ON SPIRITUAL WRITING
A Social Media Minister
A Social Media Minister
By J. Brent Bill
“I look on all the world as my parish,” said John Wesley. While my “parish” is not quite as broad as the founder of Methodism’s, it still circles the globe. No, I’m not an intentionally itinerant minister or a missionary setting off to distant lands. I’m a minister of writing. And I need to connect with “my flock.”
The way I communicate with my parish—my readers—has changed considerably over the years. In the old, preemail and social media days, I communicated sporadically. I’d get letters or telephone calls and respond. I would show up in person and do book readings, signings, and visit with those who gathered. I’d go on radio or television shows, speak at conferences, and lead workshops.
I still do all those things. Today, though, I’ve added a whole variety of tools to stay in contact with the people who read my books and articles.
In addition to my website, which is mostly an online brochure, I also blog. Both of these are rather old fashioned, almost, in this interactive age. Still, I use my blog in a variety of ways. I test writing ideas to see what resonates with folks. I share poems, videos, and inspirational thoughts from others that I think will feed readers’ souls. I feature snippets of articles and blogs I’ve written that are on other peoples’ websites or in magazines. I occasionally publish excerpts of my books with links to bookstores. And I post the occasional silliness—because faith shouldn’t always be taken in dead earnest.
I also use Facebook. I have a personal page, an author page, and individual pages for my books. They are all crosslinked and, as on the blog, I share news, book reviews and suggestions, event dates, and information about where I’ll be appearing and how to get in touch with me. Folks contact me through those pages to share thoughts about my writing, what they’re reading, things they’re thinking about, invitations to lead a workshop, and even prayer requests.
I’ve found that Goodreads, Red Room, LibraryThing, and other such sites are good ways to stay in touch with my readers—and find new ones. Plus, I can see what people are saying about my books and respond, thereby expanding what is often a oneway conversation.
When I have a new book or series of workshops to announce, I use MailChimp. It’s a friendly, free email service that lets me insert graphics, text, and select who gets the email. It is the one form of emedia that I use primarily for marketing, though I know of other author friends who use it the same way I use my blog.
Then there’s Tumblr, Twitter, foursquare, LinkedIn and others. I use them all, depending on whom I’m trying to reach and which seems like the most appropriate platform to use.
My 20 year-old granddaughter, when she saw me doing some of this while on vacation recently, laughed and said, “Grandpa, you’re a hipster geezer.”
Well, not really. But social media have helped me stay in contact with people whom I’ve reached with my writing. And not just for marketing purposes, either. That’s actually the smallest part of why I use social media.
I use it mostly as a way to share various forms of good news that I think will lift the spirits of “my parishioners,” challenge their thinking, give them hope, amuse them, and, ultimately, bring some of God’s light to their day.
Hmmm, maybe that makes me an “e-Vangelist.”
J. Brent Bill is the author of a half-dozen books, a Quaker minister, and director of the New Meetings Project for Friends General Conference.Reprinted with permission from the Center for Pastoral Excellence at the Christian Theological Seminary.