Wow! Lot’s of folks talking about how the traditional sermon might be retooled for social media, etc. Let’s see…there’s Scott Wells, Dan Harper, Cynthia Landrum, Tom Schade, & Christian Schmidt. If I’m missing someone, please let me know. At any rate, I promised the recipe for an “Inside-Out” sermon in a recent post, so here it is.

Ingredients:

  • a generous portion of social media (you choose: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, etc.—but remember, the more the better!);
  • a wallop (that’s a BIG dollop) of rockin’ church website, something that supports blogs, podcasts, videos (both recorded and live streaming), etc.;
  • a smattering of 19th & 20th century media (newsletters, CDs, DVDs, cassettes and eight-track tapes, etc.);
  • integrated small group ministry built around sermon themes (optional, but highly recommended).

Preparation:

  1. Seven days (168 hours or so) before you want to deliver your sermon, post something on your social media sites about what that sermon will be about: “Whew! Had a great worship service this morning. Looking forward to a break, then getting started on next week’s sermon. Topic? Compassion.” (BTW, that was 138 characters, so you could tweet it, although if you want retweets, you could trim it down a smidge: “Whew! Great worship service this AM. Looking forward 2 day off, then starting next week’s sermon. Topic? Compassion.” 116 characters.) And guess what? If you want, you can set this announcement to be sent out automatically via a variety of services, like HootSuite, Tumblr, etc.
  2. Six days before you plan on delivering your sermon, post a few calls for ideas from folks: “Starting to think about next Sunday’s sermon on Compassion. Would love to hear stories of how compassion has touched your lives!” Again, these could be scheduled posts via Hootsuite, etc., so you can make this day your Sabbath and still stay in touch.
  3. Five days before, pepper the interwebs with quotes about compassion from the resources you’re looking at: “’All faiths insist that compassion is the test of true spirituality…’—Karen Armstrong” (84 characters with spaces, eminently retweetable!). Also, if you’ve received any stories about compassion touching the lives of followers or friends, you might share them (with permission, of course): “@soandso says she found #compassion in the form of a NYC cab driver who helped her when her purse was snatched.” (For information on using the “@” and “#” signs on Twitter, see: The Twitter Glossary)
  4. Four days before, continue peppering social media sites with quotes and stories. Post something on your congregation’s website with some initial thoughts about your topic: “I’ve really been enjoying reading Karen Armstrong’s book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. Armstrong recently spoke at our General Assembly (the UUA’s annual mega-meet-up of Unitarian Universalists from around the United States and beyond). You can see Armstrong’s lecture online here, if you’re interested….” You get the idea. Just enough to share a few resources and let folks know you’re doing your job (which is writing sermons, isn’t it?).
  5. Three days before—Ack! Gotta get this sermon written!—hole up in your study and write the darn thing. Send out a few posts throughout the day to let folks know how you’re doing: “Who knew that #compassion would be so tough to write about? Okay, maybe I should have known!”
  6. Two days before, post a little something on YouTube. Sit down in front of your bookcase (or the background of your choice) and give people a few reasons why they should come to church (or check out your live stream) on Sunday. Tell them something like, “I’ve been going deep into the idea of compassion this week as I’ve prepared for this Sunday’s sermon, and I’m convinced that it is, indeed, what’s needed to ‘heal the seemingly intractable problems of our time’….” Or something along those lines. Let folks know there’s a living, breathing, caring human presence behind all these posts and tweets, etc. Be real. Really. Post the video on your rockin’ congregational website.
  7. One day before, post an update on said website. Let folks know what resources you looked at as you wrote the sermon. Give then all the details they’ll need to find you tomorrow, both physically and virtually. Let them know you’re excited about tomorrow’s worship service and thank them for their love and support.
  8. Sunday morning, use Dan Harper’s plan: post a written version of the sermon just before the service starts. Invite comments via Twitter, etc. as the sermon’s being preached. Let people know they can continue the conversation after the service by commenting on your blog, etc. Have techies post video and podcast, burn CDs and DVDs, etc. Go home and put an episode of Columbo on the television and take a nap. You deserve it. That evening, go back to step one and post something about the topic of next week’s sermon.
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