Social networking online can sometimes lead to awkward situations, particularly in ministry, but it can still be an important tool in building a better ministry. Don’t let the awkwardness be a barrier to authentic community and lasting friendships.
Shortly after I launched CMConnect.org, the free children’s ministry network, I had the pleasure of meeting some of my friends from the online world in person for the first time. I was at a large national conference in Georgia and a group of us had scheduled a time to get together and have dinner. One of my long-time friends was with me and I got a kick out of introducing them to people and saying, “This is ‘so and so’ … we met online.” It sounded awkward but we had a lot of fun with it.
Here are a three things you can do to identify and avoid barriers to networking in person when you have only met online:
1. Be Truthful.
If you are fake online then you need to correct yourself. Once you meet people in person they will see through your false persona. Just be real and be yourself. This one step is the biggest barrier and the most important step to removing any perceived awkwardness in connecting with people.
2. Be Realistic.
People are not going to look like they do in their online profile or avatar. We all use our “besties” for our profile pic. Don’t be surprised if the person you met is two feet taller or shorter than you had imagined — or two feet wider. You are there to connect with your friend and to get to know them better. Be realistic in knowing they won’t look like they look online and focus on getting to know them as a person.
3. Be Open-minded.
Even if you have been intentional about being truthful and realistic social media can still open up certain challenges to getting to know someone in person. The online world can allow people to pause and craft their dialogues in a way which would be awkward in person. For example, someone may be more shy in person or have a stutter. Be open-minded about your first meeting and try to not have a preconceived notion about who you are going to be meeting.
Ultimately, connecting with anyone you’ve met online can lead to some fun conversations and life-long friendships. If we all connect with the purpose of building one another up in Christ’s love then we will have no problem being truthful, realistic and open-minded.
I know firsthand how social media can lead to a challenge in connecting to building an authentic network. However, it is critically important as a tool to building a better ministry. With this in mind, if you’d like to connect at the Kids Ministry Conference in Nashville this October, let’s connect online first and then plan a time to meet in person — just try not to be awkward about it.
Michael Chanley is an ordained minister with over 16 years experience serving families and children. His most recent roles have been as Executive Director of the International Network of Children’s Ministry and as the Parenting Minister at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY. Michael’s vision to serve those called to children’s ministry led him to create CMConnect.org — the free kidmin network. Now, with over 11,400 members in over 85 countries, CMConnect is the premier children’s ministry community.