John Voelz isn’t trying to brag, but it’s fair to say he was down with Twitter before most people knew it was a proper noun.
Last year, Voelz, a pastor, was tweeting at a conference outside Nashville about ways to make the church experience more creative — ways to “make it not suck” — when suddenly it hit him: Twitter.
Voelz and David McDonald, the other senior pastor at Westwinds Community Church in Jackson, Mich., spent two weeks educating their congregation about Twitter, the microblogging site that challenges users to communicate in 140 characters or less. They held training sessions where congregants brought in their laptops, iPhones and Blackberrys. They upped the bandwidth in the auditorium.
As expected, banter flourished. Tweets like “Nice shirt JVo” and “So glad they are doing Lenny Kravitz” flashed across three large video screens. But there was heartfelt stuff, too.
There’s a time and a place for technology, and most houses of worship still say it’s not at morning Mass. But instead of reminding worshippers to silence their cell phones, a small but growing number of churches around the country are following Voelz’ lead and encouraging people to integrate text-messaging into their relationship with God.