Social Media: The Importance of New Media in the Faith Story


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55 minute session for those working with youth in the Harrogate/Doncaster area, thinking about the importance of new media in our faith.

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  • 55 Minutes, after Graham & Paul intro to New Media… are then workshops, and Bryony later on creative ideas in Youth Media… Good point to suggest that we could also flip this point, and say is faith important in the new media story … and don’t we want to make it so!!
  • It IS the reality – any time that we hark back to days when we all ‘sorted it out’ over a cup of tea… we are now in a global, fast-moving world, and if we want to participate in that conversation – we need to know how to…
  • 3.5 minutes .. Increasingly mobile-ness Who has a mobile?
  • Thinking about the terminology we use – what can we learn from the secular world (such as that video) – counting numbers, talking about if you don’t got out to meet people – others will, etc..
  • To be a ‘child of God’ – what does that mean?
  • What values might that mean we hold to? DISCUSS
  • If we understand what ‘works’ – we can connect with people - We don’t PUSH the message at people – we seek to be intriguing and draw them in… we have a powerful message – can we find ways to share it positively?
  • “In the beginning was the word, and the word was God…” He wants to communicate with us (2-way)…what do Jesus’ teaching then mean for our lives today? If we are made in God’s image, and God is a communicating God, what responsibilities does that place upon us in our public digital lives? Image taken from Durham University website.
  • Building relationships takes time, but church has never been about “bums on seats”, so much as about encouraging those who attend to live full lives of discipleship. Many of those who enjoy the digital spaces are skeptical about being ‘preached to’. We live in a world of “pull” rather than “push” media (show me why I will be interested, rather than tell me I should be interested), but as Elizabeth Drescher says:We are not selling something to the world that will make more people like us, believe in our story, join our churches. We are trying to be something in the world that invites connection and compassion, encourages comfort and healing for those in need, and challenges those in power to use that power in the service of justice and love (Drescher, 127).
  • Ensure that what we’re thinking about is not just about individual ‘brownie points’ but bigger/community pictures…
  • Remember that anything that you write online – even in private messages, etc. are easy to copy & paste – and out of your control onve you write them down… quite a good benchmark is thinking of these people who might read it … it may place limitations on what you write – being open and authentic does not mean shove it all out without filters!!
  • You may still post, but at least you will post with awareness that you may attract kickback, etc..
  • Invite responses about which platforms they are using.. . How much it feels like display, what they think about before they place material online?Emphasise don’t want bland Bible bots (2nd session), but give some thought to what message are presenting – doesn’t matter what you’re doing, the label of Christian is still attached – what does this mean?
  • DISCUSS - We may be the only Bible that some people ever see … What do your priorities appear to be? Does God seem to have a place in your life? Demonstrate life as it is, rather than how you wish it would be… Relentlessly positive? How do we also share some of the difficulties of life – be real, allow people to connect with us [some of best sermons I’ve ever heard are people telling me are how they’ve dealt with difficult times… demonstrated that they are still pursuing the answers… ]… sentences end in a question rather than in a full stop?
  • The need for consistency… The church is just not on many people’s radar .. On a Sunday the Cathedrals of the shopping mall and the football pitch draw people in and provide the social spaces that people used to get from the church… so is there something else that Christians are seeking to offer… (But also need care that not using that space just to promote what you doing … if the church community gets onboard can see true community)
  • Within the church we need to think about how we engage more - this is the model many churches have now… (as a educational developer, I note that many teachers do this too….)
  • Can we move towards something more like this – what does this mean for church leaders, especially you as youth leaders…?
  • If you’re going to have a policy, have something like this – v. simple. Example with Damaris…
  • A few insights from this book…
  • I asked my questionnaire respondents what they thought were the benefits of the digital world, and their answers included: access to wide range of information (especially if not blocked by a filter), increased connection with family/friends regardless of distance, huge educational benefits for their future, giving children an opportunity to engage with the world as it is now, opportunities to demonstrate - and be involved in - collaboration, a positive impact on social life, the opportunity to make more flexible plans, tools to keep them occupied, a chance to enjoy spending time together on devices – or to learn from their children, the global nature of the online spaces, fun and entertainment, learning from games, improved hand-eye co-ordination, the speed of communication, new opportunities for creativity, learning to be critical, enhanced personal safety, increased accessibility for those with disabilities, and prospects for increased creativity.
  • Social media needs to be considered within overall policy decisions, including developing policies for how youth leaders will deal with pastoral questions, and suicidal “cries for help”, including an easily accessible list of contacts available for staff to use.
  • e.g. LOL = double meaningsAvoid e.g. “luv” or “xxx”.
  • ConfidentialityIn digital communications with youth/children, be aware that they may be prepared to disclose more than they would face-to-face. Ensure that those in your groups understand that you are not qualified to provide counselling (unless you are!), but can give general advice within a personal capacity. Consider adding a disclaimer such as this as to what you may do with their information: If there is a concern, e.g. that the sender or someone else, particularly a child, may be at risk of serious harm, we may need to share those concerns. In such circumstances we would inform the sender giving details of who would be contacted and what information would be given.
  • More accountability, protect personal lives… Note that Facebook terms and conditions do not allow users to have more than one profile.
  • ASK: Anybody any ideas what these numbers reflect? Research = those affected from 5.5% to 71% (obviously press = worst figures), but these figures can cause their own problems. Nancy Willard = makes people think that it’s a ‘rite of passage’ – put up with it // not really causing harm… = means more get involved – whereas if we can show that most behave positively online, inspired to copy that instead…Policies by government, schools and parents are also dictated by a belief in the height of stats … the higher the stats – the more likely we are to limit access, want more surveillance – and call for bans on technology!
  • Feels disconnected from impact of bullying (like WW2 bombers), and can find ways to justify it, often dehumanising the victim … it’s that danger of seeing the screen rather than the person behind the screen!
  • Things move fast, so others can pile in – but can also use this to your advantage to get other friends, etc. to support you as well…
  • A final encouraging thought to leave with…
  • Final word – remember – there is always a human being at the other end of the keyboard… think before you type…Questions?
  • Social Media: The Importance of New Media in the Faith Story

    3. 3. MOBILE, MOBILE… No surprise, then, that Facebook is no longer a place for uninhibited status updates about pub antics, but an obligatory communication tool that younger people maintain because everyone else does. All the fun stuff is happening elsewhere. On their mobiles. 13/nov/10/teenagers-messenger-appsfacebook-exodus
    6. 6. 1 JOHN 3:1 “What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it – we‟re called children of God! That‟s who we really are.” (MSG) Image Credit: Seed Resources
    8. 8. PUSH/PULL MEDIA… Image Credit: Stockfresh
    9. 9. REV PROF DAVID WILKINSON God is a communicating God: “In the beginning was the word”. God is extravagant in communication – he is not a silent God who has to be tempted into communicating with people. Image Credit: Durham University
    10. 10. We are not selling something to the world that will make more people like us, believe in our story, join our churches. We are trying to be something in the world that invites connection and compassion, encourages comfort and healing for those in need, and challenges those in power to use that power in the service of justice and love (Drescher, 127)
    11. 11. CRIS ROGERS We need to spend time in his presence and then we will have something to say.
    12. 12. JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN … DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD! Image credit: RGBStock
    13. 13. WHO MIGHT READ IT? God Your Mum ‘The kids’ The newspaper Your worst energy
    14. 14. H.A.L.T. If you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired, step away from the keyboard/keypad and deal with that issue first.
    15. 15. @BENJAMINELLIS It seems obvious, but sometimes that anger isn‟t apparent until we see the hurt reaction from our unintended victims, and by that point the damage is done, with the evidence there for all to see. And no, deleting the tweets later doesn’t help (hello Kanye West). At best you are going to end up looking a bit silly.
    17. 17. “IF AN ALIEN VISITED…” … and all they had to see was your Facebook page (or other „public‟ profile).. What would their perception of your life be? Image: RGB Stock
    18. 18. THE CHURCH FRONT DOOR? For many churchgoing is no longer the ‘cultural norm’. People don’t actively ignore the church: they don’t even think about it. Matthew 5:13-16 calls us to be salt and light in the world, and for thousands in the ‘digital age’, that world includes social networks such Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest. With literally billions in the digital spaces, the online social spaces presented by churches need to be appealing, welcoming, and not look like they are just an afterthought: they are now effectively the „front door‟ to your church for digital users, and you ignore those spaces at your peril. wing_churches_in_the_digital_age Image Credit:
    19. 19. THE METHODIST CHURCH SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY: • Be credible. Be accurate, fair, thorough and transparent. • Be consistent. Encourage constructive criticism and deliberation. • Be cordial, honest and professional at all times. Be responsive. When you gain insight, share it where appropriate. • Be integrated. Wherever possible, align online participation with other communications. • Be a good representative of the Methodist Church. Remember that you are an ambassador for Christ, the Church and your part of it. Disclose your position as
a member or officer of the Church, making it clear when speaking personally. Let Galatians 5:22–26 guide your behaviour (fruits of the spirit). • Be respectful: respect confidentiality. Respect the views of others even where you disagree.
    20. 20. Published by Lion Hudson February 2014
    21. 21. CAN SOCIAL MEDIA BE POSITIVE? • Wide range of information • Increased connectivity and collaboration • Educational benefits • Global nature of online • New creative opportunities • Learning criticality • Increased accessibility for those with disabilities
    22. 22. CAN SOCIAL MEDIA BE USED POSITIVELY? Post friend‟s suicide, Teenager set up a Twitter account giving compliments to others online: After school Code Clubs are running: A child developed a high-capacity battery with fast recharge: Child produced cheap test for pancreatic cancer: Pledge to use the Internet for good: Fun with technology:
    24. 24. As a youth leader, it is a very convenient way of messaging and informing members of our youth group, and inviting them to events and [connecting with] each other when we're not together… Sadly for your child to be the only one in a group NOT to have access to Facebook can itself be a matter for isolation - they may not get invitations to youth events for example, and ridicule and bullying for being the 'odd one out'. (Parent, 16-19)
    25. 25. PERMISSIONS/CONSE NT • Parent‟s permission before contact • Consent for use of photographs • Catchall statement for registration forms – assumes opt-in unless opt-out. Ref: Paul Windo, Urban Saints
    26. 26. LANGUAGE • Use clear, unambiguous language, avoiding abbreviations that can be mis-interpreted. • Take care with sign-offs Ref: Paul Windo, Urban Saints
    27. 27. ACCOUNTABILITY • Leaders/Young People develop agreed „Internet Guidelines‟ • Line manager // access to social media accounts • Second leader „in the room‟ • Save messages/disclosures for use later if required. Ref: Paul Windo, Urban Saints
    28. 28. CONFIDENTIALITY • Be prepared for „deeper‟ disclosures • Be clear on how much advice/source you can give. • Add a disclaimer on how you might need to share their information. Ref: Paul Windo, Urban Saints
    29. 29. BOUNDARIES • Work-specific device? • Don‟t keep images of young people on personal devices • Define curfews Ref: Paul Windo, Urban Saints
    30. 30. SOME FURTHER RESOURCES An online community to debate the impact of digital technologies on work with young people; and about the policy or practices of digital youth work. Developed by „You Scotland‟, a set of resources designed to help you develop quality and inclusive programmes for young people. A site set up by a UK practitioner to share advice, guidance and resources, which have all been tested and proven to be effective. An offshoot of the magazine designed for professionals working in the sector.
    33. 33. 5.5  71
    34. 34. DISINHIBITION The bully doesn‟t see the distress that they cause, feels safe from capture, and protected by the technology, able to say things that they would never say offline.
    35. 35. DIGITAL ALLIES Image Source: Stockfresh
    36. 36. Ferguson, a professor from Texas A&M who researches technologies‟ effects on human behaviour: “Youth today are the least aggressive, most civically involved, and mentally well in several generations .” „Imagining the Internet: Millennials will benefit and suffer due to their hyperconnected lives‟, Pew Research Center,, 29/2/12
    37. 37. @DRBEXL @DIGITALFPRINT @BIGBIBLE Image source: Stockfresh