7 Ways Social Media Makes Pastoring More Difficult

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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”?
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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?


  1. If you were to set a time limit for yourself for spending on Facebook, what do you think it would be?

    • Good question. Personally, I don’t really use Facebook that much. I’m only beckoned there by email. When people respond to a post, status update, etc. then I go over there and get sucked in. Whatever I post on Twitter naturally goes to Facebook. Now, Twitter and email that’s a different discussion. In the past it wasn’t as big of a deal for me….but lately, I’m having to shut these down at certain points in the day. Tim has written about this in the past: http://www.challies.com/articles/8-email-mistakes-you-make

      • Do you think that a pastor should be Facebook friends/follower with every church member or attender?

        • I wouldn’t say that a pastor must be…but I think it’s wise and helpful to be, if he is going to be on Facebook. I certainly don’t think he ought to turn down a friend request from a member/attender.

  2. From my experience, some pastors are reluctant to spend time on Facebook. They would simply rather not do it. While I believe there are good reasons to not be on Facebook (e.g. causing you to sin), “not wanting to” or “having better things to do” isn’t a good enough reason.

    Being strategic – choosing to spend half an hour every 2 days for example – allows you to be where your people are, without it being a significant drain on your time.

  3. Its difficult for sure. Even though I’m not a pastor, I still grapple with many of these things. I find number 2 particularly challenging. I have connections I know in real life who sometimes post updates that seem vaguely suicidal but have thus far just been people being dramatic. I’m torn because I don’t want to miss warning signs of impending psychically harmful behaviour, but I don’t want to weird out people who are just being dramatic. Similar issue with what to do about friends who are posting material that will almost certainly badly damage their career if found by a current or prospective employer. When to leave them to their unwise behaviour and when to intervene is difficult.

    I try to keep some degree of sanity by reminding myself that people I don’t know at least moderately well in person are not my responsibility. Repeating the mantra “There will always be idiots on the internet” helps.

  4. Easier to avoid confrontation and difficult to experience authentic relationships when most of our communication is in cyberspace.

  5. I’d like to offer that Facebook and other social media are not “things” as much as they are “places.” They are the contemporary equivalent to the Agora, the Synagogue, or even (gasp) the church campus. Pastors who fail to engage in social media cannot excuse themselves by claiming lack of technology skills; it’s really a lack of social skills with technology being the forum.

  6. The church has become so much a part of the world’s culture that it has become impossible for the church to truly live out kingdom culture everyday. I think Jesus wanted us to reach out and touch the lives of real people, not an electronic platform.

  7. Recognize the limitations, do your best to use facebook well, and DON’T NEGLECT HOSPITALITY! Most of our culture is forgetting how to build face-to-face relationships. Make that priority, and do what you can with social media in the spare time.
    Just my two cents.

  8. One way to be more efficient in using FB to assess pastoral care needs might be to forego the barrage of the newsfeed in favor of checking people’s individual pages to get a sense of where they are emotionally and spiritually. While understanding that people’s social media posts don’t necessarily represent their true thoughts or feelings, at least having a 2-minute, in-context look at what they do post can help add clarity and avoid distraction.

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