The Risk and Rewards of Pastoral Facebook Pages

While advocating for social media and online engagement by pastors and church staff, I’m continually asked about parameters for engagement. The problem is that every situation is unique. There’s not a one-size-fits-all recommendation for social media and online engagement by pastors and church staff.

Facebook is different than Twitter, and both of those are different than the world of blogging. Since Facebook is the most popular platform, it is often the most used and most abused by church members. A pastor or church staff member on Facebook can be a valuable resource to church members as well as a big target.

The Pros

There are many positives for pastors and church staff who are active on Facebook.

  1. Your members are there. Because it’s the most used platform, your church members are likely to be there, too. It makes communication easier for you and the church.
  2. Your members can see that you have a life outside of church. Because of the ease of sharing pictures and events from your everyday life, members can get to know more about you as a person. They get to see that you have a life outside of your job at the church.
  3. You are easy to connect with and contact. Because of the ease of connection on Facebook, church members and community members can connect with you and, by extension, the church. Facebook can become a great outreach tool if you connect well with those in the church and community through its platform.

The Cons

Ironically, the positives that Facebook can bring you online can also be negatives.

  1. Your members are there. Church members can see everything you say or do online. Things can easily be misconstrued, misinterpreted, or misrepresented. I’ve seen something as simple as changing ones profile picture lead to an inquisition about searching for a new job.
  2. Your members can see that you have a life outside of church. Churches are often busy. Church staffs are often even busier. But what about that one event not in your area of ministry that you choose not to attend? The one you skipped for your kid’s play or for a trip with lifelong friends? You can almost expect someone to be upset you chose something else over him or her. It’s not fair. It’s not right. But it will likely happen.
  3. You are easy to connect with and contact. For many pastors or church staff members, their busiest time on Facebook is often Sunday mornings. People often post or message them about being out of town or being sick or needing someone to fill in. Because of the ease of access, Facebook connections are subject to abuse by church members at times.

You might expect me to weigh the pros and cons and determine whether or not you should be on the platform—but that is for you to decide. As for me, even with the cons, the positives of Facebook and the opportunities it presents for ministry far outweigh the temporary frustrations of the negatives.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathan Howe

Jonathan Howe serves as Director of Strategic Initiatives at LifeWay Christian Resources, the host and producer of Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week. Jonathan writes weekly at ThomRainer.com on topics ranging from social media to websites and church communications. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Howe.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

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