For the first afternoon breakout session, I went to a discussion on creative worship ideas. It turned out to be a wide-ranging discussion. Early on, this question came up: When might a minister wear a t-shirt in the pulpit, and when might a minister wear a robe? — and which is more authentic, and why? We had no final answer; sometimes a t-shirt is appropriate, and in other congregations or contexts robes and vestments might be best.
We talked about how congregations sometimes embrace innovation in worship, and sometimes reject it, and that spun off an interesting conversation about sometimes innovation and creativity in worship is not the right thing to do. Someone pointed out that most of us in the creative worship breakout group personally enjoy traditional worship services, with Bach and organs and pews; yet at the same time all of us are interested in creative innovation in worship. It occurs to me that the best creative worship probably comes from those who really love traditional worship, but see its limitations, and want to move beyond its limitations.
As a mystic myself, I particularly appreciated on comment from this breakout session: “There’s a burning bush in our service and we don’t even know it.” — Annie Dillard says much the same thing in Teaching a Stone To Talkwhen she says, “Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake some day and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.”
The second breakout session I attended was on social media marketing for congregations.
David Hansen gave us some excellent information about using Facebook pages to promote congregations. He said to make sure your congregation’s Facebook page likes appropriate Facebook pages in you community — for example, his church’s Facebook page liked the children’s program of the local public library — which both shows support to worthy organizations aligned with your mission, and gets your congregation out on the feeds of everyone who follows those other Facebook pages. He is also an advocate for buying ads (i.e., promoting your posts) on Facebook; although he also said you can get about as much play by judicious posting on your own page, and liking other pages.
I picked up several other social marketing tips: Some congregations are using TextMarks for mass texting to the congregation. Several congregations are now using Instagram to post photos online — instead of opt-in release forms, these congregations publicize an opt-out policy for those who don’t want their image to appear online (obviously, photos of legal minors can never appear in a public forum without parental permission). Recommended book on social media marketing for congregations: The Social Media Gospel by Meredith Gould.
Finally, the most important thing I took away from this breakout session: You really need to have a social media marketing strategy. It’s not enough to just put your info up on social media. Instead, you want to have a plan for what kinds of material you’re going to put on social media. And you want to think about how you’re going to network with other social media users, because social media is not one-way broadcasting, it’s a conversation.