It’s no secret that I’m a fan of social media. These apps and sites have become places where I’ve engaged with new communities, shared snippets of my life, stayed connected with friends, and followed influential people from a variety of spheres.
It’s a pretty unique part of our world today that we can have such direct access to celebrities, athletes, artists, authors, and even church leaders through social media. We can see what they’re up to, read what they’re thinking, and generally follow along with their lives. I follow quite a few pastors, church leaders, and Christian speakers online, and I learn a lot from both what they share and how they share it.
Their content is often encouraging and inspiring to me as I go throughout my day... but sometimes, they make mistakes.
Jonathan Howe shared an article this week called “Most Common Mistakes Pastors and Church Leaders Make on Social Media”. His points are convicting. These social media channels give leaders platforms and a wider audience they might not have had otherwise, and the consequences of making mistakes online can be weighty and long-lasting.
Let’s look at a few of the seven most common mistakes Howe shared and use them as a warning guide that will lead to better and wiser online behavior.
- Theological warring. There are few arguments that can be won in 140 characters, yet it’s common that church leaders try to fight these battles online. “We would be good to remember James 1:19-20 and “be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness” (HCSB),” Howe shares. “Unfortunately, we too often turn our anger up to 11 online and the result is burned bridges and a damaged gospel witness.” I know I’ve never personally changed my mind about something I believe because of a tweet or a Facebook post, so it’s best that we don’t use social media to try to convince other people of what is right in our minds. How about instead we use social media as a place of encouragement and sharing snippets of truth?
- Forgetting the permanence of social media. I admit there have been things I’ve shared hastily online that I quickly regretted. Anyone out there could grab a screenshot of what I share, and it could easily be used against me in the future. We’ve all been warned that everything on the Internet stays there forever even if we try to delete it, and we should be sure to share intentionally and cautiously. How about we take a moment to think before we hit “publish” to make sure we’re okay with this content living forever?
- Forgetting who is watching. Even if you have just a handful of followers, you have followers. You have an audience of people that you may or may not know well who are taking in what you’re putting out there. Some may be close friends or family, but chances are for most church leaders, many aren’t. Howe shares: “Every time I tweet something, more than 4,000 people could read it. Please don’t take that as being prideful. My point is that I fall into the trap of thinking my Twittersphere consists of just me and a few of my friends. I forget about the other 3,990 people who don’t know what I’m doing at the time of the tweet or have little context for my comments. It’s easy for our tweets to be taken the wrong way when we are not precise with our words.” How about we consider before sharing that a close friend, a family member, a stranger, a church leader, and a child are reading? Let’s view our content through those lenses before we post.
- Retweeting compliments. It can be tempting to retweet a compliment from an adoring fan or repost an encouraging message, but it often comes across to followers as prideful boasting. “Even worse,” Howe says, “when we make it a pattern of our online behavior, we become like a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal—our content becomes empty and hollow.” How about we acknowledge compliments and encouragement privately instead of blasting it out to the rest of our followers in a bragging way?
Church leaders (and everyone else, too!)-- your presence online has influence, and it should be used wisely, humbly, and conscientiously. For more common mistakes, read the rest of Howe’s article here.
Publication date: June 2, 2016
Rachel Dawson is the editor of BibleStudyTools.com