Another new reality of communication that Pastor Matt Peeples reveals is: Backchannels are always open. What are backchannels, you ask? They are the conversations behind the conversations that are always going on in our digital age.
I have seen this in play at conferences and other meetings where they even encourage backchannel engagement in real time by announcing a hashtag with the conference name or meeting locale for people to use to converse on Twitter about what is happening at various sessions.
I also see this at play within the comments sections below a post or a video link. People’s reactions, good or bad, are exchanged and discussed, and we as the viewer become privy to these interchanges, if we like it or not.
We in the church must recognize and acknowledge that backchannels are always open even within worship or board meetings or Bible studies. The fact that parishioners are texting each other during these church events and activities has to some degree become par for the course, and we as church leaders do not need to be angered or offended by it.
In many ways we can use backchannels to our advantage in the church. Encouragement and even criticism that we see in backchannels can help us to learn more about ourselves and help us to improve upon what we are doing in our ministries. It also is an opportunity to engage in a more in-depth discussion of faith in Christ offline with someone who wrote something on a backchannel.
What people say on backchannels is not normally what they would maybe say in person to a pastor or a church worker, but may be more real and genuine. Backchannel conversations can help to understand better what is really going on in people’s experiences in the church that you may not hear as a pastor or church worker otherwise.
The knowledge that backchannels may be happening at any time while I speak in Bible study, for instance, also helps me to polish and hone my message and choose my words a little more carefully. In the process, my presentation becomes better. I have a greater sense of confidence that if what I say in Bible class ends up on a text or post or website or tweet, I am OK with that because I was thoughtful about it and it is exactly what I wanted to say.
And anything that gets more people engaging within the Church has got to be a good thing. So celebrate backchannels, I say, and encourage your parishioners to take part in them.