Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Can Twitter Help Worship? Does Twitter Hinder Worship?

Unless you've been hermetically sealed in a chamber for the past few years, you're aware of the social networking tool Twitter. What you might not be aware of is how people are using the twitter phenomenon to inform the world about every aspect of their lives. Even the rich and famous are getting into the act.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined $25k for his Twitter comments criticising NBA officials, and some members of congress were "tweeting" during Obama's prime time speech back in February.

The question has arisen about the etiquette of churches allowing and promoting tweeting during worship services, and there are several compelling arguments both for and against the idea. Reverend Taylor Burton-Edwards - director of worship resources with the United Methodist Board of Discipleship - has written a thorough article exploring both sides. You can read the article here, but I'll give you a quick synopsis:

Pro: Twitter can allow for a genuine sense of interactivity between the congregation and the ministry staff at appropriate times during the worship service - i.e. prayer requests, Q & A sessions.

Also a person could tweet the service making the experience available vicariously to the world at large (think especially how this could benefit shut-ins and other home-bound people).

Con: Using Twitter might privilege the "haves" over the "have nots," and the "techies" over the "non-techies."

Switching focus from one thing to another . . . creates a gap in our primary attention . . . This means that for parts of worship where continuous primary attention is appropriate, the physical act of Twittering actually reduces attention to whatever is going on at the moment and causes a total loss of primary attention between the time you start Twittering and the time you return your focus to whatever is going on in worship.

There's lots more at the actual article, but I'd love to get your thoughts on the subject . . .


Chad Barbour said...

I think while you're trying to type in your question, opinion, dictation, etc. you'll miss a lot of the meat and potatos of the message. I think it would be a kewl way to submit anonymous prayer requests or questions during a set Q/A time.

Kristin said...

It wasn't long into reading that article that I had a snarling, frothing-at-the-mouth rant forming. Some of the objections to use of Twitter were so ridiculous that I had trouble articulating my thoughts. Kip, if I didn't suspect better, I'd have thought you were baiting me.

Disclaimer: I don't love Twitter. I don't get the appeal. Then again, limiting my thoughts to 140 characters chafes, so maybe it's just not for me. I have friends who tweet all the time and I love reading their thoughts in whatever form I can get it - Twitter included.

"haves vs have nots" - this is the way the world is. Reality says that we don't all get paid the same, nor make the same choices. Different choices leads to some having and some not having. You don't punish the haves just so the have nots don't feel bad. How is that remotely Biblical? Did the servant with five talents say "oh I'll just invest one of these so that the guy who only got one doesn't feel bad"?? NO. That would be a waste. If you have it, I say use it!

"techies vs. nontechies" - Some people have the gift for it, some don't. Again, why punish the ones who are able to use technology well because others can't do it as much? And, the line in the article about providing training on Twitter? I didn't know whether to laugh or cry - it's just ludicrous. If you want to learn how to do something, the onus is on you to do it. Church is not the employer - just your coworkers. Your boss (God) equips and trains you. It's not your coworker's job to do it.

"I need a break from the chatter." - Then give YOURSELF a break. The statements from this person were sort of ironic. She thought Twitter was making things all about her. So, she wanted everyone else to not use it in church to give HER a break from the chatter. What?! Methinks it's not the technology that is the problem, but her own perspective of how much she doesn't get to control people around her. If she needs a break, put down the phone or turn it off! It really isn't that hard!

The Brain Science Issues - If Twitter is considered an unacceptable distraction, what about the parents who bring their nursery aged children into the sanctuary instead of taking them to the nursery? Or, the school aged children whose parents refuse to teach them how to sit quietly in church? Simply saying 'it's a distraction, so we don't do it' is short sighted, over simplistic, and self-limiting.

"If I could fill my sanctuary full of non-Christian Twitterers who all are curious about becoming the Body of Christ, then it is my hope God will curse me with such an affliction that I never recover from." - this was my favorite quote in the article. First, it's not he who fills his santuary, but God who fills His sanctuary. Second, this pastor shows a fear of what he does not know. Understandable, fine - but it limits him and makes him irrelevant to those Twitterpated listeners. I find it hilarious that if God were to give him the opportunity of a sanctuary full of non-Christian Twitterers, that pastor would perceive that not as the blessing that it is - but as the affliction that he hopes for!

This article was really rather disheartening - I get the image of Christ saying "what's it to you who sits at my right hand in heaven?" If using Twitter allows some in the service to experience and internalize Christ in a real and personal way, then it is well worth it and it should be done. Isn't that just part of meeting people where they are?