Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Social Networking, Aspergers and Commander Data

One of the things that I have done at church is upgrade the congregational website and set up a presence at Facebook and Twitter. I've been a big believer in social networking sites and I tend to believe that social networking can do a lot of good. I've blogged on LiveJournal for 8 years and have made a few friends on the site and I've reconnected with old friends from high school and college days on Facebook.

But when it comes to church, I wonder if sites like Facebook make a difference.

I've heard all the stories of how churches have found an online community via Facebook. I look at our Facebook page and wonder: does anyone care that we are on Facebook? Does it matter? I've seen a number of churches start Facebook fan pages, only to have them become dormant and useless.

I'm beginning to believe that if we are interested in trying to get the word out about our churches, then we need to have a social networking strategy. What do we want to share on Facebook or Twitter? What is it we want to make known? How do we encourage conversation?

Related to social networking is the other social networking: the one that involves talking to people. I've marveled and been a little jealous a number of new church planters, one in Lino Lakes and a clergy couple in Rochester. They have been able to meet new people and have been able to bring them into their young churches.

And then there's the Senior Pastor who has put together a Bible Study group made up of people who work out with him.

It is interesting how all these people seem to strike up conversations with ease. Me? I find it damn difficult.

One of the main issues with autism is that people like myself have difficulty in social settings. Making friends has always been hard for me, same goes for romantic relationships. So, unlike the Senior Pastor, I probably would not strike up a conversation with the people I work out with since I tend to keep to myself and don't want to talk to people.

It's not really that I don't want to talk to people as much as it hurts to chat with people. I don't know what to say or how to really get into small talk. Case in point: I was at Ikea with my partner the other day. He was trying to make a phone call and walked away, when this other person came up and started chatting with me. I chatted back with him, but I can tell you that the whole situation was uncomfortable for me, almost painful. It's not that I can't strike up conversations with totally strangers, it's just that it is not second nature to me. And no, this is not simply that I'm introverted. It is truly a chore to meet with people I don't know. I don't have the inate skills that neurotypicals have to converse with others. I know I've brought this up before, but I do feel like Data from Star Trek. I think more often than not, he confronted situations where he did all the "right things" but didn't get the expected result. Somewhere along the line another character, like Deanna Troi, tells him that life is more of a dance than paint-by-numbers.

More often than not, I do try to be social, but like Data, it doesn't go the way I intended. I tried planting a church and was not able to meet people and maintain the relationships needed in church planting. Others seem to do it with ease.

But I keep trying. One of things I want to do is start some kind of Bible Study outside of the walls of the church. I've wanted to find a coffee shop or gay bar to do something that is outreach to younger folks and/or to GLBT folk. But I don't know how to get the word out or guage others interest.

So, does anyone know how you do that? Or can someone help me?

At some point, I will get this whole social interaction down.

1 comment:

Tahoe Mom said...

Dennis ~ I too have always admired people who can do new church starts from scratch. I will leave it to them to answer some of your questions. May I suggest on a much smaller scale that you find one or two people you are comfortable talking with, the three of you go to the coffee shop or gay bar at a regular time and have spiritual, Biblical or other important conversation and if anyone there is interested, invite them in. You don't even have to think very far about the subject matter because you have a blog Full of rich and interesting ideas. Don't worry if no one else shows up for a while - you and your one or two friends will have had a good time. Your energy will spread even if it takes time. Good luck and blessings ~