Verdict Part 2 – Is social media driving new expectations for congregations?

Not Guilty

I wrote this weekend about the strong reaction many in my UU social media network had to Sunday services that did not create space to process the Trayvon Martin – George Zimmerman verdict from the night before. Many were let down, disappointed, upset.

In the day since I’ve been reflecting on how that reaction was shaped by social media, a culture I believe is changing expectations many have of congregations.

On Saturday, because I’m networked to hundreds of Unitarian Universalists and thousands of others online via Facebook and Twitter, I could clearly see the swell of emotion building up to and in response to the verdict. It was clear, if you were tuning in, that this was a special moment, a moment that would drive people to church with many seeking a pastoral message. But not all worship leaders new this.

7 years ago the verdict would have been announced and we would have waited to discuss it in person over the coming week. But now, there were immediate online conversations, people were able to cry via global twitter streams, vent rage, demand justice and release emotions that only amplify the need for ministry.

What a different world…

Back to the verdict and reaction. I’m feeling like this is more of a social media lesson than anything else. Those who are active via social media have the tools to better gauge in real time when national / word events require an immediate pastoral response. If you tune in, that’s a powerful advantage for your ministry team. If you don’t??? Then there are moments like Sunday when people show up assuming you know… You know their pain, their sorrow and they judge based on those assumptions.

Does that social media driven shift in expectations make sense? I’m still trying to process it myself. What do you think?

2 comments

  • Pingback: Ignoring the verdict. Is your congregation guilty? – UU Planet: Unitarian Universalist ministry & media with Peter Bowden

  • Peter, as someone who preached on Sunday, I found your last post and this post helpful and thoughtful. I do not have a tv in my home and did not follow the trial except occasional NPR reports and Facebook posts. However, and somewhat serendipitously, I checked FB early Sunday and learned of the verdict, took in the beginning of the emotive swell (the social media one, my own), and knew I had to respond, both on my blog, and incorporated into the worship service. It did not occur to me to change the sermon, but it was clear to me that it had to be included in the pastoral prayer. I preach in a small, rural, typically primarily/so-far-only white congregation, though this Sunday included 70+ adolescents of various racial and ethnic backgrounds — I think the make-up of the congregation, both its typical form and this youthful summer version of itself, as well as our geographical location, not to mention my own racial identity (white) played into that choice. When the shooting in Newtown took place, pretty close to us geographically, the Advent sermon got scrapped and memorial rituals were added. I feel thankful for being plugged into social media enough that it allowed me to know what had happened and to adapt and respond — I guess I can now justify my overuse of social media?

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