social-media-300x199[1] - CopySocial media is changing the way we communicate.

Through the proliferation of personal and professional blogs, Twitter accounts, and Facebook pages, news now travels faster and wider than ever before. People can share the latest headline, their favorite recipe, their most passionate cause, or their most intimate feelings.

Pastors and Social Media

I talk to pastors who feel overwhelmed by the social media revolution and don’t know where to start.

My wife is on Facebook. Isn’t that enough?

Should I tweet? I don’t know what that’s all about and I’m not sure I need to.

I don’t like to write. I don’t want to blog. It takes enough time just to prepare a sermon outline once a week.

I want to encourage pastors to go ahead and jump into the world of social media, but I’d also like to offer some words of caution.

1. Engaging in social media is speaking the language of the culture of you want to reach.

Here’s the truth: people are communicating through Tweets, Facebook, and blogs. I recommend pastors join Facebook and Twitter in order to be involved in the conversations of their people.

In a recent podcast, Thom Rainer challenged pastors to engage in social media as a way of “speaking the language” of the culture. 

I look at social media positively… I want to take social media and continue to learn that “foreign language” so I can communicate better and connect better.

Missionaries learn the language of the people around them so they can communicate the gospel and connect with the people they are trying to reach. In the same way, pastors should engage social media as part of their overall communication and connection strategy.

One of the best ways to have an ongoing dialogue with your congregation than through social media.

2. Your social media presence may become the front door of your church.

It’s been said that the front door of your church is no longer the physical door but your church’s website. Your website communicates who you are and what you aspire to be. Younger people may even listen to your sermon podcasts before they ever visit your church.

If the front door of the church is your website, then a pastor’s social media presence matters. The millennial generation is well acquainted with looking up strangers (or “friends of friends”) on Facebook or Twitter to see what they’re all about. For this reason, pastors should be cautious about what they say or share through social media.

I once read a blog post from a pastor pushing for mandatory English lessons so “the Hispanics can hear the gospel.” Anyone looking for a church with a missionary posture (in which we’d learn the language of the people we hope to reach) would be unlikely to visit that church – not because of the church itself, but because of the pastor’s social media presence.

So be careful. If your Facebook page features a smattering of right-wing or left-wing quotes, you may give the impression that you are more passionate about a particular kind of politics than you are passionate about the kingdom. You are being vetted, pastor. Be aware.

3. The immediacy of social media is dangerous.

In the heat of the moment, it is easy to say things you wish you could take back. Never has it been easier to have your words broadcast to the world. I’ve seen pastors embarrass themselves through comments they’ve made on a blog, a rant they posted on Facebook, or an insensitive remark on Twitter.

Remember this: your social media presence has the potential to increase and build your reputation. It also has the potential to chip away at your reputation and undercut your ministry.

Pause before you post. Reflect before broadcasting all your thoughts on Facebook. Take time before you tweet.

4. Social media takes time and attention.

Some pastors may hear my encouragement to engage in social media and then jump in without much thought. Don’t. Better to have no social media presence than to be sloppy in your handling of this tool of communication.

Social media takes time and attention. Be strategic. Don’t take it lightly.

The pastors who do well on social media consider the benefits and strategically align their online presence with their ministry goals.

You are a pastor everywhere you go. You are a pastor every time you post. So give your presence the time and attention it deserves.