I’ve always been a big fan of social media. It’s easier than ever to connect with old friends and “meet” new ones, to share information worldwide, and to stay up-to-date on events and activities around town. I love that my friends are on social media, my grandmother is on social media, and even my church is on social media.
It’s amazing to me how many people I have met at my church who mention that they first heard of our location or congregation because of a Google search or something they saw on Facebook. Social media has now become a ministry tool, and it’s a powerful one churches should take advantage of in their outreach. Websites, Facebook pages, and even Twitter or Instagram accounts can give churches opportunities to engage with people who might never have stepped foot in a sanctuary otherwise.
If you have spent five minutes on any social media platform, though, you’ve most likely seen the ugly side to the Internet. Hiding behind keyboards and screens, it’s easy for users to comment with rude remarks, start arguments, or stir up trouble.
What happens, then, when churches are the ones on the receiving end of social media criticism, complaints, or general unfriendliness? How should the church social media managers of respond when they see or hear negative feedback?
Jonathan Howe recently shared an article called “How to Deal with Social Media Criticism of Your Church,” stating that “regardless of the nature of the initial criticism, your response should always show Christ’s love.”
He gives six guidelines to keep in mind:
- Apologize. “A posture of humility represents our Savior well and can often diffuse a tense online exchange.” The criticism might be truthful or it might not be, but humbling yourself enough to genuinely apologize often softens the user’s attitude and creates an opportunity for resolution.
- Address the problem with the critic. This is a challenging but necessary course of action. The critic might indeed be correct, in which case their complaint should be graciously accepted and a promise to fix the issue should be made. If the critic is incorrect, however, the response should be equally gracious. A gentle, honest explanation should be given, not a defensive or aggressive one.
- Take corrective action if needed. If indeed a mistake was made on the church’s part, it should be corrected quickly and thoroughly.
- Ask for another chance. “They may not take you up on the offer,” Howe says, “but at least you have tried to reconcile (Romans 12:18).”
- Keep a record of complaints. “Keeping a record of the criticisms you receive allows you to track patterns to eliminate the criticism before it comes,” Howe explains. “If you notice a pattern, be preemptive and address the issue before negativity is directed your way.”
- Never compromise biblical fidelity. “Always hold your ground when it comes to standing on the Word of God. Compromise is not acceptable in these instances,” Howe says. Direct these critics back to the Bible or to other resources that will help give context to the topic or controversy at hand, or offer to meet in person to further explain your church’s Scriptural or doctrinal stance.
Don’t let the potential for criticisms or complaints keep your church from actively engaging with people online. While there is always the potential for negativity, there is also great opportunity for sharing the good news of the Gospel and expanding the reach of your church through the vast networks of users online.
Pam and Bill Farrel shared a lighthearted list of “The Beatitudes of Social Media” on Crosswalk.com, and this one gives all of us a great context to consider as we communicate and share online:
“Blessed are those who use an inner GPS. God promises to bless those who walk in integrity (Psalms 84:11). We encourage people to create an inner GPS and ask three questions before saying or doing anything.
Does this decision show respect for:
Remember, whether you are the one managing a social media account or visiting it, your words are a reflection of who you are. Let’s strive to reflect Christ well in all of our actions and interactions online!
Publication date: April 14. 2016
Rachel Dawson is the editor of BibleStudyTools.com