John Alan Turner

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach, Facilitator

Twittering at the Table

I've been reading about churches that have begun incorporating Twitter into their services. I guess it works like this: people send their 140-character message to someone in the booth, and it pops up on the video screens. If that's not how it works, someone please enlighten me. I do wonder if this would only work in mono-generational churches. In places where you have young and old gathering together, you'd likely see some interesting tweets.

"Music too loud!"

"Sermon too long!"

I also wonder how honest people are allowed to be. For example, could someone tweet: "Singer off-key" or "That's not what the verse means in context"?

I suppose the person in the booth just filters those out, but you get my point. Technology can be a wonderful tool, but I've always thought the best technology is invisible technology. It enhances the message, rather than intruding upon the message.

Now I've gone to wondering what happens when technology becomes the message. But that's another post for another day.

When I was in youth ministry, I wouldn't let the teens in my group listen to headphones while we were on trips together. We have a rule at our house that no one is allowed to have headphones on at the dinner table. I have always felt that it's a form of checking out, and it disrupts the community-building such trips and such meals can (and perhaps should) be.

Furthermore, I've heard recently about how single people know a date's not going well when the other person interrupts their time with you to text someone else. That makes sense, right? If you're out with me, I assume you want to spend time with me. Text on your own time! Don't we have enough electronic chatter in our lives? Couldn't we all use a good, healthy dose of face time with a real, live human being for a change?

Still, I will admit that sometimes Jill will be upstairs on her laptop while I'm in the office downstairs on mine. As strange as it may seem, it's often easier for us to iChat one another rather than poking my head out the office door and shouting up the stairs. Of course, I realize I could actually leave my computer for a minute or two and have a live conversation with her, but that would mean having to get up and walk all that way. Honestly, if I want exercise, I'll go to the gym!

Even as I was typing that last paragraph, I could feel how unhealthy my addiction to electronic communication has become.

Honestly, I'm no Luddite! I'm a Mac-user! We Mac-users pride ourselves on being the most tech-savvy people in the neighborhood. But has my ability to virtually reach out and touch my wife replaced by ability to literally reach out and touch her? Just because it's easier, that certainly doesn't make it better. Just because we can do something, certainly doesn't mean we should.

And now we're contemplating bringing Twitter into our Sunday morning gatherings. I thought the purpose of our gatherings was to actually gather and be present both physically and mentally. I, personally, find it difficult to gather with someone who is constantly checking their phone for messages. The idea of Twittering through Communion is really...um...off-putting to me. You don't Twitter at the Table, do you?

Maybe I'm missing something. I'm fully aware that I don't know everything, and I make no pretense of having church stuff all figured out. Maybe Twittering really does build community when used properly. Of course, I also wonder what happens when someone tweets a question to the guy preaching only to discover that he's not real -- he's just a video.

But, again, that's another post for another day.

So, tell me what I'm missing here. What are your thoughts on this whole concept of Twittering in church? Is this engaging culture or capitulating to it? A welcome addition or an obnoxious intrusion? Is there a way to do it well?