I’ve been in Grand Rapids about a month now. It’s a little surreal being back in the same stomping grounds I trudged as a college kid a decade ago. People keep telling me that GR has undergone a “renaissance” over the years, that there are lots of cool breweries, restaurants, museums, and farmers markets; that it’s not the same place it was before.
Thank goodness, I say, because I’m not the same person I was before.
This time I’m in GR for a job – full-time, complete with benefits, and a retirement plan, and insurance. Next time someone asks me what brought me to GR, I might just say, “I’m here for the retirement plan.” This is, I think, a very grown-up reason to move.
But, I want to be clear about something – I’m not here just for a job. I’m not here just for the retirement plan. (Although, holy benefit, Batman!) I’m here for this job at this place with these people.
About a month ago, I moved to GR to be a social media specialist with Our Daily Bread. This means that I’m helping create and manage the online presence for Off the Page and a couple of our other blogs. If it’s tweeted, posted, or shared via social media, that’s me. I’m the human behind the avatar.
And I want to be really clear about this – my job is actually the coolest. I have no idea how I get to be the one to do it, but I think it has a lot to do with God’s grace. Like, a lot. Like, everything.
Because here’s the thing: that I have this job makes no sense. Technically, this position falls within the broader area of marketing, and I have no marketing experience or know-how. I’ve never taken a marketing or communications class in my life, unless you count Speech my freshman year of college, which I don’t because I’m embarrassed by the things that I said in front of people. Eighteen year old me was wrong a lot.
Anything I’ve learned about social media I’ve learned as a blogger trying to build a platform, as a youth leader trying to stay connected to her students, as a person hoping to find other people who are wrestling through some of the same things. My managers and supervisors and co-workers are quick to affirm that the marketing stuff is all teachable, and they want the greater voice that I’m bringing to the conversations that we’re having about Millennials leaving church, and disengaging with God (if they are), and how we can best meet them where they are.
And, let’s be honest, we all know those conversations are my jam. (My apologies to anyone who has stepped into my cube for a “quick chat” and ended up staying for at least a half hour.) The work that I’ve done as a counselor and a youth minister made them my jam, as did the reading and the praying I did right alongside them, and I have a lot of thoughts. And I wouldn’t trade that for all the marketing classes in all the world.
And there are no words for how grateful I am to be in a place that affirms the right things and teaches what can be taught. There’s a lot of Jesus in that, I think.
I’m learning, I think, that the strength of social media is its power to connect people to each other – people who wouldn’t otherwise be connected. It’s what I’ve loved about it for years as a blogger and wannabe writer, and it’s what I experienced as a youth leader with my students, and I’m working hard on figuring out how to do that for Off the Page too.
Because the people behind that blog – our writers and video makers and content producers, and our advisory team, and our content editor – they are all awesome. They’re people who love Jesus deeply, and are intentional to put in a little grace in the world any way that they can. They’re people you should know. And if social media is a means by which we can make that happen, I hope we (I) figure out how to do that well.
(Otherwise, I might get fired and lose my retirement plan. And I moved to GR for the retirement plan.)