FREE SPEECH ZONE | You can be a leader in the use of social media tools even when you are unable to use them.

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That is the point Rabbi Hayim Herring, PhD, made at United Theological Seminary at a recent mid-term Workshop presented at the seminary in New Brighton, MN.  Rabbi Herring is the President and CEO of Twin Cites’ Herring Consulting Network.  Rabbi Herring presentation is part of the seminary’s outreach program for church leaders offered at various times in the year.  While orientated to those in leadership positions United’s events are open to those who want to grow as well.  The title of the workshop was, “From Devine Revelation to Media Revolution: Leading in the Era of Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube”.

Internet, Facebook, twitter, friend, past, present, networking, blog, extreme, moderate, … are a sample of the 50+ words participants in the workshop came up with when asked, how many single words can you think of to describe contemporary social media?  Of the 24 in attendance there was a very good representation of the various cultural groups silent majority, baby boomers, millennials, and, gen-x’s (we were also introduced to “gen-a’s” – those born after 2000 -, aka, “generation apps”) which may help explain the 50+ words used to describe social media.       

Age influenced the words used and often determines if you are an immigrant or refugee in the world of today’s social media.  The workshop presenters asked: If you are a leader in your place of prayer, are you an immigrant or refugee?  As an immigrant leader one looks forward to be part of a tomorrow; or, do you hold fast to the old ways like a refugee who longs to “go back home”? 

“Anything, anyone, anytime, anywhere, change is what we are in the midst of in this age of social media.”, is the way Rabbi Herring described it.   He reminded the participants, “There is a time for everything, a time every affair under the heavens. … ” (Elccs. 3: …); and, along with presentations from his associates Elana Centor and Pixie Martin, went on to show how leaders within their place of prayer have to deal with an era where those, especially under 30, know of instant technological gratification that often meets their individual choices.  To be such a leader it was pointed out the importance of humor and to have flexibility to deal with ambiguity and failure in whatever you do, which includes use of today’s social media.

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When one of the participants asked “How can we justify use of limited church resources for social media?”  Another member of the group pointed out that we live in a time of cognitive surplus, that is, a world were individuals give of their own intellectual capacity to create websites like Wikipedia; and, in E-Bay where it is individuals who make a sellers reputation.  The same can happen in ones place of prayer and its use of social media.

One other observation from a participant in the workshop was the value they found in the Social Media Guidelines of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops as questions were raised on how to deal with policies and procedures like: who is the moderator, how does one keep personal activity separate from institutional, what about youth, and how to we keep track of social media/website(s) ownership/password. 

In the middle of the daylong workshop, there was a case study of a “Pastor Roger”, who had been recommended by a search committee, and once installed as pastor, moved to initiate an active social media presence for his church, only to run into board members who were stressed by his forwardness.  From the discussion of the pastor’s predicament, it was shown, that while it is good to know how to use the new social media tools, it is also important to show leadership in support of those who can use social media, as well as, help those who are unsure about social media, To help the unsure see how social media will help meet the needs of those who are connected by instant technological gratification .

Rabbi Herring is a great resource for a church board to help them understand what it means to show leadership in today’s social media.  Details on how to reach Rabbi Hayim Herring, PhD: Herring Consulting Network, 4115 Sunset Blvd.  St. Louis Park, MN 55416, 612-859-1650 hayim [at] herringconsultingnetwork [dot] com 

Details on how to receive notices about future workshops and events at the seminary contact: Renee K. Flesner; Community Programming; United Theological Seminary; 3000 Fifth Street Northwest; New Brighton MN 55112; 651.255.6138; rflesner (at) united seminary (dot) edu