I’ll be at General Assembly all week, including during ministry days, so make sure to connect. Besides helping to lead this series, I’m going to be talking with clergy colleagues about a new series of social media learning opportunities specifically for parish ministers on making your public ministry more public. Yes, if you are a professional minister being paid to do public ministry, I think it is critical that you have a strong online identity — YOU, not just your congregation. Oh yes, I’m talking about using clergy personal branding as a catalyst for Unitarian Universalist growth.
Look for our Leading Congregations ad in the program book. It shares contact information for contacting me and Amy at General Assembly, plus an invitation to subscribe to our newsletter. I’ll be sharing new social media educational offerings and resources via the newsletter following GA. Don’t miss out! Some offerings are going to have limited participation, and I’m going to share invitations with subscribers of our newsletter first.
If you’re going to the UUA’s 2014 General Assembly conference in Providence, RI this June and have a smart phone or tablet, you’ll want to make sure to download the brand new UUA General Assembly app. I just gave it a test drive and it is fabulous. But don’t wait until GA, you’ll want to downloaded it now and start using it so come General Assembly, you’re good to go!
The UUA General Assembly 2014 app is the official interactive mobile app for the annual meeting of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Inspirational worship services, informative workshops, entertaining programs, and a bustling exhibit hall help make GA an unforgettable experience for the thousands of Unitarian Universalists that attend. (From iTunes App Store)
Before GA, make time to PLAY!
The UUA General Assembly 2014 app is LOADED with features. So many, in fact, that I think you need to spend some time with the app before arriving at General Assembly. You don’t want to waste valuable GA time getting oriented to the app — do that in advance.
This mobile app allows you to:
View schedules, explore sessions, and find after parties.
Create your own personal schedule and access location and speaker information.
Access interactive maps and find local places.
Checkin to sessions, meetings, keynotes, and exhibitor booths.
View an entire feed of the event activity, including attendee checkins, photos, and more.
Earn points, badges, and prizes for being active on the app and at the event.
Expand your professional network and have fun!
Listed features include:
Update — a quick way to share photos, comments, where you are, and which session you’re attending
Activity — keep your finger on the pulse of the event. See what people are doing, view photos from the event, find trending sessions and topics, and “like” and comment on other attendee checkins
Agenda — view the full agenda and related information (session time, room number, speaker info, etc.) Attendees see who’s at the event, and connect with them on the app
Exhibitors — find exhibitors and sponsors, checkin to leave comments and feedback
Profile — your official app profile, highlighting your name, profile photo, title, and organization
Leaderboard — see who has the most points at the conference and climb your way to the top with checkins
See? It’s loaded… So, do take time to set up a profile, figure out how to navigate to events and venues, share photos, and follow people you want to connect with at GA before you arrive at GA.
A Word of Caution We don’t want to have thousands of UUs gather for General Assembly and then have all social media traffic for General Assembly get redirected into an app that only people at GA can see. GA should be the most active UU social media week of the year, not a time when Unitarian Universalism goes silent. Use the app, but don’t hide in it…
Keep it Social Make sure that if you use the app, you still Tweet and share Facebook and other social media updates. The app lets you connect Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to the app and select which updates get sent out via those channels.
Tag it #UUAGA Don’t forget to include the #UUAGA tag in any update you post via the app that you are also sending to Twitter! The app does not hashtag for you.
Don’t Forget Your Friends While this app allows us to connect with others at GA in powerful ways, much the way Twitter & Facebook connect us year round, we need to make sure we don’t totally abandon those who are not plugged in! Keep your heart open and your eyes out for those who are not digitally connected at General Assembly.
Photos of Public Witness The app does let you take and share photos. However, if you take and share photos of public witness and and use the app to send them to Twitter, they appear as links in your tweets, not automatically displayed Twitter photos. During public witness I’m going close the app and focus on sharing Twitter photos and videos made with Vine — that will get more reach.
Let’s Connect! You can connect with me, Peter Bowden, on the GA app and on Facebook & Twitter. During General Assembly, this year I will be focusing on talking ministry & media with all of you.
Also, look for my Leading Congregations ad in the GA program book. That’s the home for my interfaith congregational consulting practice . At General Assembly I’m going to be booking the rest of my speaking, training and coaching for the year. If you wanted to work with me in 2014-2015, make sure to connect with me at GA. I expect to be booked for year by July 15h.
We’ve discussed the issue of UU clergy vs. lay person blogging in the UU Growth Lab and most agreed that the ease of sharing ideas and engaging in discussion in topical UU groups has taken some of the energy away from public blogging. While it is great to have these forums, there was some worry expressed in having these conversations moved behind closed doors.
FACEBOOK OUTREACH & DESIGN
There’s been amazing UU outreach done over the last year via social media, especially on Facebook using combinations of striking visual images and quotes. The biggest contributors have been the page (featured in UU world this Fall) & , and Thomas Earthman’s I AM UU page.
There continues to be growth in the number of UUs and UU congregations on Twitter. The UUA’s twitter account now lists:
128 UU Ministers
50 UU Religious Educators
279 UU Congregations
I don’t have stats on the counts from previous years, though I’ve logged these numbers for future comparison.
Hashtags: Though they are now more mainstream, I don’t see many Unitarian Universalists using them well. Some do, but not overall. There’s huge potential to bring our congregations, clergy and other UUs on Twitter into larger conversations using hashtags. Hard to say if it is lack of technical understanding, or simply lack of intention to reach out.
Gini’s Twitter Lesson: At the UUA’s 2013 General Assembly then moderator Gini Courter gave the full plenary a brief Twitter lesson. It was great to see this attention brought to social media at GA.
The UU video site I curate, http://www.unitarianuniversalism.tv now has over 2450 UU videos. Alas, many are poorly filmed, and are designed for viewing by existing members chained to their pews. Unless someone is already a member or friend of the congregation, you have maybe 3 to 5 seconds to grab their attention. Many of the sermon videos posted online take 3 to 5 minutes, an eternity for a web video.
Also, many congregations are not titling their videos or tagging with keywords which reduces their value. Titles, descriptions and keyword tags will greatly increase the reach of the videos UUs are presently producing.
I’ve had many inquiries from congregations wanting to take their video to the next level (or to start filming) in 2014, which is encouraging. I still advocate for starting with an awesome podcast and periodic video messages designed for outreach (a message from your minister speaking directly to viewer online), and then getting into video of sermons.
There are approximately 20 active UU congregations and UUA accounts on Pinterest. A search for “Unitarian Universalist” results in ~35 related boards. Numbers are approximate as some appear to not have been used since creating some time ago.
GOOGLE + I’m getting circled more often by UU’s but I don’t know if people are really using Google+ more or are just being forced to create accounts to use Google services. As for congregations, a search for Unitarian results in ~90 UU congregations (with profile photos) on Google+. Searches for Unitarian Universalist yields fewer number, and Universalist fewer still so “Unitarian” seems best for tracking the trend at this point.
What are your observations on 2013?
And your hopes and dreams for UU Social Media in 2014?
Recently I had the honor of collaborating with my friend and colleague, the Rev. Naomi King, on the 2013 Minns Lecture “Ministry in the Age of Collaboration.” We were asked to speak on social media and Unitarian Universalism in the 2st Century.
We are both sharing core messages from our talks via our blogs, and videos of the lectures will be available later this month.
For this first post of mine, before I start in on social media, I think it is helpful to speak to the issue of our congregations being out of synch with time. I’ve discussed with United Church of Christ colleagues the fact that the UCC seems, to me, 10 years ahead of the Unitarian Universalist Association in some regards. They in turn chuckle and say they feel the UCC is 10 years behind where they should be. That puts us, if you do the math, 20 years behind!
Our lagging leads to significant problems with our ministry. Most frequent in my conversations with our leaders:
Why don’t our children grow up to be adult Unitarian Universalists?
Why aren’t families participating the way they use to?
Why aren’t we attracting all those spiritual and not religious people, the nones?
And while we’re at it, why aren’t people drawn to, and participating in the work of good institutions like ours the way they use to?
These are complex issues with no one simple answer or quick fix. But there is a common problem plaguing many of our congregations which is directly contributing to them.
Our congregations? They’ve gotten lost in time…. I know, it sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it?
Ministry Time Bubbles
Many congregations are living in what I call “ministry time bubbles.” You see, for many congregations — maybe yours — the world has changed around you. Not a little. Not a lot. We’re talking massive mighty change impacting every aspect of our human society.
How did some congregations get stuck in time? A content membership, leadership and staff with enough money to care for themselves, coupled with sudden rapid technological innovation in the world at large.
When a congregation has stable membership numbers, enough funds to meet its own needs, it is easy to focus on caring for that immediate community. That’s the congregation as “safe harbor.” And believe me, plenty of people are looking for a safe harbor, including being sheltered from change.
With a reasonable membership and sufficient budget, a congregation can go about its ministry in this way, with attention on its membership and little attention on the rest of the world for years.
To create a significant ministry time bubble, take this set up and crank up the rate of change in the larger world. Presto!
In this illustration you can see a congregation starting in synch with the world – blue, then while they were busy with their internal ministry, the rate of change outside picked up. Uh oh…
For a very long time change in our world came at a rate that was challenging, but not too drastic. The difference between “congregational time” and “world time” was reasonable. Leaders were able to slowly soak in the change. Taking time was okay. A decade to get the congregation set up on email? No problem! Five years to debate a new website? Why not!
Things are different today. We’ve recently gone through three major technological revolutions:
Development of the internet
Creation and proliferation of social media
All that tech in your pocket thanks to mobile computing
These technologies are fundamentally changing the culture, norms and expectations of human society. And not just once, they’re impacting human behavior day after day after day.
While many congregations have been going about their business of faithfully changing the world locally (focus on core membership), the very world they’re called to change — it changed. Result? A congregation out of synch with time, technology and culture.
These ministry time bubble, they may be fine for a while. But increasingly the discrepancies are too great to maintain. And what was chalked up to technology becomes a matter of clashing cultures.
New Norms for Humanity
These discrepancies between how our congregations are going about ministry and what is increasingly mainstream culture – big problem. It is easy to discount technology we don’t care for. But we can’t minister effectively if we discount a changing human culture. And that’s the scale of what we’re talking about.
Think about that. Your congregation, if you aren’t actively staying in touch with present day technology and resulting culture — and this is a moving target — will be increasingly out of touch with the culture of those people you are seeking to minister to and with.
What culture am I talking about?
We’ve been globalized, interconnected and sci-fi like devices have been placed in our pockets giving us mind boggling creative, collaborative, and coordinating powers! These powers are rapidly changing how we do everything from work and play, to how we learn and organize ourselves to face the injustices of our time.
Unfortunately, this growing culture clash isn’t readily apparent to many of our leaders. Why? Because our culture being out of whack with what is becoming mainstream present day human culture simply results in humanity wanting nothing to do with us. It is like a silent force gently pushing people away from us, including our young people who want to be active and effective agents for change.
You might say that we raised our very smart children well enough for them to know that our congregations, those stuck in time, are not the best places to invest their time and energy. Great leaders (and aspiring leaders) don’t suffer through mediocre leadership. They find an institution or revolution ready to help them be of service.
The Good News!
The good news is that our mission, our purpose, that change we and our congregations are (hopefully) called to make in the world — there are more people than ever interested in that. We know this because we’re increasingly networked together.
But…. (Drat! You knew there was a but.)
But the people we are trying to minister to and with are different now. You see, we’re all adapting to this new world. We are learning to do amazing things with the creative, collaborative, democratizing, gamified, hierarchy crushing, grassroots coordinating, rapid response, instantaneous, “fail often, fail fast, fail forward” tools and culture of this time.
We need your Unitarian Universalist religious leadership more than ever!
We just need you to be a religious leader differently.
We need you to understand the cultural shifts that are reshaping our human society, reshaping the world, and how to harness them to unleash our shared ministry in a world increasingly characterized by connectivity and openness.