Tony Jones is not timid on Twitter. He recently tweeted that prominent evangelical pastor Rick Warren's tweets are "too often sanctimonious. I'd love some sarcasm or snark on occasion. Bless you, too."
The Edina author and former pastor's edgy approach to social media has won him many followers - 5,909 and counting on Twitter (@jonestony) - and a growing number of clergy seeking help with their own social media skills.
"Church people are often late adopters," said Jones. "You have to be on Facebook if you're a church ... because all your people are on Facebook. It's just another venue to communicate with people."
Nearly two years ago, Jones and Doug Pagitt, who pastors at Solomon's Porch church in Minneapolis, started what they call "social media boot camps" aimed at clergy, church staff and nonprofit staff members. Word soon spread (via social media, of course), and religious leaders from around the country were inviting them to hold camps at their churches. Jones estimates about 1,000 people have attended the boot camps since they started in 2009.
Pagitt and Jones conducted one of their boot camps (which cost $125 for the day) last month at Solomon's Porch and plan to hold another one in the spring.
Though more and more churches are establishing Facebook and Twitter accounts, others remain skeptical of social media. They're often concerned someone will post something deemed offensive on Facebook walls, Jones said.
"Churches spend a lot of time thinking how do we manage our message," Jones said. "When you go on an open source, a reciprocal platform like Facebook, where other people get to comment on your wall, you relinquish some of that control. Our main response to them is, 'Get over it.' That's a good thing.
"If someone should go on your church Facebook page and say, 'Gosh I found that one line in the sermon last week really offensive,' that's going to make your organization better, even if it's a little embarrassing at first. Ultimately, what it opens up is trust."
Rose French • 612-673-4352