Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Google+ and College Students

I have been on Google+ for almost a week now and it's been fascinating for me to watch how it is evolving in my "circles," namely the United Methodist Church online world, campus ministry people, and my college students. I scored an invite first from a recent grad, but couldn't figure out how to accept the invite and then a fellow young UMC clergy sent me an invite which I did figure out how to accept! Within a day, I found people that I knew (in real life and in the digital world) and other people found me. It was fascinating to watch how quickly people popped up on Google+. I was actually an early adopter of Facebook (when I started, it was before it was public, as some Southwestern students lobbyed the FB folks for a network. I believe we got one in early 2006.) and a fairly early Twitter adopter. I got pulled in to Facebook by my students and I got pulled into Twitter by UMC young clergy colleagues, and I got pulled into Google+ from people that I followed on Twitter. We'll see how things take off with G+, but here are a few observations that I've made:
  • I have been surprised at how many of my college students have already gotten on G+. It seems that with the exception of a couple, most of my students did not jump on board with Twitter. In the last year, a dozen or so (that are in my world) have begun tweeting, but I already have that many students that have signed up for G+. This gives me great hope that all of the collaborative potential that I see for G+ might actually be able to be used!
  • I think that people really are gravitating toward the idea of selective disclosure of themselves, ie., the various ways that that they can reveal their online selves by posts going to particular circles. Facebook certainly has that ability, but one must be pretty savvy and disciplined to sort people, add to lists, etc., etc., in order for it to live up to it's potential.
  • I'm hoping that G+ stays away from the online games and such that has been the legacy of Facebook. I know that there is a certain kind of community in online gaming, but I don't want another Farmville request! I'm not interested! :-)
  • I "follow" many of the same people in FB, Twitter, and G+ and right now, everyone seems to be posting all three places. I'm wondering if that will change with time..if we will figure out where the best audience is for which type of communication and connect there. I'm sure that this will evolve as we figure it out, and I'm curious how it will develop.
  • I'm not a Mac devotee and I was pleasantly surprised that the G+ app was on Android first! It is awesome! I can definitely see how I would use G+ different on my phone and I like what I see!
Anyway...almost a week in and I'm encouraged that Google+ could actually do what FB and email haven't been able to do in my ministry: make communication with my students a little easier (they don't get on FB to "communicate"--it is for entertainment, and many don't read email at all or very frequently!). That remains to be could just be that it's the shiny new thing, but it looks promising!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Not Alone

It seems, at times, that we are alone. The situations in our lives have played out and we think we know the ending. I'm assuming that's how Mary Magdalene felt as she stood weeping outside the tomb. Alone and disappointed. And then...he was there. Jesus appeared...looking somewhat different than she remembered, or expected. And likewise, the disciples felt abandoned and alone inside their locked doors and self-induced seclusion. And yet, Jesus appeared, twice, to his beloved disciples to remind them that they are not alone. Slowly, at least some of the disciples begin to emerge from their seclusion and they return to their pre-Jesus lives as fishermen.

READ: John 21:1-13

Finally…Simon Peter worked up the courage, either out of confidence, hope, or boredom to go fishing! But even as that first day back on the water drew to a close, they yielded no catch. A long, probably uncomfortable, questioning night that thankfully came to an end with daybreak. They heard a fatherly voice from the shore: “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They didn’t know who it was, but it was a voice that seemed to understand something about them. Then, the voice gave them advice…the advice that they didn’t even know that they needed. The voice told them to put their nets out to the right side of the boat. They were in the right waters, but were approaching it the wrong way. When they obeyed and saw how much fish they caught, the Person behind the voice was revealed. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved knew it first! It was Jesus! And true to form, the impulsive Peter jumped into the water to get to his Lord first of all!

Jesus was there…on the shore all along. I even wonder if he was there the day before in their frustration of a day without a catch. Was he there waiting and hoping that they would notice him? Was he there ready to offer advice, if only they would ask? And then, that second morning, he spoke, only they didn’t know it was him. It was after they obeyed his voice, and saw that it was trustworthy, did they see that he was actually there all along.

Are there times when you are discouraged? Do you think that you’re fishing in the right waters, but things aren’t yielding the result that you’re expecting, that you’re praying for, that you know should happen? Is it possible that Jesus is there, all along?