Last week, the Rev. Justin Schroeder, who serves as senior minister at the First Universalist Church in Minneapolis, posted a two-part interview with me on his new blog, The Well (as in “We drink from wells we did not dig”). If you’re interested, you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here. In the interview, which was mostly about digital ministry and social media, Justin asked, “Do you have suggestions/best practices for religious liberals just starting to use Twitter, or wanting to start a blog?” It’s a big question, so I punted the answer over here to Phil’s Little Blog on the Prairie. To keep things manageable, I’m limiting this response to the first part of the question—suggestions for using Twitter. I’ll do a post on blogging sometime in the near future. So, getting started with Twitter…

If you’ve never used Twitter in your life, it may seem a bit mysterious. Fortunately there are some good introductions to this microblogging service. One of my favorites is Twitter 101: How should I get started using Twitter? from the Twitter Help Center.  It’ll answer all of your basic questions. And if you’re unsure about the difference between  a “#” and a “@” or a “DM” and an “RT,” it contains a link to their really useful Twitter Glossary.

That basic introduction will help anyone get started with Twitter. But Justin’s question was specifically about religious liberals using Twitter. As Katie Couric once observed, “no one gives a rat’s @$$ that I had a tuna fish sandwich for lunch.” Which I take to mean, “Why even bother to tweet unless you’ve got something interesting to say.” So, how does a religious liberal approach using Twitter meaningfully? Here are a couple of resources I like: @TinyBuddha‘s Ten Mindful Ways to Use Social Media and @FredericBrussat‘s 25 Reasons Why Twitter Is Spiritual.

For some advice from a Unitarian Universalist on how to make Twitter a form of ministry, check out @revnaomi‘s 10 Ways to Practice Ministry with Twitter from her excellent Patheos Experts page. And for a more general look at how Twitter can be used in ministry, here are some highlights from an @sharefaith post (their site seems to be down at the moment, so I’m copying these from a text-only cached version):

  1. To provide encouraging quotes.
  2. To link to edifying articles.
  3. To quote Scripture verses.
  4. To announce Sunday’s sermon topic.
  5. To share prayer requests.
  6. To learn from others.
  7. To listen to others.
  8. To open up doors of discipleship and edification.
  9. To be real.
  10. To be salt and light.

While some of the language here may be a little off-putting for religious liberals, the basic ideas still hold. The author does emphasize that Twitter may not be for everyone, though. “If you get on Twitter, use Twitter. If it’s not your thing, please don’t feel bad.”

Finally, if you want a handy guide on the subject, check out Twitter as a Ministry Tool: The Basics, a white paper from @ChurchJuice. It’s a nice summary of Twitter in general, with some good specific thoughts about how congregations and ministers can use Twitter.

That’s about it for now. There are some more advanced tools congregations and ministers (or anyone else) can use to get the most out of Twitter, and I’ll do a follow-up post about them sometime soon. In the meantime, if you haven’t tried Twitter, give it a shot. And if you have but didn’t know what to do with it, take a look at these resources and think about giving it another try. Done well, it can be a powerful and satisfying way to share and deepen your religious life.