Bringing online community offline

I recently wrote a post asking the question “Can true community happen online?” I know…that is quite a loaded question, and I may have done a poor job offering an answer to that question, but I gave it my best shot :)

In my role at Park as the Director of Web & Social Media some of my responsibilities include managing our community online. Yes we do have a community online. I do not believe that it is community in the truest form of the word, but it is a community nonetheless, and it needs interaction, and management.

During my endeavors of managing our online community I have begun to develop a philosophy of social media in the church. I shared this philosophy in my previous post, but where I have landed so far is to create community online with the goal of ultimately seeing that community manifest itself in face-to-face relationships. (Just so we’re clear, I support the online church model, but I believe that those who attend an online church also need to find Christian community in face-to-face relationships as well. Small group, accountability, etc.)

As I’ve been processing this philosophy I have been trying to figure out how to actually do this. This is no small undertaking. What makes this so difficult is that a community that exists online much of the time consists of people who may not live close to each other geographically. That is also the beauty of online community, right? That you can interact with someone in another city, state, or country. So maybe in those cases this online community won’t be able to come face-to-face. But what about those in your local community?

A Tweetup

One idea I have is to hold tweetups throughout the year at different venues or restaurants in a local city or neighborhood. For those of you unfamiliar with the term “tweetup” it is defined as “A real-life meeting organised on the social networking site Twitter.” Or if most of your church is just on Facebook then hold a Facebook meetup.

What I have found is that yes, most of those in our church are a part of our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter, but there is a smaller number of people who actually interact on the Facebook page or with each other through Twitter. So let’s hold a meetup where we can actually meet those people we interact with online.

What is cool about social media is that it provides much more context to our relationships when we meet face-to-face.

I think there is also alot of potential for bringing this community offline during a weekend service gathering.

These are just some things I’ve been thinking about. I’ll be trying out some of these things in the coming months here at Park.

Am I crazy? Does this make sense? Is my philosophy flawed?

Does your church have an active online community? Do you manage it?

Do you think your online community needs to meet face-to-face?

Give me your thoughts in a comment below…

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