No doubt, more pastors are jumping into the social media conversation. Still, many more have yet to “get it.” If we could, we’d (respectfully) give pastors some straight talk about the untapped power of social networks for sharing the gospel and their role in the equation. If you are a youth pastor you can multiply the importance of this post by 10.
So, dear pastors, here are 10 things we’d love for you to understand about social media:
1. Technology + influence = power. The church needs a voice at the online table locally, nationally and globally. Political systems are being influenced (and overthrown) via social networks. The church needs to be in the conversation influencing the culture with God’s word—not the other way around. This influence needs to start with our pastors, our leaders.
2. Your city is online. The unchurched you seek to reach—within 20 miles of your sanctuary—live on social networks. Do a city search here and follow them on Twitter. Share your values, listen to theirs, and genuinely connect. If you connect with your church family on Facebook, you also potentially connect with their neighbors and friends who may not know Christ. Your reach as a pastor becomes wider, your influence, deeper.
3. Get to know your flock—online. We joyfully know everything about you. We know your wife’s hobbies, your kids’ favorite sports, when you go fishing, and when Pastor appreciation day is. Social media is a great way for you to get to know us. We don’t expect long conversations, just an acknowlegment now and then, a show of support for our families, or nod or prayer toward our ups and downs. We also have blogs, ministries, and Facebook pages—just like you, so drop by and interact with us the way we are quick to interact with you.
4. Social media is social. If you are online, pastor, understand “social” is a two-way street. Your social network is not your second pulpit. If you think it’s cool to have 10,000 followers and only follow 10 people, think again. Social platforms provide a place for you to engage, grow, respond, give, and comment. We do not ache to see a stream of your blog links, sermon links, or 24/7 scriptures. If you present a one-way conversation, you risk looking arrogant and only confirm in a public forum that you don’t understand the genuine nature and power of social networks.
5. Yes, it really is this easy. The enemy doesn’t want Christians—especially pastors—online. The communication channel is too powerful. If we do get online, he hopes we will misuse our time there. So keep it simple, pastor. Choose a few tools and roll—but please, roll. Choosing a few tools like Tweetdeck, Twuffer.com, Twitter lists, and social mobile apps, can keep you in touch with thousands of people a day! The last thing we want is for you to have another “thing” taking up your time. We just want you to connect briefly. It will cost you about an hour or two a week.
6. You can encourage thousands weekly. We need you and you need us. We need you to pray for us and come up beside us in life, and we are eager to do the same for you. We struggle and often we post those struggles on our Facebook walls or in our blogs. Please, meet us where we are.
7. Do what you can do—but do something. We will not hold you to a digital standard or get our feelings hurt if you don’t respond or regularly connect with us online. We get it. We don’t want our pastor living online (in fact, please don’t).
8. We’re sharing our lives in a 140 characters. Despite the rumors, we aren’t having affairs and wasting all our time online (at least not everyone is). There’s great conversation, prayer, edification, ideas, news, and wisdom exchanged every day online. There’s also grieving, praying, and spiritual dilemmas raised. We’d love for you to add your insight and fellowship to the mix from time to time.
9. A higher standard is needed. The conduct bar is all over the place for non-Christians as well as Christians online. The value line moves on a whim and the accountability is slim. Your presence would help keep the conversation bar high. Your words and the way you handle situations online provide critical discipleship. So, please show up and we can work on this together—as the body of Christ.
10. Jesus is tweeting, so why not you? The Holy Spirit is everywhere you click. Miracles are happening and lives are being transformed. It makes sense for Pastors to be where the action is—and where your influence is critical.
Toni Birdsong and Tami Heim, are the co-authors of @stickyJesus: how to live out your faith online. They are both branding and marketing specialists by trade but their greater mission is teaching Christians how to share the gospel authentically in their social networks. They author the popular www.stickyJesus.com, an equipping hub for online outreach. You’ll also find them heating up the conversation on Twitter. This article is copyrighted 2011 by Digital Scribe Press. Used by permission.