Monday, December 31, 2012

Urbana 2012: Social Media Engagement Future of Christian Conferences?

ST. LOUIS – How do you make sure 16,000 students attending a five-day missions conference have the best opportunity to engage in what God has planned for them? You "overlay" the event with social media, more specifically with Twitter, says Adam Jeske, who is leading a 14-member social media team during Urbana '12.

While perhaps breaking new ground with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's triennial Student Missions Conference held through New Year's Eve, Jeske and his "squad," as they like to be called, do more than tweet announcements or post photos on Facebook or Instagram. They engage in real-time dialogue about matters of faith. Additionally, groups of similar interest and focus can connect with each other by simply following specific Twitter feeds. The conference hashtag (#u12) is just the beginning.
"We want to be a conduit for participants to connect with one another, with the program content, and with exhibitors more than they've ever been able to before," said Jeske, who is InterVarsity's director of New Media. "Social media overlays all of the conference programming. For example, if I'm interested in church planting in India, they can tweet to that affect hashtag U12 conference (#u12), hashtag India (#India), and hashtag church planting (#churchplanting) and you can connect with people around areas of interest and areas of calling at a much more focused level than has ever been possible before."
Jeske leads the team primarily from two long tables side-by-side inside one of the conference rooms adjacent to the arena where Urbana is being held. A poster card at one end reads:
"May the words of our mouths, the meditations of our hearts, and the tweets of our fingers be glorifying in your sight, O Lord."
With laptops and smart phones in hand, members of the social media team listen as he imparts strategy and commands on such things as areas of the conference that need to be broadcast via Twitter.

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