Why Pastors Should Twitter

Four years ago I wrote the post “Why Pastors Should Blog” (reposted below). I reread it and still agree with it. Few of my pastor friends actually do blog and I’m really fine with that. Having a blog is kind of like having a pet, it’s a commitment. Not all pastors want to take the time to write. They may not enjoy writing. The thought of publically pondering may (quite reasonably) give them pause. I understand.

Lately I’ve been playing around with Twitter and I think I’m starting to get a sense for its usefullness for me. I’ve dabbled with it on and off for the last few months but was uncommitted. I wondered how it related to Facebook which I’ve also enjoyed.

In case you haven’t explored Twitter, some call it “micro-blogging”. Essentially you have 140 characters to make your point. I’m finding that a helpful discipline. There are of course ways to cheat, compressing URLs, abbreviations, etc. but the discipline forces you to get to the point. (Something I obviously need from time to time.)

Here is what I think it has to offer:

  • It is more of a “push” vehicle, rather than a back and forth vehicle, like Facebook. Facebook is a relationship, Twitter sends a message.
  • Twitter requires a far lower level of commitment from “followers” than a blog RSS reader does. You can easily follow a good list of twitters without getting overwhelmed because the messages are short. If there is a twitterer who is tweeting too often or whose tweets you aren’t finding helpful it is is easier to stop following them than it is in Facebook to “de-friend” them. Twitter may have the implicit, soft side of the social network thing worked out right for it’s purpose.
  • Twitter is a good way to get quotes, idea seeds, links, book recommends, etc. from indirect mentors, public figures, and people who you really can’t claim as a “friend” yet whose offerings you find helpful. The choice of “friend” for Facebook is significant. Even though many Facebookers aren’t necessarily active, Facebook is more “high touch” that can get awkward. There are a good number of people out there who you may or may not know personally (or may not have time to know or care to know on that level) yet they have helpful things to offer. Twitter allows them (like a blog) to share, and get feedback, without necessarily having to manage the encumbrage of a broader relationship. That isn’t to say relationships won’t develop or can’t, but they don’t have to.
  • The 140 character limit means that you can’t be held accountable for having missed something or failed to say that something in a way that doesn’t upset someone else. A lot of blogged discussions gets into what one said, didn’t say, or how they said it. That’s a fine activity, but it can get troublesome. Twitter will allow you go share something, an idea, a link, whatever, without necessarily having to stand trial for it. It’s just a tweet.
  • Twitter Search is more helpful than Google in certain circumstances. Spam bots have not yet taken over Twitter and there is a sense in which seeing the stream of tweets gets around the marketing filter that can clog many Internet channels. Take some time to search some things and you’ll see what I mean. You don’t have to be using Twitter to use the search site.
  • Twitter is easier to get into than blogging. It is free, all you really need to do to begin is to pick your user name and in most cases that will probably be your real name or some reasonable facimile of it. It was easy for me because I am the only paulvanderklay in all of human history to the best of my knowledge. You don’t have to commit to a domain, a service, or anything like that. Just start.
  • Twitter is early in its lifecycle. There are a variety of tools out there for phones, desktop applications, etc. It is still developing. Hopefully it will grow in a helpful way. At this point my thinking is that it is a helpful tool to invest the learning time in.

I’ve just started to explore Twitter and I think it will become more useful as I learn the tricks and the tools. At this point I am recommending my pastor friends to start to dabble with it. These are of course the same people that I told to blog, and most of them did not, but I love them anyway. 🙂 I know that many of them won’t start now, soon and some not ever, but I’m recommending that they give it a shot and see if it is helpful.

How might it help pastors in particular?

  • Increasingly members of your congregation and community will be using it. It is one more way to stay in touch and to keep in touch in an efficient, managable way. It doesn’t replace other aspects of relationship, but it opens another channel.
  • Many of the points I made in my old post on pastors blogging are still valid and valid for this. If you are blogging it is easy to tweet a link to your most recent blog post.
  • It will help your people, and people on the fringe of your community get a sense of who you are. I think that is always helpful just in terms of communication. The better they know you, the better they will understand what you are trying to say and where you are coming from.

If you don’t have the time, interest, income, energy, motivation, or whatever to make the larger commitment to a full time blog, Twittering may be a very good substitute. If you are blogging, it is a nice enhancement.


About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
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