Social media has many favorable attributes and can serve a church and a pastor well, with access to an immediate audience and an amazing platform. But much is required in the way social media is utilized. There must be an intentional approach to its use, as well as an understanding and sensitivity to the way most people process social media feeds.
I’ve seen situations with pastors unfold with a great deal of interest, I have had the opportunity to talk to ministry leaders about the rules of engagement for social media which brings positive effects to the church experience—through it, followers feel more connected because they can interact with pastors and leaders as they address issues inside and outside the realm of the pulpit. Social media is an essential part of modern evangelism. However, it can also go wrong. People do not just go online to see what others are doing, they posts and actively engage as well causing posts to go viral. The right shares, right audience alongside topics at hand in the post can affect one’s reputation either positively or negatively. When that occurs, a post can gain a life of its own, providing a sort of popularity.
How can you take advantage of the benefits social media offers to ministries without affecting your status? Here are some key guiding principles as you consider your church’s social media efforts.
- MIND WHAT YOU POST AND WHAT OTHERS POST ABOUT YOU.
If you’re in the pulpit, there is a great likelihood that your comments will find their way into someone’s social media post. As previously discussed, social media users are not passive participants or spectators in their social media worlds. They are engaged, and they post content. If you say something that evokes some emotion—good or bad—expect that, just as they react to your words live, there is a chance that someone will post the information online. We all do it: whether it’s a caption, a meme, a video, or a photo that makes us laugh or cry, we quickly hit the “like” or “share” button. With that in mind, consider anything stated or published publicly, by you or by the church, to be accessible.
- PLAGIARISM. A pastor can easily find himself committing plagiarism. Many people think of plagiarism as copying another’s work or borrowing someone else’s original ideas. But terms like “copying” and “borrowing” can disguise the seriousness of the offense. In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else’s work and lying about it afterward. When posting on a social media, church leaders should remember that it is okay to copy their materials but they should be duly referenced, authorized use can be obtained via payment for a licensing fee or by expressed consent from the original creator of the work. Obtaining permission for use also applies to photographs and even digital images.
- CONTROL HOW YOU WANT TO BE SEEN
One of the challenges when a post goes viral is that it is not always in context. Should anything ever be taken out of context, there will then be substance in the internet ecosystem that speaks more loudly about who you are and what you represent. That is how you respond to previous contemporary issues, plan your approach, and couch in love and respect. Your church’s internet presence and social media footprint whether on Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere often serve as your church’s first impression to the world. It is a face that you present in much the same way that your greeters and ushers make a first impression to visitors. That is how you respond to previous contemporary issues, plan your approach, and couch in love and respect
- FREEDOM OF SPEECH
Freedom of speech I can guarantee you but freedom after speech…………you know the rest. Many people believe that what they post on social media is their business, their opinion suffice to say that there is freedom of speech. “Free speech,” however, is a concept that is often misunderstood. The basis of free speech is protection from governmental interference and constraint. As such, if you are a public employee, you have some free speech protection because you work for the government. But if you work in a church as a leader or pastor, you do not have the same free speech protection, and social media posts even on private. One preventive step churches can take to address this issue is to create a sort of social media security or regulations for religious organizations to regulate the right or wrongs.