A lot has been written about what the church’s communications staff wish their pastors knew about social media. I’ve written my fair share of open letters, blog posts and emails encouraging pastors to get online and engage people on various digital platforms, and I still believe pastors need to do this.
Of course, there’s the other side of the coin. There are things about social media that our pastors would want us know. While yes, we want them want to engage more online, there are things that are equally as important to pastors. Some of these things may seem small to you, but in their eyes, they can be a big deal.
Below, you’ll find six things your pastor wants you know about social media. How do I know this? Well, I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking to pastors, and these are the six common themes that keep recurring in our conversations.
These things aren’t outrageous requests or yearning to return to a time of no internet and church newsletters. Instead, these are things that can be easily learned and practiced by your communications team.
1. Measure Twice, Cut One
Social media, by its nature, pushes you to be first. First with the link, first with the comment on an event, and first to discover some piece of news. You want to be first. You can call it FOMO (fear of missing out) or just our desire to win, but social media pushes us there.
The problem is, when we’re driven to be first, we end up making more mistakes than we need to. When you’re representing your church online, it’s more important you’re accurate than being first.
Why would your pastor care about this? Well, if you’re like most churches, the pastor is the face of the church; that means they typically get the brunt of the complaints. Save your pastor the grief of dealing with angry emails, and work on being accurate.
2. Champion the Church
There are some really funny parody Twitter accounts out there (Church Curmudgeon, etc…), all of which poke fun at church life. Now, most of these accounts are meant to be in good taste and aren’t designed to tear down anyone.
However, you need to be careful with humor online. One joke goes wrong on Twitter and you can put your church in a whole different light. Remember, one of the key things social media should do for your church is champion the church and the people that work there. There’s enough negativity and sarcasm on the internet, and you don’t need to add to it.
3. Privacy is Valuable
Most Church Social Media Directors I know are pretty public people. They don’t have a problem sharing photos of family and other life details with the general public. However, not all church staff members are comfortable with being public.
Some staff will refuse to be open to their personal lives on social media, and that’s okay. Social media isn’t for everyone. Your pastor may be one of these people. If they don’t want to interact online, that’s okay. There are plenty of other ways to increase the digital presence of your pastor (click here for an example) without making them participate in #throwbackthursday.
4. Brevity is Not Always Best
While 140 characters are great for keeping things to the point, it’s not always the best for deep issues. There are moments when you simply can’t explain something in 140 characters or an infographic. Sometimes, what is required is a long conversation, or even multiple conversations, depending on the subject.
For example, take the statement, “will I go to hell if I _______?”. If someone tweeted you that question you could write a quick response that may answer their question, but it probably will never to get the question behind the question. Brevity doesn’t allow for that.
So what’s the solution? Take the conversation offline. Meet face to face if possible, or over the phone if distance is an issue. Take the time to explore the topic and have a thorough conversation.
5. They Need a Hall Pass
Sometimes, your pastor needs a hall pass from social media. There are days, or maybe weeks, where their world is turned upside down (funerals, hospital visits, marriage counseling…) and they may not have the mental energy to engage properly on social media.
When my pastor tells me he’s having “one of those weeks,” I tell him it’s okay and we’ll go at it again next week. There’s no point in me pushing him to give me content. I don’t know what kind of week he’s had and what he’s seen or heard. (To be honest, I don’t really want to know.)
Your pastor needs to allow their calling to remain the first thing in their life. Sometimes that means things like social media need to take a backseat while they deal with the issues right in front of them.
6. Your Pastor Needs You to be Their Resource
If you’re on a church communications staff, then your pastor is looking to you for guidance. For a lot of pastors, the digital world is somewhat overwhelming and they probably feel it bit underprepared (FYI, they don’t cover social media or the internet in most seminaries, but they should).
You pastor needs you to make sure they’re not embarrassing themselves online. If they’re not sure if they doing something right, they need to feel they can come to you without feeling like an idiot. They need you to gently encourage them and give them small wins so they can build up their confidence in the social media skill set.
How do you champion your pastor and your church online? Click here to share below.