Monday, February 27, 2012

Social Media and the Church Part 6

6. Pastoral Use of Social Media

Pastors don't have much of a "private" life.  Being a pastor has been described as living in a fishbowl.  Some like it.  Some don't.  It's a fact of service.  We are on call 24 hours a day for pastoral emergencies.  What we say on Sunday morning should be what we say the rest of the week.  What we say during the week should be good enough for Sunday morning.  If it's not, we have a serious problem.  The choice to use social media like Facebook, Twitter or a blog is never a private choice.  Whatever is said on Facebook or Twitter reflects on you and the ministry/church that you serve.  There is no fractured dualistic path to say "this doesn't represent the church I serve" because these are my private opinions.  Does that sound consistent?  Now, this is just my opinion.  Some clergy disagree and feel that they may say one thing through social media, but then on Sunday morning would never dare speak of such things.  For me it does not work.  Stand by what you say in private and in public, on the web or in church, together.
So, when it comes to certain issues Pastors should keep their mouths shut.  Yes, they should.
A few pieces of advice.
Don't endorse candidates or political parties, unless it's you or a family member.  It only divides people.  Your job is not to spout about politics and if it's takes up a considerable amount of your time, you are probably not serving well.
Hiding your Social media behavior from the UMC boards or your brothers and sisters in Christ is pointless.  Your pastoral voice (whether in church or the web) should always be consistent and honest.  People talk.  Friend other pastors, and follow back on Twitter.  It's kind and courteous.  Defriending other clergy is not a good idea.  It shows poor judgment and poor character.
Watch what you post because just reposting or putting a link on your pages by default is an endorsement of a viewpoint.  And it viewpoint is not consistent with you and the church, it becomes quite confusing to your church.
Be careful what you post, because it is always there.  Google saves every piece of information on the web, whether you delete it or not.
Do not address church controversies through social media or "church wide" emails.  Speak directly to people.  Emails and social media rants and messages can be misinterpreted.
As a pastor, you are a spiritual leader.  Lead.
The comments and way you interact on social media shows who you really are- especially when it comes to endorsing your favorite sports team.  Be careful.
Here is a very simple rule.
Don't be a jerk on social media.  If you are there, you probably are in your church as well.  Humor is great.  Humor at the expense of others is not so great.
All in all, make sure your online life is consistent with your pastoral ministry life.  This goes for all Christians as well.  Be consistent so that the world knows your witness is true.
Go in peace and go with God.