Ministry leaders are embracing social networking with a passion. We become Facebook friends with our fellow ministry leaders, church members, family and friends. We follow each other on Twitter: people we know and people we have never met. We post articles on our blogs and read blog posts written by our social network “friends.” This is where it gets a little sticky. Social networks allow us to peek into each others lives and if we aren’t careful and get caught off guard, we might reveal more than we should.
Depending on how we use social networks, they can either benefit or hinder our personal ministry. I’ve worked in ministry for more than 25 years but I haven’t used it as a way to form a lot of close personal friendships. Part of this is because of my personality type – I am an introvert who is task driven. This means I am very comfortable working by myself. Give me a task and I just go to work to get it done.
My peers and acquaintances in ministry see me as no nonsense and competent. No warm fuzzies, just to the point and focused.
How Facebook Helps Me
Introverts like me, who are task driven are not outgoing or overly friendly. In ministry that can be a definite negative when it comes to the members of the church. It doesn’t mean we don’t like people, it just means our focus is a little different. This is where Facebook has been very helpful to me. In addition to being a task driven introvert, I love gadgets. There are two things I can do for hours: 1) work on my computer and 2) read a good book.
Interaction With Others
Facebook allows me to interact with our ministry leaders and members from the privacy of my home. I can sit in my pajamas with my computer in my lap and see what’s going on in the lives of my fellow church members. I can wish them a happy birthday, tell them I enjoyed the song they sang or the message they preached. Sometimes, my comments are as simple as I like your new hair cut. Occasionally I will send a private message of a personal nature to encourage someone who’s having difficulty. This kind of message is sent via Facebook because I don’t have their phone number. Since Sunday is a work day for me, sometimes I can’t just stand around and have personal conversations.
Sharing Of My Personal Life
Facebook also allows me to share a little bit about who I am. Not the person you see at church who is in work mode, but the person who has a life and personality away from the church.
I am a caregiver for my 82 year old god-sister who has dementia. That in itself can be exhausting, so sometimes I make a comment about how tired I am or that I was up most of the night with Gladys. I recently posted a video that shows what it takes for us to get Gladys out of the car and into the house (20 feet, six minutes). I got a lot of positive feedback from sharing the video.
My cats, Cocoa and Lexie have been shared in photos on Facebook. People can’t believe I have cats.
On my FB Info page, I’ve freely shared my favorite music, TV shows, movies and books
Grandchildren’s accomplishments have been posted to share with others
My adult daughters, grandchildren and son-in-law send me silly messages via Facebook. In return, they get a silly response. The members get to share in our off-beat sense of humor.
Every now and then I have to stay at home on Sunday because I don’t have anyone to stay with Gladys. When that happens I send out a little update to Twitter and Facebook. One of the things it does is keeps people informed so they don’t have to ask my husband, “Where is Sister Valerie?” I’m always amazed at how many people actually see the update before they go to church.
My Blogs. In addition to this blog, I have two others: A Caregives Journal and Nothing In Particular. These two blogs give a lot of insight into my life and how I think. I usually share a link to new blog posts on Facebook and Twitter. Some of my Facebook friends read them, some don’t. The point is that I put it out there and give them access.
While these things may seem insignificant, for people who only see me at church or at the grocery store, it give them some insight into who I am outside of being the pastor’s assistant and the guest services manager.
How Facebook, Twitter and Blogs Can Hinder Our Personal Ministry
Until now, I’ve listed several things that I like about social media and how they can help us. Now I want to talk about how social networks can hinder us.
Never take social networks for granted. Think before you share. I’ve read several blogs that share social networking etiquette. But beyond social network etiquette, we must use social network common sense. I learned a long time ago that common sense is not so common. That said . . .
What Not To Share
Personal information like phone numbers, addresses, complete birth dates. Unless your Twitter page is private and you have only approved people you know well on Facebook, you should keep this information off your social network pages. Some people list their e-mail, I choose not to. That’s what private/direct messages are for.
Personal/private information about church staff or other members
Personal/intimate information about your spouse. For example, “Bill and I had a fight last night, he is such an idiot.” or “Bill doesn’t spend enough time with the kids.” Your Facebook and Twitter friends don’t need to know that.
Letting people know when you are going on vacation. Tell them after you get back.
Provocative photos. Nuff said
Information that shows lack of integrity – “I called in sick today to go to the Falcon’s game.” You can get fired for that or miss an opportunity for another job because that info is out. In addition, some of your fellow church members may see that and label you as dishonest.
The bottom line
Use social networks to connect with your members and colleagues, but don’t share too much. I know a lot of pastors strive to be transparent, but I think it is more prudent to be translucent. Let the people see enough but not everything. Think of it like a see-through dress. If I wear the dress without a slip, you will see way too much and focus on what you shouldn’t have seen in the first place. On the other hand, if I wear the dress with an appropriate undergarment, then you will actually see the the dress.
Be prudent with what you share on social networks. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. You can’t get it back and you don’t know who will eventually see it because information can be copied, forwarded and printed.
Facebook and Twitter Haters
They’re not really haters but some people think social networking is a waste of time. There is a lot of nonsense out there that you don’t have to deal with if you set up your account properly. Social networks are great for gathering and sharing information. It’s not for everyone but for many, it’s a way of life. Use it wisely.
There is so much more that can be said that isn’t covered here. What can you add?