Formspring is a website that was launched at the end of 2009. The idea is that people will send you questions anonymously to your Formspring account and you will post the answers on your public page. The site also links to Facebook and Twitter, so your followers on these sites will see what questions you are answering.
I first came across Formspring when I saw several comic book professionals that I follow on Twitter using the site to interact with their fans. People would send these pros questions and everyone would get to benefit from the answers. As an Australian comic fan, this was great. It gave me access to these writers and artists that I wouldn’t normally have as I can’t make it to any comic book conventions in the US. I can ask them questions as well as hear the answers to other people’s questions.
It got me thinking. How can Formspring be used for Christian ministry?
Have you ever been at a conference or been part of a church where the speaker has taken questions from the audience via SMS? Formspring can take this to the next level.
Pastors can set up a Formspring page for their church. Congregation members are given the address where they can post their questions. The pastor is able to thoughtfully think through the questions before posting the answers for everyone to see. The same thing could work for Christian authors, thinkers, preachers etc.
There are several advantages and disadvantages to using Formspring.
On the positive side:
- People are able to ask things that they may not want to ask face to face. Questions about topics such as sex can be embarrassing to ask in person, so asking them online without your name attached may be more appealing.
- Same goes with questions about controversial areas of doctrine. You may have a question about what’s being taught at church, but don’t want to look like a heretic for asking. Putting the answer online gives the pastor a chance to clearly articulate a position without negatively branding someone merely for being curious.
- Your able to take your time to answer. Instead of coming up with a response off the top of your head, you can give a reasoned, thought out answer in your own time.
- You can choose which questions you answer and which ones you ignore. Very helpful if you’re getting questions that are inflammatory or stupid.
- The audience is wider than a room full of people. Because my Formspring is connected to my Facebook, Twitter, and website, I get a large pool of people not only asking me questions, but also reading the answers.
- Posting answer on Formspring has led to great discussions as people discuss the issues brought up. These discussions have happened both on the comments section of the Facebook posting and in real life as people have come up to me at church to talk about my answers.
On the negative side:
- Because the questions are anonymous, it’s much harder to know the question behind the question. Without knowing who the person is, their background, and why they’re asking the question, it’s not easy to give them an appropriate answer. Sometimes a question can have more than one answer, depending on who is asking the question.
- Sometimes the questions can be unclear or lacking enough information. There’s no means to communicate with the questioner to get them to clarify what they mean.
- It would be really helpful to have the ability to comment on answers. The conversations that I’ve been having in the comments section on Facebook should really be happening on Formspring. It would give people an opportunity to interact with the answers.
- The site still has a few bugs in it. Sometimes it can take a fair while before answers are published and notification for pending questions in your inbox aren’t always sent.
Overall, I believe that Formspring is a site worth exploring for ministry purposes. If you’re a pastor, author or Christian speaker, you should consider trialing the site. To check out some of the questions I’ve been answering on Formspring, check out my page. Have you used Formspring? What did you use it for and how did you find the experience?