[Editor’s note: before you read the following post, please take notice of two things:
1. It was originally penned on April 1. (APRIL. FIRST.)
2. And if April 1 does nothing to jog your brain, you should definitely click the link at the bottom. No seriously. Please click it.
Okay, carry on.]
Every once in a while an announcement comes along that’s just too good to sit on any longer.
In just over a month, the Summit Church is launching a brand new initiative called socialMEdia™ Small Groups. For the last nine months, I’ve been collaborating with Spence Shelton, our Spiritual Formations Pastor, as well as a ton of our IT people in order to roll out this launch. Nine months is an appropriate time frame, because in many ways it feels like we’ve been preparing to give birth. We’ve labored over it, cried over it, wrestled with it, but we’re ready to introduce this proverbial baby to the world.
Every “what” needs a “why.” Here’s ours: we know that getting into a small group is tough. Every month we see hundreds of people attempting to join a group, and the truth is, it’s hard to keep up. We want to have well trained group leaders, but training takes time. And time is something that prospective leaders and members just don’t have.
But one thing Americans (even American Christians) seem to have time for is social media. Whether you love it or hate it, most of us are tech junkies. We love our Twitter, our Facebook, our Instagram, and our MySpace (shout out to our 90’s brethren!). So last year several of our pastors asked the obvious question: Why can’t we do both?
Why can’t we increase involvement by CHANGING commitment?
Why can’t we lower the risk and give a better return?
Why can’t we – for lack of a better term – dumb down the process?
So that’s exactly what we did!
We took the best that social media had to offer and applied it to the fast paced lifestyle of the 21st century disciple. We worked with some of the best and brightest tech people out there to flush out the kinks in the system. We vetted the go-getters of the online community to build a new kind of community, and we think you’re going to love what you see.
Imagine: what if you could have all of the benefits of a small group without the difficult commitments? What if you could connect with your fellow disciples anytime, anywhere? What if you never again had to walk into a strange living room, endure a long and awkward prayer request, or risk rejection from a group that’s already gelled before you showed up? Maybe you laugh at those examples, but then again, maybe you’ve never had to face these realities.
socialMEdia™ Small Groups changes all of that. For starters, you choose the group that’s right for you. When the SMSG site launches, you’ll complete a profile that describes your preferences. You can tag your profile with any descriptor from seeker to serious, from dog lover to Democrat, from Lecrae devotee to Larry the Cucumber fan club president. From those tags and profiles, our database will run an algorithm that will generate up to ten social groups that might be right for you, much like E-Harmony or Match.com. You can pick one or several, and try them out at your leisure.
Some groups will meet weekly, much like our traditional groups. Others will meet at more random times: sometimes every other week, sometimes several times a day, sometimes once a quarter. Because there are no houses, childcare, and schedules to deal with, the sky is the limit and the pressure is off.
Group facilitators will be chosen by the group members. Once a group has been formed for two weeks, group members will take an online poll to select the person who appears most qualified to lead. It’s Seth Godin’s Tribes principle at it’s best: find someone who seems to be passionate about what they’re doing, and follow them.
Then the fun begins: once your group is fully operational, you have the opportunity to fully explore all that the socialMEdia™ Small Group has to offer. We’ve pulled in all of the major social networking sites to give you the opportunity to integrate your discipleship with your everyday lifestyle:
- “Like” your group on Facebook and post it to your wall so that your non-Christian friends can see what they’re missing.
- Encourage other group members on Twitter. Discipleship doesn’t have to be lengthy; sometimes it can happen in less than 140 characters.
- Watching a great documentary on Jesus? Link your Netflix account so your other group members can join in the learning. (Or comment on your favorite Walking Dead episode; we won’t judge.)
- Set up a Google Hangout in order to discuss the weekend sermon in real time.
- Connect your LinkedIn profile to remind your friends to live out the gospel at work.
- If you’re one of those who tagged yourself a Lecrae fan (98% of you), let people know you’re listening to him on Spotify.
- Share inspirational sayings, gospel-centered kids craft ideas, and home improvement tips with Pinterest.
- Want to get together with a group member for a meal? Make a recommendation on Yelp and a reservation on OpenTable.
- And that’s just the beginning. Share a mini-message with Vine, a funny selfie with Instagram or Snapchat, or a sermon link on YouTube.
Keep in mind that all of this is just the beta version. In the months to come, we’ll be integrating Vimeo, Path, Flickr, UrbanSpoon, and tons more. The best is yet to come!
So how does learning happen? While you’ll still have the opportunity to participate in the Summit’s alignment series like Sent, socialMEdia™ Small Groups will give you far more flexibility on what you learn and when. The voted-on group facilitator will be able to select from all the resources of the internet. We’ll provide links to LifeWay, Group, RightNow Media, even Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You find something that looks interesting and go to town. And of course, group members can access the material by simply downloading to their Kindle device or app. Amazing.
I am incredibly excited about what the future holds. Our team believes that – while admittedly non-traditional – this model may soon overtake traditional groups in popularity. Life is busy, so “doing life together” will necessarily look different.
Imagine: connected to the community without the constraints of community. Life together while doing life solo. Growing in grace without getting off the couch. It’s a new kind of paradigm for a new kind of pilgrim.
socialMEdia™ Small Groups don’t officially launch until mid-May (just in time for your summer travels), but you can join the waiting list and fill out your profile starting today. Simply follow the link to get started.
Get ready to get social!