Thursday, September 01, 2016

Forget Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram: The Real Mission Opportunity May Be Reddit

I blog a lot, and Facebook a lot, spend a bit of time on Twitter, a tiny bit of time on Instagram, and zero time on Snapchat.

When I think of the list of places to build community in social media, those are the sites that top the list, and although I could (and probably should) distribute my time differently between the various platforms, in practice that's what I do.

That is, until I learned people decide where to go to church using Reddit.

I guess I kind of knew Reddit was big. I didn't realize it was the front page of the Internet. Of course, that's debatable, and depends on how you measure it. Some people say it's not as big as all that, but it is the biggest man-cave around.

That in itself is interesting from a faith and ministry perspective, because so many of the other social media sites are more predominately female domains.

As a pastor and missionary, I'm interested in many things about Reddit.

First of all, I'm interested in how to most effectively use it. For that, I recommend this beginner's guide. Basically, you can engage Reddit as a passive reader, simply reading it as an information resource.

But if you want to participate in the community, you begin by doing such things as posting new content, voting items up and down (this is how posts make it to the front page of Reddit), and commenting on posts.

This is how people find churches on Reddit. They can move to a new city, then ask a simple question on Reddit, like, "What's a good church to visit in [AnytownUSA]?" Then people post answers.

But you can find conversations on just about anything, right down to the quality of cabins at Mount Magazine (one of our favorite vacation destinations).

It would seem, given how many people on the Internet get their information from Reddit, and given that Reddit is completely open-source, with all content and responses created by users, that members of congregations would periodically want to post subreddits about their churches, or their social service ministries, or initiate conversations about matters of faith that matter to them.

The other thing that interests me about Reddit is its communal norms. The moderators have posted some very clear guidelines in the sidebar of the news pages. For each page, the say what is disallowed. This ensures that specific page stays centered on its actual topic.

They then also indicate disallowed comments. Finally, they remind the community it can police itself by not feeding the trolls and down voting, reporting, and move on. LOTS of Facebook groups could learn from these rules.

Lutherans are active on Reddit. There's a subreddit for the ELCA, for example:

There's also an older meta-conversation about the history of the denomination.

But there could be quite a lot more conversation on just these topics. If you burrow down into specific cities and places, it's often hard to find a mention of ELCA churches, even though some other denominations (evangelicals in particular) are quite good at recommending their churches and describing them.

I'm still pretty new to Reddit, to be honest, so I'd love to have readers of this blog teach me more about it. How do you use it? What missional opportunities do you see? What are your favorite subreddits? Do you like being a Snoo?

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