Can I be honest? I’m not always the biggest fan of social media.
I know you have a hard time believing this if you follow me on Facebook (either my profile or one of my pages—I have several), Twitter (and I have a couple of those), LinkedIn, Instagram or Pinterest. How could I not love social media?
What I don’t like are some of the negative impacts of social media. It seems people lose their filter when they are online. They must feel a certain anonymity—even it seems if their real name is on their account. Some people even show their mean side online—saying things they never would say without this medium making it so easy to do.
I would assume though social media is here for a while. And it’s certainly a part of our lives. And wherever people are I want to be as much as I can, because I’ve been called to love and help people.
So, if social media is here, and an almost necessity these days in ministry, it stands to reason we should keep in mind it’s impact. This should actually influence our use of social media. That’s the purpose of this post.
7 REMINDERS FOR PASTORS AND MINISTRY LEADERS ON SOCIAL MEDIA:
1. You represent Christ and the church. Even when you’re on your personal page, what you post tells people something about the church. If you’re angry online you are demonstrating to people how they expect Christ to respond to them.
2. You influence people. If you are in a ministry leadership position you have positional influence. People look to you for answers and how they should live their lives as believers.
This is a gray area for sure, and strictly my opinion, but as an example, one thing which drives me crazy is to see pastors post how they are enjoying not having to go to church on vacation. (“Having a great time at the beach—I needed this today.”) I’d almost rather see a post which says “loved worshiping with Beach Community Church today.” It seems more helpful for the role we serve. Yes, we need to lead people to honor their Sabbath, but we also have to be careful not to convince people they need a break from church. They seem to figure that one out on their own. Plus, biblically speaking, the opposite seems more true. I would argue culturally speaking, people need a lot more church. People who don’t work at church aren’t able to reconcile the amount of time you spend at church with the amount of time they do.
May I add another pet peeve? This is especially true when talking about the community in which you live and are trying to reach. Going off on a restaurant, a store, a sports team or any aspect about the community seems to devalue when you talk of loving the city.
3. Humor isn’t always easily translated. I’m guilty of this one sometimes. I’ve shared so many things on Facebook I thought were funny, but incited disappointment in people who didn’t catch my sarcasm. They thought I was serious. I was joking. Be careful. And if it’s supposed to be funny you might have to help the very literal people out and say so. (This line is supposed to be funny).
4. What you post sticks. It’s there once it’s there. You can’t delete a “status” completely. Someone will grab a screenshot. There will be a re-tweet. Plus it’s stored somewhere in one of those “cloud things.” (And again—funny.)
This makes it so much more important we think before we post, we strive to be helpful and we never vent on social media. It would seem to me we should be agents of hope amidst despair as much as we strive to impart “truth.” Will they care about our truth if they think we are angry at them?
5. People are making opinions about you based on your social media. It’s true. They are discerning whether they like you personally. They make decisions about your church based on things you say online also, because you are your church to them. They may even judge your faith by your words on social media. It might not be truly representative and it may not even be fair, but it’s reality.
This is true whether you are talking about the local college football program or politics. Yes, you have opinions, but because of your position what you say has a greater kingdom implication.
6. Followers expect you to be social. If you are going to be on social media people assume you will be social. I probably had almost as much interaction with our church through Facebook as I had through email. People expect you to reply. (I’m actually posting less and slightly slower to respond now that I’m not pastoring a local church, but it’s still important if I’m in the space I still represent Christ.)
7. There’s potential for incredible good. I have been doing online ministry stuff since 1994. Wow! I can’t relay all the positive stories I’ve received of sharing something “at just the right time” or when someone “really needed this today.”
People are hurting. There will be as many hurts as there will be tweets today. You can be a voice of hope. There are plenty of opinions being expressed. Be light in darkness.
These are simply a few reminders, which come to mind quickly. Some of these are from my own mistakes—others are observations watching other pastors and ministry leaders online. The key, in my opinion, is to be strategic with your use of social media—really with your life.
This article originally appeared on RonEdmondson.com.