One of the reasons I am joining Campus Crusade’s regional team is to help staff and students in our region who have a felt need to be effective in online ministry, but lack the tools to do so. I’m by no means an expert, but one of my goals is to become just that over the next few years.
From time to time, I’ll post about some tips that I have picked up and found useful.
By far the most powerful aspect of the internet is immediacy. It all happens in (to use a buzzword) real-time. That can be a huge help to online ministry (5 minutes until the start of the weekly meeting! See you there!) or a huge problem (the Campus Crusade freshmen are rappelling off of the science building drinking beer! here’s a YouTube video I uploaded from my phone!).
One of the best things you can do is to always be aware of what is being said about you, online. Twitter, for example, is tremendously searchable. I have a constant running search for anytime someone says my name, the name of my ministry, or one of a few other topics in which I am interested. It allows me to see as they are saying it what they are saying. And it takes zero effort after initial setup. I use Tweetdeck and have a column set up for each search. (I spend maybe 3 minutes a day scanning the searches.)
The other thing that I’ve found indispensable is the use of Google Alerts. Google might not own the internet, but they’re the sheriff with the biggest gun. The ability they have over at Google to know what is being said online would make most of us wear tin-foil hats if we thought about it for very long. I’ve chosen instead to harness that power. A Google Alert is a once-a-day email (you can set them to whatever interval you’d like) that tells you any time someone says certain words or phrases online. The power here is that the searches are magnificently customizable. For example, my friend Jeff Hardy might want to search to see what is being said about him online. But he happens to share the name of a famous wrestler. Google Alerts would allow him to exclude instances of Jeff Hardy that also contain “wrestler” on the same page.
In ministry, it always seems that half the battle is misconception. Students think we have an agenda, or that we are insincere, or that we are ignorant and uninformed. One of the ways the internet can help is by being able to speak directly to those who are spreading those malicious rumors and falsehoods. You can put out the fire before it becomes too big. Imagine spending the majority of our ministry energy on things like evangelism, discipleship, and training, instead of dealing with problems that could have been dealt with early and swiftly!
Have you found other ways to hear what is being said about you online? Comment below.