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Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Twitter or Tweeting in Worship. Developing a Theology (Tweeology) of Twitter.

So here's the question: Is it a good thing or a bad thing to use Twitter during worship?

Ok- so rather than an easy yes or no, let's think theologically about it-- i.e. tweeology. ;0)

For me, the issue in discerning best practice in worship is whether what we are doing cultivates focus and attention or contributes to distraction. My short answer: Using Twitter in Worship can work if it distills attention rather than diffuses distraction.

We have become so accustomed to worship being a "one or few to many" kind of event. We pay attention to and follow a person who is leading music or to a person who is preaching a sermon. Note how the seating is most often arranged (i.e. classroom style).

Social networking introduces us to a range of tools that enable a "many to many" kind of relational and communication dynamic. It seems that this would be good for worship-- wouldn't it?

I guess it depends on what people are tweeting about. Are they tweeting about where to eat lunch after. . . . . . or are they tweeting about flashes of insight occurring to them as a result of being together in worship. I would say the former example cultivates distraction while the latter cultivates attention. A more difficult distinction-- are we using twitter to capture insights for later reflection or for present conversation? Latter seems better to me-- but former may be ok too. See my related poetic (and perhaps cryptic) reflection here.

In my mind, the best worship creates a dynamically alive, Divinely infused context for collective epiphany to occur. Twitter may be able to help us here. Your thoughts?

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posted by John David Walt | at 8/18/2009 06:46:00 AM



Blogger hnb said...

Great post. I have not yet decided what I think about it. In some places I think it could work, others not so much. I wonder how many church goers use Twitter anyway.

12:22 PM EDT  
Blogger JAy. said...

I am not sure about twitter during a worship service. Twitter outside of worship seems like a good opportunity - assuming those involved are committed to the proper subject matter.

Twitter during a service? I worry that I would miss something important/interesting/thought-provoking while typing or reading tweets. Come on, a sermon only lasts 20-30 minutes anyway!

By the way, I am looking forward to ATS this fall, and seeing the #ATS_NSO feeds, am actually considering joining Twitter finally. We'll see...

2:08 PM EDT  
Anonymous Wayne Cox said...

We tried a series over the summer where we encouraged people to text/SMS thoughts and questions during the message and then interacted with them after. I was surprised and learned a lot about attention spans, multi-tasking, and generational differences. Seems the younger gen was able to distill attention and benefit by thinking about questions - engaged. The older ones seemed distracted by the tech.

7:31 PM EDT  
Blogger jeremiah said...

"the best worship creates a dynamically alive, Divinely infused context for collective epiphany to occur"

For me, a verbal processing relationally wired guy, these epiphanies happen most often in the context of a conversation- in the listening to others, bouncing off of their ideas, adding my 1.5 cents, and connecting dots along the way. This is one of the ways I see the Twitter playground- a conversation, albeit a giant conversation, but still- there are those "listening" and those "talking" within it. Or perhaps something even more is happening- stories are being told.
I think in the context of a service of worship the ability to "hear" what others are saying in the midst of it (the present reflections) can/does greatly effect how we are hearing from God. Hearing the encouragement or the healing that is taking place through a moment during music or a service element can bring more focus to what story is being told from the stage or focal point of the service. With Twwtter in use, and even displaying on a screen with a "#1stUMC" or something appropriate, I see it as a community of people, the Church, gathering around The Story in worship, exposing their own threads of their stories within it.

11:42 PM EDT  
Anonymous John D. Palmer said...

First gutteral response. NO, and in fact we should just get rid of all tech in worship I'm sick of it and sick of hearing about it. End of the day crotchety oldie response.

Second thought. I remember being in church as a young man and having the best time laughing and giggling with my friends. We would sing wrong words to the hymns really loudly and make faces at each other. Get in trouble and continue giggling and laughing so hard in the pews. I can remember a thing the preacher said. But I have the greatest memory of those "divine distractions" being in worship with my friends as a young man.

Don't know if that has anything to do with tweeting, I guess the thought I had was my sense of humor. Like tweeting about the Preacher quoting the wrong text. Or How brother Leonard was snoring in the row right in front of me. Or one of those precious disasterous responses to a children's sermon question. I vacilate between trying to focus intently about worship and shrugging my shoulders about the inevitable train wrecks that happen when we are trying so hard not to have them.

It seems to me, were probably taking the notion of Tweeting far to seriously if we attempt to Tweeologize about it.

12:34 AM EDT  
Blogger NAJS said...

My initial guttural response is No; whilst I like your challenge, emphasis & angle JD, I’ve a few reasons below.

Firstly, I work in IT, love gizmo’s and play acoustic & electric guitar with all the flashing lights, dials and aural palettes I can muster. I’m no luddite and whilst becoming a dad in recent years, I consider myself young… my wife might say otherwise ;o)

For me the Twitter issue was best demonstrated on a UK TV show, where they tried to host an internet event thru Twitter. They got several hundred people turn up and you could see them all Twittering about being at the Twitter meet! Warning – Confrontational comment to follow - Twitter is a distraction that stops people just ‘being’.

A renown worship leader posted on his blog some time back how great we must be as communicators, being able to sum up things in 140 chars or less. What would worship songs look like in the future blah blah blah.

Just because I can send a message to a wide audience doesn’t mean the message will be encouraging/useful or good. I think Paul talks about weighing up before sharing, me? I have a little notebook. This way I record the significant ‘thing’ and if it feels right to share after prayerful consideration (or just an honest gut feeling when the dust has settled) then I can – normally days later.

If I was twittering or checking my vibrating phone for new Twits(?) wouldn’t that by its very nature be distracting for me, let alone those around me? I think corporate worship is about ascribing worth to God corporately. With everyone focused on the goal, we can pick up those who loose focus from time to time (even within a service).

I’m clearly getting on though. My recent thoughts have been to heck with the buildings the infrastructure. Lets get out and DO Christianity rather than sing about it. I know music is just a part of worship JD – but I think you get the general point.

Apologies for the less considered opinion of this Brother. He means well.

9:06 AM EDT  
Blogger JR. said...

I think you're right - we can't just slap a 'yes' or 'no' on this. Like any other tech medium, Twitter has pros and cons. A discerning leader will have to read the culture of his/her worshiping community and decide if Twitter can enhance the worship gathering. If not, don't use it. If so, jump on that train!


2:57 PM EDT  
Blogger livin4dios said...

JD- Good thoughts. I've heard about tweeting in services and understand that for certain people and certain preachers in some more techie churches it might seem like a great idea. If people are already "going" to church online and just watching TV, then how can tweeting be bad if you are in a pew, right?

After thinking about it, though, I have to come down on the side that says that less is really more in worship. I make no value judgment calls on any type of worship, but I will say that worship is singly focused on Christ. To me, it is sad when we must "tweet" to each other. This essentially amounts to everyone in the church passing notes around during the sermon. Maybe we should just teach the older people how to make a good paper airplane and send it around that way instead of trying to teach them how to use that new phone ... I digress.

There is a lot to be gained by embracing technology in many ways in the church ... just not always in worship. I would be hesitant to do anything that can cheapen the experience. Why can't someone's attention span concentrate for an hour? I say even though that may be hard for some younger people of my generation, there are a lot of things in life that aren't easy, so get over it.

3:04 PM EDT  
Blogger ziondreamer said...

I heard someone ask once, "is it a good idea for people to raise their hands during songs, or is that distracting?"

Are we asking if it is a good idea or or are we asking if we should acknowledge it?

People are tweeting during worship whether we say it works or not.

Truth is, often this group of people is cultivating conversation better than non-tweeting participants. If acknowledged and shepherded, this is an opportunity for an instant small group. For example, why not initiate a "tweetup" immediately after worship.

Take what we know people are already doing and use it to guide them one step further in authentic community.

12:37 AM EDT  
Blogger Joshua Andrew Smith said...

This is a late comment on an old post, but whatever. I think the reason for putting a few people in charge of the service is for the sake of order. I think it's safe to say that above novelty should be order. I agree that technology is relatively neutral, but I think one would be hard pressed to get twitter promoted from neutral to positive given the propensity for disorder towards which the "everybody has a voice" approach leans.

1:23 AM EDT  

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