When social media language becomes commonplace (using "friend" as a verb, feeling the need to post a picture of a sunset/meal/sandwich, using the word hashtag in conversation, etc.) it's obvious this is a major player in our lives. If we took the major social media networks, they would be among the largest nations in the world. Churches (and leaders) need to be savvy in this field, because this is where people are. It serves as a tool for outreach, for connections, for distributing information, and for content delivery. But with that ubiquitous presence comes the inevitable time you post something you regret.
Because our social media presence is in many ways an extension of ourselves, it's becoming an increasingly popular filtering process for hiring (and firing) people. I'll admit, one of the first things I did when we were looking to fill a ministry role recently was to look them up on Facebook and Twitter. Thom Rainer published a great article today on understanding how social media has cost people ministry positions.
As leaders, our presence is magnified online. What we post matters. It matters because our thread will get read more than others, because others are listening, and because we have the currency of trust with people. We have to ask ourselves some questions when engaging online.
1. Is what I'm posting true? I love Babylon Bee and The Onion. Thankfully most people get they're satire sites. But sadly so many ministry leaders post ridiculous claims that have been debunked, are misleading, or are from incredibly untrustworthy sources. You get a couple chances before people treat you like the boy who cried wolf.
2. Is what I'm sharing unnecessarily divisive? This starts with the toxic political climate we're in, but it extends beyond that. Are we taking stands for orthodoxy, mission, Christ, and non-negotiable issues, or are we using our page to pick fights with people who disagree on minor issues?
3. Will what I post turn off the lost? We can use our social media presence to amplify our ministry and evangelism. Or we can use it to get on people's nerves and make them hit the "Unfollow" button.
4. Will I be OK if this goes viral? People can quickly get "Internet Famous" but with that comes a quick blowback from trolls. If you post something and it blows up, are you going to be ok with what might come from that?
5. Am I just getting into a wrestling match with a pig? I think it's important for leaders to engage on social media, and to get involved in comments and replies. But sometimes we need to walk away. Ed Stetzer said it best: "Getting into an argument online is like wrestling a pig. You both get covered in mud. And the pig likes it."
6. Am I using my social media to edify and encourage, or tear down and snark? Wit and sarcasm have their place online. But when your constant theme is to be like the two guys from the Muppet Show, you're not doing much to build up the Body. You're becoming another angry Twitter hack. Instead, use your social media presence to edify and encourage. Share good resources. Post relevant and helpful content.
7. Have I considered if what I'm posting reflects Philippians 4:8? Whatever you might think is funny or what your favorite movie might be, sometimes it's just not worth it to share for the entire world to see. By putting the lens of Philippians 4:8 we're able to ask ourselves if what we're posting is a reflection of the faith we claim.
And this final question to sum up all seven:
Is what I'm about to post really necessary? Sometimes we just need to not push send. Or share. Or comment. We rarely will get frustrated or flustered over things that matter and that deserve our attention. We mostly get flustered when someone says something dumb, or makes a snide comment, or posts something ridiculous. In those cases, chill. Relax. And ignore. Let someone else wrestle the pig.
What about you? What other questions would you have before social media posts?
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.