote. and it’s on “my” space — it’s really not neutral.

    btw: did i censor one of your comments once and tick you off? or were you just being curious? i couldn’t tell if there was something more implied by your question.

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