Ed Stetzer is best known as a church researcher. He's a missiologist, church-planter, and president of LifeWay Research. But in recent years, he's added a new line to his bio: social media maestro. With a well-trafficked blog and large followings on Facebook and Twitter, Stetzer has expanded his ministry through these new platforms. Drew Dyck and Kyle Rohane of Leadership Journal sat down with Stetzer (physically, not virtually) to talk about his experiences with social media, the implications they have for ministry, and why he jokes that pastors who aren't on Twitter need to repent.
How did you get started with social media?
I wasn't a pioneer, that's for sure. I don't like to jump on a fad. Facebook I knew, but once I saw Twitter getting some traction, I asked a couple of friends what it was all about. They said, "Let us set you up!" And so—I sound like my grandfather here—they started an account for me. I did it really poorly for about two weeks. I was tweeting stuff nobody cared about. And I was tweeting seven times in 10 minutes. People were like, "Stop!"
So since I'm a researcher, I decided to study up on it. I read about best practices. For instance I learned that the most followed accounts tweet approximately 12 times a day. I also listened when people said, "This is why I'm not following you."
Are you surprised at how large a role social media has come to play in your ministry?
Absolutely. It's easy and efficient. When I speak somewhere, I have to fly there (usually a day early), speak, fly home, and it takes a day to get back. But I can write a blog post in 30 minutes and have five thousand people read it that day. So it's definitely changed the way I see my ministry.
I am shocked by the conversations I have with people. Anywhere I go now, people will ask me about something they read from me online. I was in Brazil and I had people talk to me about what they read on my blog. I started blogging I think in 2007, and I'm surprised how it has become such a primary means of communication.
What about the pastors who feel too busy for Facebook, Twitter, or blogging?
I understand if they feel too busy for blogging. Blogging is a higher level of commitment. I blog every day, but that's part of my job; I'm not a full-time pastor. So not every pastor can be deeply involved with social media. But a church can. I think if you want to have an ongoing conversation with your church, having a church blog for your staff is an excellent idea.
But to pastors who aren't on Twitter and Facebook right now, I would say this: you should repent. You should get on Twitter and Facebook right away. If you don't, you're missing a great opportunity.
These micro blogging platforms give you the ability to have short conversations to communicate helpful things to your people and beyond. It's not a huge time commitment. Twitter only gives you 140 characters per tweet. So let's say you do it five times a day. That's only 700 characters a day. How many emails do you write that are much longer and you're only communicating to one person? Why not take the moment and communicate to your whole congregation through one of these platforms?