Online Community is REAL Community

In an interview with Yahoo News and Finance anchor Bianna Golodryga, Twitter Co-founder Jack Dorsey was asked about the role Twitter plays in coverage of events and stories that people are talking about.  He said, “People want to feel like they’re there, and they want that sense of connection, and it doesn’t matter if there’s a geographic boundary at all anymore.”

Although Jack was talking about how Twitter is a pivotal tool used when key world events happen, he was really on to something with that statement. People want to feel like they are “there” and that they want to feel a sense of connection and community with people.  And now, more than ever, geographical boundaries don’t matter anymore.  Why?  Because of the ever growing online community.

As the Online Campus Pastor for New Life Christian Church, I’ve personally experienced this in at least 2 specific ways.

For starters, when we broadcast our Church services each Sunday (and soon on our rebroadcasts throughout the week), we have people who do not just watch, but they chat too.  Chat Rooms are great places for people to connect during services. At each of the services we have people who enter a chat room and engage in conversation while the service is going on. It is really a fun way to do church together and I have found that the same people who chat return over and over again and real relationships form.  That’s right, I said REAL relationships.

images-5I have 3-5 regular chatters who, I feel (and they feel this way too) that we are old friends catching up over a cup of coffee.  We talk about our weeks, how things have been going and we encourage each other as there message is being shared.  I chat with people from Abu Dhabi, Florida, North Carolina, Germany and Slovenia.  No matter where they are in the world, we are all together chatting about life.  Geographic boundaries do not matter any more.

Secondly, each week, a small group of Twitter folks and I get together on Thursday nights to discuss and recap the sermon from the past week. It’s a little Twitterfest as we don’t just talk about the sermon but there is a connection between the people engaged conversation each week.  I feel that I am getting to know those chatting, that they count on me being involved in the conversation each week (as I do with them) and that there is a real connection gong on.  We are developing a real community.

So where will these online experiences go?  I honestly don’t know but one thing is clear, online community and relationships are real community and relationships.  In addition, more importantly for me is that real ministry is happening because of it.  If New Life didn’t begin to do an Online Campus, we would not be able to reach real people looking for real connections all over the world now for Christ.

If you want to improve your online skills, join the Digital Bootcamp Facebook Group to learn how you grow an online community and other digital tools to help expand your reach for Christ.

What do you think?  How have you seen real community develop online?  Share your experiences below.

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Tom Pounder

A father of 4, Tom is the Online Campus Pastor as well as Social Media Director at New Life Christian Church in Chantilly, VA. He blogs, vlogs, periscopes and podcasts regularly about student and online ministry stuff. Check out his work at YMSidekick.com and on iTunes (search YMSidekick).

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