Facebook can be very helpful to pastors. It helps us to know how to pray. It is a great avenue for communicating your message, making announcements, establishing connections, helping people to laugh, and a host of other things.
It’s also a headache.
Here are 7 ways that Facebook makes pastoring a little more difficult:
- Expectations. Your beloved Aunt Gertrude just died. You post of your sadness on Facebook. And only Facebook. Your Pastor doesn’t call. He doesn’t send flowers. He doesn’t respond to your status update. Nothing. What a jerk!!! Or, is it possible that he simply isn’t on Facebook all the time? Maybe he didn’t see it. Social media has upped the expectations for pastoral response.
- Faux problems. People vent about really silly things on Facebook. And they often do it in language that requires a Rosetta Stone program to decipher. All you really know is that person X is fed up with people Y and that they need to mind their own business. So, when a pastor is scrolling through his news feed and sees these little spats what is he to do? Does he call and make sure everything is okay—only to find out that the status was really about the pain of getting onions on your McRib when you clearly said “no onions”?
- Public error. Not every church member is theologically astute. Some are baby Christians. As such they are a little quicker to spread theological error—if not outright heresy. So what should a pastor do? If he confronts all of these cute little pictures with terrible theology, then he’s going to look like a self-righteous jerk. If he lets them go, is he protecting the flock?
- Pictures. Pastor’s should know their flock. But there are some ways that pastors should definitely not know their flock. Like what they look like in a bikini. You don’t have to intentionally click on these pictures to be exposed to them. You just have to be scrolling down your news feed.
- Faux relationships. On social media we get to project ourselves as we want to be. We get to hit backspace when we say something dumb. We can even edit our comments now. That’s not really something you can do in real face to face human interaction. Social media can make a pastor think he knows someone in his flock—but he really doesn’t. He only knows the social media construct.
- Time. The pastor goes on Facebook to put an announcement up about the Thursday night fish fry. Three hours later he’s defeated 17 levels of candy crush, owns his own imaginary baseball team, and solved four murder mysteries. Though his sermon will be terrible on Sunday, he at least has rescued several CGI pets.
- Terrible counselors. If the pastor is wise and stays off of Facebook for most of his week—he’ll be saddened to know that much of his flock has been seeking counsel on Facebook. Those faux problems and vent statuses will be answered by someone. And there is a pretty good likelihood that they’ll be feeding them full of self-help garbage.
I have to confess that I don’t have the answer to several of these problems created by Facebook. I know that I lean towards only seldom using it. I think those that would expect a response from me are aware that I don’t typically scroll through my newsfeed. If they need me to notice something I encourage them to send me a message. I get those.
I avoid pictures. I don’t usually respond to drama. I pray for people, but not nearly as many as I could or should.
How do you navigate the choppy social media waters?