What are Mennonites up to these days? If you have within reach a smart phone, a tablet or a computer, the world of social media gives a glimpse into the larger Mennonite community.
My first role with Canadian Mennonite was as web editor, and I was soon delving into the online world of Mennonites in Canada. In the fall of 2013, CM had a modest following in Facebook, an even smaller presence on Twitter and was not active on any other social media platform. I knew we needed to pay attention to the people in the Mennonite world who were helping to make the news. And, as a publication, we wanted to use online tools to share information and inspiration with CM’s readers.
Since then, Canadian Mennonite hired a full-time online media manager, whose responsibilities include posting on our social media platforms and paying attention to the news that others are sharing in that way. Last summer and again this summer, we welcomed students who contribute as social media interns. Canadian Mennonite now has a following on Instagram as well as increased numbers of followers on Facebook and Twitter.
Over the years, I have learned a lot about Mennonites in Canada (and beyond) through reading social media news feeds. I’ve peeked into the life of congregations and institutions, and I’ve witnessed individuals sharing their successes and challenges through social media posts. I’ve learned about causes that are important to Mennonites. Sometimes reading their posts generates ideas for content in this magazine.
So, whom do you follow online? Here are ideas for Mennonite-Anabaptist siblings you might want to follow in social media. If you have not done much exploration into the social media world, this is a just a starting point. (If you’re a social media veteran, you can add your own suggestions in the comment section below.)
A good place to start is by connecting with folks and organizations in your own community and region. You’ll want to follow the regional church your congregation belongs to so you can be informed about upcoming events and projects. Some congregations have their own Facebook page or a private group where members meet to chat online. These are places for sharing information and inspiration among people who know each other. Some churches stream their worship services on Facebook, so clicking on that is an opportunity for you to “visit” another church in your area.
It’s interesting to follow other Mennonite-based organizations in your community, such as schools, camps, seniors communities, social service organizations, heritage centres and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) thrift shops. You might learn of volunteer and donation opportunities, or other ways to become involved.
You’ll likely want to follow the social accounts of nationwide and international organizations connected with the Mennonite-Anabaptist world. There’s Mennonite Church Canada, of course, and Mennonite World Conference. You can follow service organizations like MCC, Mennonite Disasters Service and MEDA. You can learn about charitable donations through Abundance Canada and how to support fair trade through Ten Thousand Villages. Anabaptist Worship Network is present on Facebook, offering ideas and conversation on congregational worship. Learn about books and other resources by following MennoMedia and CommonWord. Hear about the history and heritage of Mennonite Anabaptists through a variety of visitors centres and academic centres like Institute for the study of Global Anabaptism and the Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies.
Social media offers you a way to “follow” individuals and gain insight into their perspectives.
- If your congregation helps support International Witness workers elsewhere in the world (or if you’re considering it), you can learn more about their ministry through their social media channels. Plus, you can offer them encouragement and prayers there.
- For a glimpse into the world of creative people, follow Mennonite writers, musicians, artists and craftspeople.
- How are Mennonite leaders making a difference? See what folks involved in politics, social services, business and the academic world have to say in social media.
I don’t know of any social media accounts focused on Mennonite jokes. But if you’re looking for something light, you might want to follow, just for fun: The Daily Bonnet (“Your trusted source for Mennonite satire”), Drunken Mennonite (“Always irreverent; often irrelevant. Mennonite life and cocktail recommendations”) and Just Plain Wrong Podcast (“Three Mennonite librarians discuss what pop culture gets right, & wrong, about the #Amish & other plain groups).”
Of course, we would love for you to follow Canadian Mennonite on its three social media platforms. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Come to those spots to read news and viewpoints, and to share your own insights. We welcome you!
Last, a few words of caution: all these news feeds—even the Mennonite variety—can suck a lot of your time and attention; you’ll want to ingest in small doses. As with any other media, be aware of how misinformation can spread on social media. Even well-intentioned people can share information that is not accurate. And it’s important to practice courtesy and respectful communication. We all want to keep in mind that arguing online rarely has good outcomes. Sometimes a one-on-one conversation—privately or offline—is a better choice.
Happy following! Feel free to suggest, in the web comment section below, other Mennos we all might want to follow.