Social Media Etiquette & Ethics

Social Media is here is stay. We can’t ignore it. 79% of Americans have some kind of social profile. It is something we need to utilize in communicating with the church and the world around us. However, just like any tool, it can be used for good, or it can be used to destroy.

LET’S TALK

Over the years, I have seen posts by pastors and other leaders that have made me cringe. Too often, keyboard courage allows us the ability to take risks without owning the consequences. Here are two critical things to consider every time we post something:

First, our content. Every church should have a basic Social Media Policy to regulate what is posted (see resources below). For example, never post specific prayer requests without permission. Avoid vulgarity and coarse language. Be aware of personal postings such as social drinking that may offend others.

Here’s a principle to filter every online interaction:

If you don’t feel comfortable having a post written in the church bulletin,
including another churches’ bulletin, then don’t post it.

As leaders, what we express online is more than expressing an opinion. We must be mindful of the effect we have on others.  In fact, I believe that we are responsible for how our post leads others to react. We can’t dismiss that. Scripture warns us that our actions may even cause a brother or sister to stumble (Romans 14:13-23). It’s worth noting if you’re experiencing strong feelings of sadness or anger or frustration, this is not the time to post! Feel free to write the un-sent letter to process thoughts and feelings, but Social Media should not be a place for cathartic relief.

Second, our contacts. Who is reading the post? One egregious error many former pastors and staff make is posting things about their former or newfound church. This is especially damaging when they still live in the same area (although the impact can reach thousands of miles away). For example, a general invitation to a new church or new ministry can seem benign, but they forget that most of their Facebook friends attend the former church. Who are you inviting? Even praising a new church casts a shadow on the former church. What does it imply about the past church?

I remember posting a blog when Christmas landed on a Sunday. Unbeknownst to me, I had published an opinion that contradicted the new pastor at my old church. When confronted about this, I realized that I was wrong. Many of the people reading the blog were from my old church, and I had unintentionally become divisive. Yikes!

We need to remember when we post on our personal page that it’s essentially the same as posting on a church page. It’s often the same audience. With social media, there is no distinction between public and personal pages.

BEFORE YOU GO

So what other advice would you give regarding Social Media? What are some of your experiences with Social Media, both good or bad?

Here are some links from Church Tech Today to explore a Social Media Policy for you and your church:

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Carl Duhrkoop says:

    Very timely, Supt. Randy.
    The principles you cite here or the misuse of these principles are the reasons I, and many other believers have fled from social media.
    I realize that if I were an active minister instead of being retired I would need some kind of presence on social media, but these principles and others should be taught to current pastors in either a zoom room setting or in pastoral seminars. There must be an understanding of the balance between the potential for doing good for the Kingdom and harming the Kingdom.
    Thanks for your insight.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jim Saemenes says:

    I find my self in agreement with much of this blog post. It reminded me of discussions in my earlier days in ministry regarding a Pastor writing a letter to the editor in local newspapers. Many of the same arguments that you raise in your blog were raised then also. Some of the same distinctions that were around then still apply today.

    Guidelines can be established by a church for their Pastors and staff. This was done earlier also. If the Pastor and/or staff were speaking on behalf of the church then that needed to be made perfectly clear. If however, the Pastor was responding just as an individual that needed to be clear also. I remember seeing statements when this was done to the effect of “These feeling and or statements are the personal belief, feeling and or statements of the writer and as such are the personal statements and in no way reflective of and thoughts, beliefs or feeling of _________ church.” The Pastor of the church that I grew up in did this on occasion when writing to the paper in a non-official way about an issue.

    It was then and still is a thorny issue. Though more prominent now it is worthy of continued thought and discussion as we navigate the choppy waters of social media.

    Liked by 1 person

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