Dear NewUU Blog Readers: In 2014, I will no longer blog in this space. I will leave up all of REACH: A UU Digital Ministry for several months. I will notify you when I pull it down. When I have something to share or say, I will tweet on Twitter. You can find my late Dec. 2013 and early Jan. 2014 tweets in the right-hand column of this blog.
Please follow me on Twitter: @TheNewUU
Hope to see you there and thanks for your interest in TheNewUU
I guess so! That’s the answer to the question in the headline of this post based on the WordPress analysis of it for 2013.
Here’s an excerpt from the blog’s statistical report for 2013:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,300 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Take a look at the report. It’s visualized nicely as fireworks bursting over a city skyline.
But I ask: Who cares? I’d rather that my annual compared the numbers to people who regularly attend the average mid-sized UU church. Then maybe it would help more to underscore how digital ministry can reach and sustain many people. If just one lay person can do this; imagine the exponential power of UU congregations, ministers and individuals if they followed some of the principles of REACH: A UU Digital Ministry program. Right now the UU world online is disaggregated. It needs to be unified in order for the faith to be a movement. Facebook is currently the largest disaggregated, aggregator of UUs and congregations. It doesn’t so much to move us along, IMHO. Google only returns Facebook when an individual, company, or group/organization has a Facebook page. And that exposure means next to nothing for Facebook traffic is generated by Facebook pages, not Google.
My post on the World New England Quilt show garnered the most views and most number of people who read any of my posts. Thank you Google. Why thank Google? My posts and headlines are written to maximize search engine optimization and marketing. I do this to reach people who would not likely land on a UU-inspired site but who would be interested in the subjects of the posts. I brought some UU identity to more than 700 individuals — some from the quilting world, artists, and from people looking for pictures of naked middle aged women!! Boy were they surprised!!!
Look at the stats and notice how small the number of comments were in 2013. Many readers did contact me through other channels to express their thoughts. However, most didn’t. And this is one of the main reasons why, I have decided to stop writing about digital ministry. There are other reasons which I realized threatened to hold me back from growing and moving along on my journey.
In the last two years, I can look back and remember that 12,544 individuals read my blog and 688 readers subscribed to email notifications. I have analyzed these numbers and figure they are likely inflated by 1-3% but in general are accurate.
Although I’m preparing to stop writing about digital ministry in this space, I must tell you about a very potent way for your congregation to really know what professional skills are sitting in your pews. This is important because many people – especially newcomers – enter your church when they are hurting or vulnerable and also unemployed.
In particular, the folks who are 50+ and looking for jobs are facing extraordinary ageism. I don’t need to tell you how difficult the 50s can be — caring for children, possibly paying their higher education and, at the same time, caring for elderly parents — while your financial needs in retirement loom large. Unemployment raises the level of stress to new highs for many individuals in this age group. Meanwhile, for all those who are younger, the church could provide a leg up if it encourages networking within to help people find work, in general.
The how-to message in this blog is a form of pastoral care. It will help people connect and get through unemployment. It’s about syncing your online email and iPhone contacts through the most used work-based social network, LinkedIn, on the Web. It focuses on career networking, job hunting, recruiting and niche group-trade talk in nearly any industry you can think of. Career networking sites on the Web trade in all kinds of jobs from no-skill to service industry, to the trades and to professionals. Blue collar and white collar.
An earlier version of this post sounded as if direct connections between Facebook and LinkedIn can occur. They can’t at least for now. But when that syncing is enabled, it will be very powerful because the majority of active UUs are on Facebook.
There’s a way right now to get Facebook contacts into LinkedIn but it’s a work around that some people just won’t want to fuss with. You should tell people about it anyway. For chronically unemployed individuals or people who are filing for unemployment right now, it is worth setting up this work around. More on that in a minute.
But first a question: Are our congregations able to help the unemployed? I venture to say that they aren’t. Many churches don’t keep a database of members. And even those that do don’t have the time to manage and leverage such a database for its full potential. LinkedIn offers a way to bypass those shortcomings.
My biggest frustration at my former church was most people didn’t have a clue about the working lives – past and present – of individuals sitting next to them at church. While many retirees in our pews do not have to work now, retirees of the future may not be retirees at all. They will be working out of necessity. For people who are unemployed, there could be others in the sanctuary who could really help them find jobs by simply spreading the word offline and online to personal networks of friends and family. The exponential power of a few hundred people in a congregation passing along word of a good person looking for work to their own facebook, LinkedIn and twitter networks could make a big difference.
Work is something we do. And while I believe it doesn’t define us, sometimes I wonder if work is a four-letter word in UUism if it doesn’t mean non-profit or activist careers. To me alternative culture embraces and is compassionate in the mainstream world, which includes the 8-14 hour days of our most productive time spent outside of the home. Talking about it is also a good icebreaker for getting to know people.
My former church had about 1,000 individuals on its roster. The member database only included family contact information. It knew nothing about work histories or interests. Probably most UU churches don’t know this on an institutional level as well. Good software could really help our congregations to create databases that could bring like minds and like skills together. If you are reading this blog and have such a database for your church, please click the “Comment” link under the headline and tell us what you use and why.
The Web can step in and bypass database needs like this. LinkedIn now is very powerful for helping congregants find each other based on career information. It can make the connection between your Yahoo Mail, Google Mail and other sources if you allow it to. Set up these connections in the “Manage Contacts” area of your LinkedIn settings.
LinkedIn is likely going to offer the ability to connect directly to Facebook friends in the near future. That will be a boon for UU congregations because the majority of UUs in pews have Facebook accounts. Right now, though there isn’t a direct way to do this. However, you can import Facebook friends into Yahoo email, through a Yahoo account. Once the Facebook friends are in a yahoo or gmail account, LinkedIn can sync with those accounts. This is cumbersome but you can get step by step help here to do it. For those of you who have iPhones, however, it’s easy to import contacts from that phone into LinkedIn.
I’ve included a picture of the “Manage Contacts” page in LinkedIn in this post to show you what it looks like.
As part of your Digital Ministry practice, I recommend you encourage people to create profiles on LinkedIn if they don’t already have one — even if they are recently retired or relatively new to the job market.
Dear NewUU friends, I’m considering ending this blog. I’ve enjoyed writing it and learned from your comments. It houses REACH: A UU Digital Ministry program. I will keep the REACH information on this url for several more months and let you know when it’s coming down. You can download all of it for your files.
I’m proud of the work, and I think it’s helped some of you. I hope it’s helped the faith. Really, though, only one person, Rev. Meg Riley, told me two years ago that I had contributed something very meaningful to UUism. And she was able to articulate why and not just utter platitudes.
Certainly words of support and encouragement came from lay leaders (Larry S. you’re in this bunch), but Meg really understood, from the beginning, the potential of REACH.
Rev. Nate Walker’s ministry benefited from some of my ideas, and he was very supportive. I learned a lot from both Nate and Meg. I asked Nate if he thought I should convert REACH into a book. He took the time to look over the material and give me several action steps to do just that. Thank you again Nate. But I just cannot muster the enthusiasm to spend inordinate amounts of time jumping through what I believe to be unnecessary hurdles for the sake of getting a UU imprint interested. I can self publish if I really want to. But I don’t because the enthusiasm for the work just hasn’t been strong enough.
I haven’t heard from too many others. However, someone new has emerged and she could make a significant contribution to the faith: Susan Intriligator, the UUA’s new online strategist. She’s terrific. She’s a former editor at Ms Magazine and a Harvard Divinity School ordained UU minister. I’ve given her names of people I recommend she talk to. She’s reached out to several. Some have responded but, alas, others haven’t. Perseverance, Susan! And readers, if you hear from her, please respond.
She recently spent a day with me at my home on Cape Cod. As far as I can tell, she is the only person who has completely absorbed what I created, understands what it took to do it, and has all the necessary skills to take from it what she needs to do her job and to advance the REACH ideas. I’m grateful for her and will help her anyway I can going forward.
I hope she is listened to and allowed to be a strategist and not just another body in an office to throw work at. All too often in this digital age, people create strategy jobs but don’t really know what it takes to create something meaningful and so the effort gets hijacked for short-sighted reasons.
I titled this blog TheNewUU for all the double entendre reasons you can think of. One of which, was to try to illustrate how someone completely new to organized religion took it all in. I figured I was in the demographic that Rev. Peter Morales and others discuss as the “nones” or the people “with our values” who should be involved with organized UUism but aren’t. In all the research cited by the UUA about “nones,” I didn’t find any stories or profiles of a “none” that spoke for itself. Perhaps those accounts exist in the research. I didn’t aggressively seek it out. I thought, instead, I’d share parts of my journey online to throw a face into the mix of anecdotal evidence.
I don’t feel that I can authentically continue to blog about digital ministry or my UU experience because I haven’t been able to find a new church in which I feel comfortable. After all, I believe all digital ministry should be intricately tied to an offline religious experience. How can I authentically continue to talk about this if I don’t belong to a church?
The other realization I had about 2 years ago, is that I have no interest in being a lay digital minister at a congregation. I create and invent at a high level. I then carry out aspects of a first implementation (or launch) but collaborate with others to hand off the work for an institution or company to internalize the project’s operations and make it stable for the long haul. I found that people in churches assumed I’d want to lead or do digital ministry at other churches I occasionally attended or considered joining. Nope.
One of the problems of digital ministry at the local level is, that few people want to do the work. It’s assumed to be hard. A few people assume that the retirees in the church don’t use the Internet. That’s a laugh. Our older generations are among the heaviest users of all things digital. Other aspects of congregational life, though, pose challenges. Constant turnover in volunteer help, for example. Part-time staff doesn’t have time, even to drop wasteful practices in favor of more green-like digital tasks. Then there’s the issue of the interim minister and the notion that a congregation has to go through four years of preparation for a new senior minister. There are the multi-million dollar capital campaigns going on to repair and expand 40+ year-old physical churches but next to no money to properly be present online. I summarized a strategy for the faith to approach digital ministry in a way that would nullify most of these challenges.
I now have a new local community, to be sure. And it’s full of potters, painters, quilters, photographers, poets, authors, retired academicians, musicians, teachers, athletes and shop keepers. None of these people attend a church. We talk about faith sometimes but not one of them feels comfortable in a “religious” environment. I find this very sad. I am grateful to my new friends for introducing me to Brene Brown. Brown’s definition of living “wholeheartedly” is what I think the UU Journey Toward Wholeness is about. I had come to the conclusion that one key aspect of wholeness is to live without unecessary fear. I think, though, that Brown has it right about vulnerability.
At it’s core, Brown says, wholeness is a willingness to be comfortable with vulnerability. That rings so true. I have practiced vulnerability and it has opened doors, slammed others shut and lead to threatening situations. I’ve learned from those experiences and continue to draw new meanings from them as life goes on. I think many UUs have a major problem with vulnerability. I think it can be prayed upon in congregations, not nurtured. One of the most vulnerable things an interested party does is to walk into a congregation for the first time. One of the most vulnerable things a newcomer or visitor can do is to talk earnestly with a few congregants who are total strangers.
Here’s a thought that I’ve had and have had too much evidence in its support: The opposite of a famous UU citation seems to be true in many places: We think alike but we don’t love alike. — No one seems to be considering whether the reality of what we say in church community is actually the opposite of what is transpiring.
Early on, a minister told me that people go in and out of church communities throughout their lives for many reasons. I understand that now.
I’m a UU but I’m wandering. And for this reason, this post is most likely the last for a long time if ever again.
I wish all of you happiness and courage and am grateful you took interest in what TheNewUU had to say. If you’re ever on the Cape, look me up. Let’s grab coffee and head out for a walk on the beach.
Answer to the question in the headline above: The young adults who founded facebook are starting families of their own and their babies don’t want them online. Pure and simple. Sound familiar? In REACH: A UU Digital Ministry, I discussed the effects of human/computer interaction in the last 30 years and cited kids who beg their parents to put down their phones and be with them.
Randi Zuckerberg, sister to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and a former Facebook exec herself, says she realized she shouldn’t be on her cell phone when with her baby.
In her new book, Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives, Zuckerberg unleashes her revelations that too much sharing online and too much time on Facebook with people we don’t really know well in our offline lives, is potentially very damaging.
Duh. Since sharing first began on the Internet, people have worked hard to protect privacy and meaningful connections through sharing. And oh, lest I forget to remind not only you dear readers but also myself: I have one of the first patents for Sharing Digital items ever to have been issued. It and three others are owned by Facebook. The name of one particular invention is “Sharing of Digital Items.” I have others that are related that created the ability for people to annotate with words or through manipulation of content what they are sharing — translation: comment on and/or edit. Plenty of other people have related patents but these are among the meaningful souvenirs of my career. (I’m an inventor but I don’t own the patents, AOL, Facebook and others do. I initially received $1,500 for each patent from my employers. I turned over two of those checks to UU Association Sundays.)
Back to Zuckerberg’s book. It’s all about Randi’s experience, right? (sarcasm intended) After all, her book’s written as if her revelations are earth shattering. Never mind the 30 years of research by Sherri Turkle, author of Alone Together. Never mind that the 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, for the first time, includes a category on machine-human disorders and recommends that Internet Addiction Disorder be studied more.
I’m sure we’ll be hearing lots more from last decade’s 20 somethings who wanted to bare all, share all and stare at all, online. It was fine then because that’s what they wanted to do and they thought everyone else would want to as well. And the usage data of social media could be interpreted to support the claim.
I’m glad sister Zuckerberg wrote the book, for her name and accomplished credentials will draw readers. To me her book harkens a sea change I predicted in REACH. And the prediction appears to be right on schedule. The age of uncertain longing and yearning is now on Zuckerberg’s generation’s horizon, and it’s dawning in the faces of its children and also in the hearts of these new parents.
And their kids are about 3-5 years away from being UU RE age. Some UU churches, in fact, are experiencing the beginning of this next wave. The UU Church of Arlington, VA, my former church, beefed up its nursery offerings to bring in this generation’s babies and parents now.
I’m hopeful that this generation may be the wave that propels UUism into a wholehearted way of living out of an aspirational stage in which it appears to be stagnating.
Susanne Skubik Intriligator, the UUA’s newly hired social media strategist and friend, posted on Facebook a terrific LA Times story on what not to say to someone stricken with a serious illness.
I recently blogged about a friend who’s fighting the worst form of breast cancer and who shocked the sh*t outta me with racist banter. I had to figure out the right time and way to tell her that her comments were unacceptable. But, I didn’t want her to think I would abandon her in her time of need because I was dismayed by her comments.
While the LA Times piece isn’t about racism or any other unacceptable comments by pastoral care recipients, it is about how friends and caregivers must consider carefully what and how to sympathize with the patient in that person’s presence. The use of a “kvetch” circle helps to draw the point home.
The LA Times article explains how the circle works:
“Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma,” it states. “Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma… Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. When you are done you have a Kvetching Order.”
The story continues: “Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, “Life is unfair” and “Why me?” That’s the one payoff for being in the center ring. Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.”
Thanks Susan for sharing the article.