Another update on the social media leadership experiment…

A Look Backward...and Forward...

If you are reading this at any time after the Obama presidency, this was originally written a long time ago...but I've updated it at the bottom, so read on...

For those just joining our program, the backstory is this…

In April, after months of badgering, cajoling, reasoning, and other dirty tricks, my friend Doug Lawrence convinced me–not a social butterfly–to join Facebook. From time to time I’ve updated my progress (here, for instance), and it is time to do so again…

This time I’m not going to talk about the number of my friends (yes, when I stopped being “pro-active” about adding facebook friends after I reached 1000, the pace slowed down…) or the benefits, or the apps, or the “questionable” people who follow me on twitter…

Nope…I want to talk about my progression “through the chairs” in the social media environment.

Big caution: this is about me, and I’m going to say some things (about me) that may not be true, but they are my perceptions of people’s perceptions (about me) and concrete examples of how people react to what they now think they know (about me).

Proceed at your own amusement…

I’m naturally (in fact a better term might be habitually) inquisitive about things that interest me, especially things that I don’t know about. It is part of being a scanner. So as part of the social media experiment, I have spent a lot of time reading about “how to maximize your facebook experience” (or twitter…or monetize…or “make a 7 figure income with no effort by (fill in the blank) on…”…or “gain thousands of new followers in just days by (fill in the blank)…” Fascinating stuff. I have learned what long copy is, what double opt-in means, how to automate my tweets, where to find “FREE CONTENT!” and a variety of other information that runs the gamut from being marginally to incredibly valuable–not just in social media, but in business, and in life.

Along the way, I’ve learned to share things that I find interesting with my facebook and twitter friends, and something about the proper etiquette for doing so (did you know that a retweet is much more valuable than a #followfriday? neither did I).

Oh…and by the way, if half of what I’m saying doesn’t make any sense to you, don’t worry, like a fable, there is a point to the story near the end…bear with me…

So as I’ve become more “social” my visibility, and, as a byproduct, my credibility, has increased. People respond to my posts, and little conversations ensue. They may be about home-made Maine blackberry pie (thanks, Deborah Govenor), but still… Along the way, people begin to “fill in the blanks” about who I am, and what I’m interested in, and they make decisions about whether what I have to say is helpful, or silly (or both), and a relationship is forged.

Here’s the interesting thing…with 15003000+ friends (ed. update: on Facebook, and now +/- 17,500 twitter followers...see below), different people react to different things, and I also begin to get a better picture of who people are that I never knew very well, if at all. In the process, you run the risk of being vulnerable to people who might take advantage, just like in “real life.” (What is real life now, anyway, since “reality” shows are actually scripted, at least to some degree?) But, in my experience, the gain is worth the pain.

The point? Well there are two, actually…

First, considerably more people think of me as an “expert”–a valuable voice to be heard in the areas of church music, worship, leadership, and as a writer. (go figure) I like that.

Second, the parallels to “real life” are astounding, if you think about it. Ministry is hard work, and the “people” part of it can be emotionally draining, and very time consuming. Some people do it better than others, and many people do it better than me. But, at bottom, it is about relationships, and that requires being open, reaching out without fear of rejection to meet people you don’t know, and being helpful, interesting, understanding, willing to give, and, perhaps, even witty.

If you are “not social” you’ll have to take my word for it. Facebook and twitter are safe places (ed. update: perhaps not so much now, after the 2016 election revelations) to develop your social skills without sharing the same oxygen proximity with people you don’t know. If you can resist the temptation to be (or get) “lost” in the cyber world, there are lessons to be learned there that serve very well in your ministry and in your life. And you might just find that there are a whole lot of people who are interested in the same things that you care about, both online and in person.

I would love it if you would share your experiences and/or reactions. Got a story of how social media helped or burnt you? Please leave a comment.


As I write this, it has been about 2 years since I gave up facebook for lent in 2016. Long before the "fake news" stuff surfaced, I suspected as much, and got tired of the uncompromisingly divisive rhetoric. Last time I looked I still had over 3000 friends there though...

Ah but twitter now...

At the time I originally wrote the above, I hadn't even started with twitter. I now spend an hour or two a day on it (never on Sundays, though...), and I'm considered something of an influencer. Maybe that has to do with my 17.5k organically grown follower base... I find twitter to be my online newspaper...and it lets me let people know about the interesting things I have found by sharing them on my timeline. If you'd like, you can follow me there:

5 Replies to “Another update on the social media leadership experiment…”

  1. Vicki Carr says:

    one of the sweetest aspects of my “facebook time” is being in touch with former students who are away at college or who have moved away. Becoming more aware of them as maturing persons is rewarding.

    1. Vern Sanders says:

      I agree…I enjoy watching my former high school kids growing up…

  2. Evie Martinez says:

    Besides the obvious that Facebook unites lost people (I have found people in France, New Zealand and other countries that I had lost contact with), I think it is important for anyone in ministry to be aware of what is out there communication wise. I have done the Facebook and Twitter thing for a while now. We are full-time missionaries and my ministry is to train worship leaders in Latin America and in Hispanic churches here in the US. I am now getting “tweets” from churches that support us so their members can keep current. So, keep blogging, tweeting, and “facebooking” as well as others to your heart’s content.

    1. Vern Sanders says:

      Thanks for the comment. I think it is a great use of the technology.

  3. Naomi Johnston says:

    I think we’re missing a basic element of the argument: Sunday morning “worship” has beome mere entertainment. I stand by a comment from John Piper… “Missions is not the ulitmate goal of the church; worship is. Missions exists because worship does not.”

    Naomi Johnston
    Music Program Director
    Victory Tabernacle
    3910 Marysville Blvd
    Sacramento CA 95838

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