New out this summer is a “killer” resource for those of us who are involved in the New Evangelization. And let me clarify that if you’re reading this blog, if you love your faith, and if you love your family and friends, YOU are involved in the New Evangelization!
In my endorsement of Meredith Gould’s new book The Social Media Gospel: Sharing the Good News in New Ways, I said the following:
“I’ve continually looked to Meredith Gould as a role model for how to get Church social media ‘right.’ Packed with style, substance and spirit, The Social Media Gospel is the perfect primer for anyone looking to optimize their social media presence for evangelization, communication and community building. Meredith’s advice is clear enough for the novice while challenging for those who have used these tools in the past.”
Today, I’m pleased to share my recent interview with my friend and social media go-to coach Meredith Gould. I encourage you to pick up a few copies of The Social Media Gospel — one for yourself and one for your pastor. The tips and techniques that Meredith shares in this book deserve to be implemented and shared!
Q: Meredith, congratulations on the publication of The Social Media Gospel. Please briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
<waving hi> I’m a longtime communications professional who was called to the ministry of church communications over a decade ago. Like many colleagues from my generation, I started out working with print publications (i.e., writer, copy editor, editor-in-chief, columnist, essayist).
Back in 2008, I published The Word Made Fresh: Communicating Church and Faith Today to make a case for church communications being a key ministry. The Word Made Fresh was informed by my experiences as a part-time pastoral associate for communications.
I became enthralled with social media as that book was going to press. Back then, I said I wish I’d had another six months to include a chapter about it. Now I’m grateful I waited to write The Social Media Gospel. It’s my ninth book, which is kind of hilarious because I never wanted to write books. I thought I’d always be writing product reviews and cultural commentary for print magazines.
Q: I’ve long considered you to be a personal coach and mentor in the ever-evolving arena of social media, and for that let me express my appreciation! What prompted you to write this book at this time?
And with your spirit!
As noted above and elsewhere, I thank God for giving me the good sense to learn how to use social media before writing about it. Next, I needed time to explore if, why, and when social media is valuable for church. I needed to sort issues having to do with technology from socio-cultural ones.
Finally, I needed time to work “in the trenches” with these media, something that has helped me realize the extent to which people really do not know how to think strategically about church communications.
As a result, The Social Media Gospel focuses on the strategic and tactical use of social media. Reviewing existing books and online resources reinforced my desire to write a book that would introduce existing and new social media users to this disciplined way of thinking.
Q: What will readers find in this new book and who is your primary audience?
First, I introduce readers to more nuanced ways of understanding church communications in general and social media in particular. I’m keen on educating people about the impact of learning style, generational cohort, and personality type on communication.
Chapters in the second section zoom in on choosing specific platforms. Each short, easy-to-read chapter includes “Thought Bytes.” These are questions designed to help individuals (and groups!) think more thoroughly and carefully about using social media.
Audiences: 1) anyone already using social media who wants to use it more strategically; 2) anyone needing a resource to help make the case for using social media, especially to naysayers; and 3) newcomers to digital ministry.
Q: One of my favorite aspects of The Social Media Gospel is its timeless relevance. Was the avoidance of step-by-step instructions in favor of more broad concepts intentional — and if so, why did you go that route?
Of course that focus was intentional! Social media platforms and tools for managing, monitoring, and measuring them change so rapidly that I was determined to write an “evergreen” book. Strategy and other conceptual material is not only durable, but transferable for use by other faith-based organizations.
Q: This book is aimed at a broader audience than simply Catholic readers. What have you learned from your consulting and coaching work with other Christian denominations that might be helpful to Catholic social media professionals?
I am so grateful you’ve asked this question, Lisa. Working ecumenically is blessing beyond measure. I credit being raised Jewish and coming to Christianity during my late 30s and then Roman Catholicism during my late 40s for my ability to work with and serve Christians across denominations. I take very seriously St. Paul’s admonition to the Galatians that we are one in Christ Jesus.
Over the years I’ve seen how challenges faced by mainline Protestant and liturgical churches are remarkably similar to those faced by Roman Catholic parishes and dioceses: How to teach and live the Gospel? How to deepen and support faith? How to attract and retain congregants? How to meet needs of those who cannot physically attend worship or participate in parish activities? How to be good stewards of limited resources?
There are now plenty of clergy and lay leadership from other Christian denominations using social media to meet these challenges. We have much to learn from one another, both in terms of digital ministry and how to be One Body in Christ.
I worry about church communicators, regardless of church affiliation, who remain stubbornly stuck in a denominational silo. Echo chambers are as noisy as they are redundant.
Q: What is the one message you hope readers take from this book?
Only one message? Probably this: social media are tools that allow us to minister to others with unprecedented speed and reach, so use them wisely and well.
Q: What’s next for you?
Keeping in mind the adage, “We plan; God laughs,” I love offering workshops and hands-on training at conferences, but my true passion is helping churches assess existing communications efforts, develop strategic plans, and choose tools that make sense. Been doing this for a while and hope to continue.
I also seem to be working on a lot of websites lately and not only content development but also crafting user experience (i.e., navigation and functionality) as well as design. Fun!
If you’re wondering about another book, I’ve renewed my vow to never ever write another book, so of course I’ve started making notes for one about death.
Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?
Just my usual admonitions regarding church communications: embrace what works, ditch what doesn’t, don’t make Jesus weep.
About Meredith Gould:
Meredith Gould (@meredithgould) is a sociologist, communications pro, working writer, and author. An early adopter of social media, she’s known for being an exuberant evangelist for using digital tools for ministry. Dr. Gould is founder of the weekly Twitter-based #ChSocM (church social media) chat. She has nine published books to her credit, including two about church communications, The Word Made Fresh: Communicating Church and Faith Today and The Social Media Gospel: Sharing the Good News in New Ways. Find out more at: http://www.meredithgould.com and https://www.vizify.com/meredithgould.
Copyright 2013 Lisa M. Hendey