Connecting the family


Salters taps into social media to build USMB

Interview by Myra Holmes

Over a century ago, Mennonite Brethren immigrants to North America established a German-language periodical, the Zionsbote, to better connect with each other. U.S. Mennonite Brethren still want to connect and today social media is the latest way to communicate. In order to make the most of this tool, the U.S. Conference has hired Justin Salters as its first-ever social media coordinator.

Salters, who began working part-time from the USC’s West Coast office Oct. 12, holds an associate degree in political science from Bakersfield College, Bakersfield, Calif., and is currently working on a bachelor’s degree in political science at California State University, Bakersfield, with a minor in economics. He attends The Bridge Bible Church, an MB congregation in Bakersfield, where he serves the congregation’s young adult ministry as worship leader.

Salters brings skills in communication and strategy, experience with pioneering communication efforts for a nonprofit organization and, of course, knowledge of current social media platforms. CL assistant editor Myra Holmes talked recently with Salters about his vision for better connecting the USMB family via social media.

Here are excerpts from that conversation.

CL: You call yourself a “social media addict.” What do you mean by that?
JS: I mean the iPhone is my weapon of choice, and I don’t know what I’d do without access to my Facebook and Twitter. (Laughs.) I am on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flicker, YouTube—pretty much if you name it, I’m on it.

CL: Have you always been drawn to social media?
JS: I love communication and connecting with people, and I’ve always been somewhat interested in technology. So as social media platforms have developed for the purposes of connecting with people, I’ve been happy to get on the bandwagon.

CL: Just what is social media?
JS: Media just refers to communication. Traditionally, communication from an organization to its consumers or subscribers is one-way. What social media does is add the social aspect, which is everything you think about when interacting in a relationship. So it adds the relationships to media.
The beauty of social media is that if I post content on a blog or on Facebook or on a Tweet, someone can reply to it. Then if someone else sees that, they can reply to both of those. So you get this whole collaboration. Everybody gets to participate.

CL: Why is it important that USMB include social media in our communication strategy?
JS: We have to pursue social media unless we want to see the USMB come to an end within this century.

CL: That’s a strong statement!
JS: We are on the edge of a paradigm shift in the way that we communicate and relate with other people. Two hundred years ago, we didn’t have telephones; we had communication that was based on telegraphs and written correspondence. Now because of decreasing costs of technology, we’re able to communicate more quickly, and we’re able to communicate more information. It’s a different way of approaching communication that may be unfamiliar to people, but there’s nothing intrinsically bad about it.
Social media is changing the way we communicate. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and think that if we don’t adapt we will be able to be relevant or effective with the way our culture’s progressing.

CL: What role do you hope social media will have in the USMB family one year from now?
JS: In another year, I hope to see more of our churches using social media. The churches are really where we’re going to be able to interact with people and really accomplish our mission. It’s not necessarily the U.S. Conference staff; we’re not the ones who are out in the community. It’s the churches who are really going to be able to do a lot. So I would love to see 50 percent of our churches using social media consistently. And of course I would love to help them get there, because that’s what I’m passionate about. I just want to see us connect. If we can connect with social media, that will be amazing to me.

CL: What about 10 years from now?
JS: I’m not even going to talk about 10 years from now, because who knows what social media will look like. I would just hope that we would be able to stay current with trends in communication.

CL: So how can an individual or church begin connecting with USMB via social media?
JS: The first entry point would be to go to and begin connecting with us there. I would hope that people would go ahead and participate. That’s what’s going to make this great and make this work.


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