5 Warnings for Pastors On Social Media

Justin Lathrop | March 24, 2014

If you know me at all, you know I am a huge supporter of pastors and social media. In fact, I think every pastor should be on social media as a way to spread the reach of their ministry and grow as a person and pastor.

However, I do have a few warnings for any pastor who is using social media. I hope they help you take advantage of the benefits of social media without allowing it to distract or destroy you in the process.

Here are five warnings for pastors on social media.

1. Be wise with your time and attention

Social media can become a major time-suck if we let it. It isn’t just young pastors that are prone to this. It’s all of us.

This can go one of two ways. Either you’re so focused on creating the perfect social media strategy for your personal accounts (tweeting the right things, at the right times, to get the most number of retweets or favorites) or you get distracted by what other people are doing or saying on social media.

Either way, if we’re not careful, this distraction can take us away from the relationships and tasks that are right in front of us. To avoid this, make sure to be intentional about how you’re spending your time. Always be seeking balance and never let social media become a replacement for your in-person ministry.

2. Be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”

Many people (and pastors) fall into the trap of getting caught in the heat of the moment and writing something on social media they later regret. The problem is, in some ways this is even worse than saying something to your small group, or from the pulpit, that you later regret.

Not only is it in writing when you share something on Twitter or Facebook, but you also don’t have the context of relationship to offset your ill-advised words.

My advice comes from the book of James, and it’s the same advice I would give to pastors if there were no such thing as social media. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.

Basically, think before for you Facebook or Tweet.

3. Be mindful about the person you’re portraying

Remember you are not anonymous online. You are not merely an avatar. You are a person. But your online friends and followers only know about you from what you share with them. Most of them haven’t spent a significant amount of time with you, around you, or watching you in action.

In this sense, I think we have to be extra careful about what we share. Our politics, our lifestyle choices, even our theology can be dangerous topics when not in the context of relationship.

Not that these topics are off-limits, but just remember: My Twitter followers only know what I share with them.

4. Be intentional to add value (not just noise)

There’s enough noise to go around. Before you tweet, or share something on Facebook, stop and ask yourself:

—Is this helpful?

—Is this kind?

—Is this interesting?

—Will this give hope or steal it?

5. Be careful to talk about more than your ministry

As a pastor, you’re probably excited about what your church is doing and the role you play in it. Of course you want to share it with your followers. Let’s face it: you might even want to shout it from the rooftops! This is a good sign, and you should share these things.

Just remember not all of your followers are a part of this ministry. When you talk about your church, what value are you adding to them?

As long as you keep this question in mind while you’re sharing about your life on social media, the information you provide about your ministry can be enriching to your online community.

With over a dozen years in local church ministry, Justin Lathrop has spent the last several years starting businesses and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the Kingdom. He's the founder of YoungPastors.com, Helpstaff.me (now Vanderbloemen Search), and Oaks School of Leadership all while staying involved in the local church.

He's obsessed with connecting people and lives his life daily to make the world a smaller place. He now serves as a consultant in the area of strategic relations for organizations like Assemblies of God, Leadership Network, and Convoy of Hope. He is helping to build bridges with people and ministries to more effectively reach more people.

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