7 reminders for pastors and ministry leaders who use social media

October 25th, 2016

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? I wouldn’t have a blog without social media — and, I do love my blog. Well, at least, I love the potential impact of my blog.

What I don’t like is some of the negative impact of social media. It seems people lose their filter when they are online. They must feel a certain anonymity — even though their name is on their account. As I’ve posted before, some people show their mean side online, saying things they never would say without this medium making it so easy to do.

But, I would assume social media is here for a while. 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 reach people.

So, if it’s here, and an almost necessity these days in ministry, it stands to reason we should keep in mind its impact and how this should influence our use of social media. 

Here are seven reminders for pastors and ministry leaders on social media:

You represent the 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're demonstrating to people how they expect Christ to respond to them.

You influence people. If you're in a ministry leadership position you have positional influence. People look to you for answers and how they should live their life as believers.

This is a gray area for sure, and strictly my opinion, but as an example, one thing that 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 rather see a post that says “loved worshipping 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 can figure that one out on their own. Plus, bibilically 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.

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 retweet. This makes it so much more important that we think before we post, that we strive to be helpful and that we never vent on social media.

May I add another pet peeve? This is especially true when talking about the community where you live and are trying to reach. Going off on a restaurant, a store or any aspect about the community devalues your talk of loving the city.

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.

There’s potential for incredible good. 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.

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're 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.

Followers expect you to be social. If you're going to be on social media, people assume you will be social. I probably have almost as much interaction with our church through Facebook as I have through email. People expect you to reply.

These are simply a few reminders that come to mind quickly. Some of these are from my own mistakes — others are from 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.

 Ron Edmondson blogs at RonEdmondson.com.

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