10May

10 Things We Wish Pastors Would “Get” About Social Media

evangelism, sharing your faith online, Twitter, Facebook, Christians, pastors

Is your pastor connecting with the world on social networks?

 

Where there is no wise guidance, the nation falls, but in the multitude of counselors there is victory. ~Prov. 11:14

by Toni Birdsong
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.

Do you think Pastors need to be in the online space? Why or why not?

Post/tweet this today:
You will either influence the world or the world will influence you. What’s it gonna be Christ follower? #LiveSticky

 

You’ll never look at social networking the same. Get your copy of @stickyJesus: how to live out your faith online TODAY!

  • http://www.tonyjalicea.com Tony Alicea

    Great list but #4 stands out to me specifically because it works in general. I see it with pastors but so many use social media as a trumpet rather than a round table. I’ve narrowed my criteria to following people on Twitter to 2 things. 1) They are a real person with a name and a picture. If it is an organization, I have to know who they are or actually be interested in what they do. 2) They have to have @ replies in their stream.

    Facebook and Twitter are not just platforms for marketing your message. That’s spammy and not influential at all.

  • Anonymous

    @tonyjalicea:disqus awesome response and a great criteria for curating a “genuine” list on Twitter. Good advice we should all adopt. I pray God carry this message to open hearts. Roundtables over trumpets. Excellent!

  • Melinda Ysaguirre

    This is an Awesome list-Those of us in the flock, are making billboards of our lives in social media.
    We routinely lay out the bible verses that God has laid on our heart, we prayerfully devote and tithe our time ministering to ALL sheep (black and white), we pass on portions of our day that glorify God and bring us joy, some of us find comfort and healing when sharing the jagged edges of our brokenness.

    Why do I think Pastors need to be online?
    Pastors have the gifts of prayer, praise, love, and encouragement-pass it on to us.
    Pastors ride bikes, make house calls, and have a sense of humor-pass it on to us.
    Pastors face challenges. Pastors find Eternal hope in Christ-pass it on to us.

    Thanks so much for igniting our hearts in passion, faith, and reassurance. Your words continually feed and care for the shepherds and the sheep in the fields!

    Bless you dear friends.
    You. Are. Loved.

  • Melinda Ysaguirre

    This is an Awesome list-Those of us in the flock, are making billboards of our lives in social media.
    We routinely lay out the bible verses that God has laid on our heart, we prayerfully devote and tithe our time ministering to ALL sheep (black and white), we pass on portions of our day that glorify God and bring us joy, some of us find comfort and healing when sharing the jagged edges of our brokenness.

    Why do I think Pastors need to be online?
    Pastors have the gifts of prayer, praise, love, and encouragement-pass it on to us.
    Pastors ride bikes, make house calls, and have a sense of humor-pass it on to us.
    Pastors face challenges. Pastors find Eternal hope in Christ-pass it on to us.

    Thanks so much for igniting our hearts in passion, faith, and reassurance. Your words continually feed and care for the shepherds and the sheep in the fields!

    Bless you dear friends.
    You. Are. Loved.

  • Melinda Ysaguirre

    This is an Awesome list-Those of us in the flock, are making billboards of our lives in social media.
    We routinely lay out the bible verses that God has laid on our heart, we prayerfully devote and tithe our time ministering to ALL sheep (black and white), we pass on portions of our day that glorify God and bring us joy, some of us find comfort and healing when sharing the jagged edges of our brokenness.

    Why do I think Pastors need to be online?
    Pastors have the gifts of prayer, praise, love, and encouragement-pass it on to us.
    Pastors ride bikes, make house calls, and have a sense of humor-pass it on to us.
    Pastors face challenges. Pastors find Eternal hope in Christ-pass it on to us.

    Thanks so much for igniting our hearts in passion, faith, and reassurance. Your words continually feed and care for the shepherds and the sheep in the fields!

    Bless you dear friends.
    You. Are. Loved.

  • http://www.fakingcreativity.com Jonathan Malm

    I think the key for pastors getting online…is people who are currently using the medium well to coach them through how it will work for them. I’ve been working with pastors on staff here…showing them each time I have a “social media success story”…and show how it will contribute to their ministry goals. now they’re tweeting, blogging, facebooking fools! :)

  • Tami Heim

    Good for you @jonathanmalm:disqus – It doesn’t have to be complicated and we need their leadership in the place where people are spending 110 Billion minutes a month. Thanks for your heart to serve them and for adding to the conversation here.

  • Tami Heim

    Thanks @e9c56dea90a6f8d6d514b37d605e1aa1:disqus
    Ministry opportunities abound as people ‘share the jagged edges of their brokenness.’ The digital harvest is just as white online as it is anywhere else.
    We love that you are always ready to – pass it on. Praying our pastors will, too.
    L.Y.I.

  • Anonymous

    I love that @e9c56dea90a6f8d6d514b37d605e1aa1:disqus you are so right. We love and look up to them for leadership and they are anointed, chosen, and gifted to lead in the areas of prayer & wisdom. We need them. As @jonathanmalm:disqus noted, if another pastor or church member can lead a pastor into digital waters with confidence—that’s our contribution to the online influence equation. That’s the BODY of Christ. We are SO much better together!

  • Anonymous

    I love that @e9c56dea90a6f8d6d514b37d605e1aa1:disqus you are so right. We love and look up to them for leadership and they are anointed, chosen, and gifted to lead in the areas of prayer & wisdom. We need them. As @jonathanmalm:disqus noted, if another pastor or church member can lead a pastor into digital waters with confidence—that’s our contribution to the online influence equation. That’s the BODY of Christ. We are SO much better together!

  • Martiveto

    My pastor quips that he is the only one at pastor meetings who has a paper calendar. And he isn’t ‘old’, just a late adopter. I do know that he has a new ipad however, so he is stepping in the right direction. I’d like to receive tweets from him because he is so adept at inspiring me in 15 minutes each Sunday, I’m sure he can do it in 140 characters. And it wouldn’t always have to be a spiritual message. If pastors were sharing some of their daily thoughts and activities, sending links to some fun, relevant info as well as evangelical messaging, then ‘hello’! you’ve just become someone to whom a person (even a person who doesn’t have a church home) can relate. And isn’t ‘relating’ the first step in ‘relationship’?

  • Tami Heim

    @cb8909f8838c9f79f9ca6861662d9aac:disqus yes – relating is about ‘relationship’. Love and encourage your pastor as he becomes more comfortable in this space and with technology. Some are just a little slower jumping in, but that in no way minimizes the potential impact they can have once they do. Social media is a perfect way for them to reach many – often. Let him know how much you appreciate him and invite him to join in the conversation online. Maybe He just needs to know from you – it matters and why.

  • http://www.facebook.com/0andyharper0 Andy Harper

    I’ve been doing number four badly, gonna have to change

  • Nancy

    The average pastor has a congregation of 100, makes less than $30,000, and carries a second job. So the idea of being online is intimidating to say the least. Combine being on line with semons, vistations, counseling, etc – and it’s overwhelming. Any suggestions on how to be on line without feeling like you’re abandoning time with your family?

  • Tami Heim

    You will be amazed @facebook-1047927465:disqus when you make that subtle shift what happens. Thanks for opening your heart to what is possible when you do!

  • Tami Heim

    The things that come to mind – first pray and let God lead. Be intentional – know why you are going in and what you want to accomplish. Set boundaries on time. Make it part of the daily routine workday. What we’re talking about is using social networks as a ministry tool – not something to take from family time. Resorting priorities and finding activities to STOP doing is also a good practice when someone needs to find more time or margin in life.

    Time online can be overwhelming and consuming, if you let it. Like everything else it’s a choice and it requires wise stewardship. Today’s reality – this is where the people are and where a pastor can stay close to the heartbeat of those he serves and leads.

    Thanks, @b4addf3e52a6c2cd45b779ca5875350c:disqus for presenting some of the real challenges that come with this cyber territory.

    Check out this link to Pastor Scott Williams. He has some thoughts on this topic:

    http://www.churchleaders.com/outreach-missions/outreach-missions-videos/150621-scott_williams_digital_missions_sociual_media_church_online_and_online_outreach.html

  • http://WomensBibleCafe.com LifeVerse-Christine Smith

    I’ve been trying to get my pastors to do this for two years. I even offered to come in and teach them, or pay for a blog designer for them. They pastor a church of 8,000 people and don’t understand that these men and women want to connect daily, not just on Sunday. They want to be led daily, not just during a two hour service. Pastors RISE UP and embrace technology. And we don’t want to see photos of your dog or vacation; we want to hear your words of faith and encouragement. Pull some words from your sermons and tweet them or write a short blog. Be visible…the rest of the world is already there. The enemy is there too…so a pastor presence online will certainly help. I lead 1600 women from around the world in online bible study…and the ability to spread the Word outside the church walls is phenomenal. Blessings to you for writing this post.

  • http://WomensBibleCafe.com LifeVerse- Christine Smith

    If you use automated services such as TweetAdder, you do not need to be physically online to share your message. You can copy and paste words from a sermon into a tweet later list, and let it autorun. You can also set a countdown timer and limit your online investment to 15 minutes a day. When the timer goes off, you’re done. In larger churches such as mine, a staff person would fill this social media role and send tweets on the pastor’s behalf.

  • Tami Heim

    @1a3826644485830324f092cb8e004c36:disqus , you have great vision for what is possible and it’s inspiring to see how you use social media to connect God’s Word to the hearts of so many. Praying with you that our pastors RISE UP, and use their influence here for the glory of God.

  • http://profiles.google.com/chrishollysmith89 Holly Smith

    I just made some steps in making sure that my online relationships are two-way. It is disheartening to hear, “Follow me! Follow me!” And yet the very person is too busy to engage in conversation. Jesus would engage. I think that is what makes Him the love of my life–the One I follow. He listens. He speaks. Thank you, Toni, for sharing this!

  • http://profiles.google.com/chrishollysmith89 Holly Smith

    Sorry…it’s not logging me in as Holly Smith at A Martha Heart. I will try and re-register. :)

  • Anonymous

    I love social media because the proof is in the pudding (visible interaction). It doesn’t take long before you can tell who is engaged and who is just playing “secret salesman” or “psyche-I’m-a-celebrity.” Sometimes it takes years of meeting with people occasionally in the business world before the true colors come out. Social media *demands* engagement. And yes, @google-dd4b227bb8994719d1dadcc80d2d0b9d:disqus , I’d believe Jesus would engage here—I see His holy spirit every day. My formula is to walk my walk—the one God puts in front of me and to treat the people (not each and every one—which is idealistic) who connect with love, respect, and an awakened heart. We can’t do it perfectly every day but we can give it a *disciples* try (as opposed to a human try). Us + God = anything is possible. I see that every day in this space.

  • Anonymous

    Powerful, powerful input, @1a3826644485830324f092cb8e004c36:disqus. I had no idea your bible study was so big! You are living the digital disciples’ life. Never grow weary. I’ll try and come to your bible study sometime! Press on sister! :)

  • Anonymous

    Nancy – great point and I thought a lot about that when writing this. I have pastors who are friends. I can only imagine the daunting expectations they carry. The point is not to add “one more obligation” to a pastors list. Social media can actually be an “in reach” and fellowship builder in the body and help a pastor connect with many more people a week. He can point people to amazing Christian resources online, link to a past sermon that’s applicable to a problem (so he doesn’t have to re-preach to his flock 1 to 1), add scriptural expertise to a spiritual debate or cultural issue, and answer questions that many feel compelled to *make an appointment* for. Goodness—with one smart Facebook post he can eliminate the infighting going on over the Ladie’s Tea and never have to call that elder’s meeting. You get the point. If done right, social media can be a pastor’s best friend.

    As @1a3826644485830324f092cb8e004c36:disqus noted in an above comment, those who know social media in the church should come up beside pastors and give them a hand. This is taking place many places I’m sure. It really is easy, which is the whole reason we wrote stickyJesus: how to live out your faith online. This is an excellent book for pastors & all Christians to get their heads around this new technology.

    PS: Nothing replaces face-to-face visitations and fellowship, that we will never rally for. We need to continue to meet together and strengthen one another.

  • Anonymous

    I agree Marti. My pastor has embraced these connection points and I know it means the world to people. It builds the communication in the body and keep us all “holding one another up” until we see eachother on Sunday. His inspirations get to skip off the pulpit and come into my home each day because he take about 10 minutes a day to connect—nothing big but just enough to let us know he cares.

    I in turn get to share my pastors blog posts, videos, tweets and FB posts with people I went to high school with, past employers, and neighbors—mostly unchurched. How’s that for reaching people you don’t know?

  • Anonymous

    You are so sweet @facebook-1047927465:disqus . :)

  • Sharicharles

    Great insights,Tami!, Thxs for giving such practical, simple tips! I’m still getting on board with this powerful tool,so thanks for sharing where to start in such a practical way!

  • http://twitter.com/djfuters Jeff Futers

    I have been saying this or something like it for some time now. “I’m a big fan of social media. I firmly believe that, as leaders in the
    church, we are ignoring an entire demographic of our congregations if we
    choose not to participate. It can be a great tool for keeping people
    informed, inspired and involved.” This quote is from one of my blog posts which also notes a few cautions as we operate in the world of social media (http://jeffsrandomravings.blogspot.com/2011/03/who-do-you-follow.html). Thanks for such a great list of things we need to understand!

  • http://twitter.com/SoulSpartan Mathias John Seiwert

    Thought the article overall was fantastic–I love points 1, 2, and 5-10.

    I start to get squeamish, however, at admonitions like point 3:” Social media is a great way for you to get to know us. We don’t expect long conversations, just an acknowledgment 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.”

    Forgive me if I am totally off here; it’s just that the above statement seems bitter and with a bit of an edge; I am sure many have been burned by inattentive pastors in the past. But the pastors I serve with are fantastic individuals who strive to serve our local congregation in every way possible; nevertheless, I am sure there are at least a handful of folks weekly who feel slighted that we didn’t give them enough personal time, whether in person or otherwise. There doesn’t seem to be enough of us to go around.

    Nevertheless, thanks so much for sharing this; it encourages me to continue to utilize Facebook and Twitter to point others toward Jesus…

  • Steve

    Brilliant! I love this, great job Toni!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/rodneyehunt Rodney Hunt

    I am a pastor of spiritual formation at a large church in Georgia. I use twitter and facebook to connect with people almost daily. Due to the negative effects of facebook (affairs) i pulled out for a few months a year ago but soon realized that I shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. I didn’t need to retreat from this opportunity but engage in a way that was healthy and had accountability. Number 9 is an important point for pastors to follow.

    I try and make sure i am not using the platform as a “trumpet”. I think it is important to answer and comment on replies and to take equal time commenting on other people’s updates. I have also found it to be a great tool to reach out to people who are not Christ followers.

    Thanks for the article and encouragement to pastors to engage social media.

  • Tami Heim

    @facebook-748158528:disqus we are excited you are rethinking this one. We need your leadership in this space. You can be a great example for church and other Christ followers online. God honors willing and faithful hearts. Bless you pastor!

  • Tami Heim

    Thanks for your willingness to lead in this space. There is amazing power when the body of Christ unites and there is no greater time in history for us to do it. Thanks for joining the conversations @twitter-52086980:disqus and sharing some additional tips. Bless you!

  • Tami Heim

    @twitter-69796370:disqus this was done in love and with great respect. So sorry if you picked up an edge – that is truly not the heart of this post. So often we see pastors that never engage or acknowledge others in this space. We would never suggest a pastor feel the obligation to interact with everyone they personally know – the point is simply that a little nod goes a long way and there are ministry opportunities all around. Pastors just need to be mindful of their potential influence and impact when they are online. Sadly, people will always feel slighted. Unfortunately that’s something happens F2F as much as it does online. That comes with the position and call. We’re grateful you’re encouraged – that means the outcome intended was accomplished.

  • Tami Heim

    Thanks for the encouragement @c2e745d30386970766b12c913e692868:disqus and joining the conversation. We love our pastors and want to see them maximizing this space and leading us to do the same.

  • Mark Diatel

    Hey Pastor Jeff. Really liked your comment. Glad you went to this site

  • Anonymous

    Thanks @twitter-69796370:disqus for the awesome comment. I wrote #3 without any hidden agenda or bitterness. I’ve been blessed with great pastors as mentors and friends. All have been great communicators. My pastor now is engaged and rockin’ his social media channels. As Tami said, we spend a lot of time online and the comment was directed at pastors who are living in a bubble, with out the “awakened heart” we go into more depth in in our book. I could never be a pastor—I don’t have the patience or the love love required. Pastors are modern day superheroes to me! Thank you SO much for commenting—we value your opinion on this issue!

  • Anonymous

    Chris Forbes e-book on “Facebook for Pastors” changed my whole view on social networking (I was not a proponent and I work in IT!!!), thank you for reminding us…

  • http://www.facebook.com/Randolph.A.Wood Randy Wood

    @ Nancy: That’s where time must be found to prepare local leadership to take away some of the burden. The pastor need not be the one to do visitations, some hand-holding (if not trained to counsel), and some of the other face-face church socializing. If yiu have 100 people, surely there must be at least 5-10 you could train (John Maxwell’s books, maybe?) to help bear the burden.

  • http://www.wimpsforchrist.com M. Smith

    Great point Randy.  I’ve taken over the blog for my church.  Our pastor really wanted to build an online community through our website, but in reality he didn’t have the capacity to add one more thing to his plate.  I take notes on Sunday, post follow up points, relevant scripture, prayer prompts, and interviews with members.  I enjoy doing it and he can hop on as his schedule allows to add his input.

    There has to be someone in your church community who loves this environment and can help the pastor out.

  • Little Gumnut

    amen amen amen!  Love this article!

  • Collfosh

    Pastors (and leaders) absolutely need to be online. It’s the new neighborhood. Amazing bonding takes place between a pastor and his people as soon as they find out he “wants” to be online. This is true for Pastor’s wives as well – especially in smaller churches. Knowing the “first family” gets it goes a long way in boosting relational camaraderie. That doesn’t mean they have to live online or operate at the same level as the flock. Being there to greet, care and encourage is what most people are looking for, and all they expect. Great conversation post!  

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  • Tafumaz

    Walking this line is quite tough. It’s hard to strike a balance. If you marry the spirit of the season you will be a widow in the next! There are some methods which are appropriate for the noble cause of the Gospel and some which are totally unsuitable for the salvation of souls! I believe social networking has robbed this world of lots of productive hours (financially, physically, morally and SPIRITUALLY). This due to the addictive nature of social networks… Spiritual messages: Our people have become spiritual beggars, living off spiritual handouts from pastors, elders, etc. They no longer realize the importance of “reading the Word for yourself” and meditating upon it! Iam not for this one

  • Steven Gin

    About fear of social media base on rumors? Some pastors do fear it and do use it as a media for preaching the Gospel or if one of his flock use this media on issues that is near and dear to their heart and the pastor see it and remove that article from it. How this person try to tell his pastor that there is problems with both of them but he does show the compassion nor the respect for that person. In turn that person shows a total disrespect for the pastor to get his attention. This is wrong but it was the only means to get his attention where all else fail. Maybe he will listen now.