If you’re a church leader, read this wisdom before you post anything on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube in 2021 (and the remainder of 2020). Please share this with your ministry team.
People get fired EVERYDAY for what they post on Facebook.
People leave churches EVERY WEEK for what they see church leaders post on Facebook.
But, if you’re a church leader, you SHOULD be on Facebook. Facebook is a valuable tool for engaging your church and your community. Just like driving a car, it can either help or kill you depending on how you use it.
1. Don’t Post Updates From Your Vacation
Think twice before posting photos from your next vacation. When you’re asking members of your church to sacrificially give of their time and money, and you’re posting pictures of you and your family partying on a yacht, it doesn’t look good. There’s nothing wrong with going on vacation, in fact, it’s one of the most important things you should do as a leader and a family, but there is wisdom in enjoying it privately, especially during this season of struggle for so many. Some of the people who go to your church and give regularly can’t afford to go on vacation. The same rule goes for your weekly Thursday afternoon round of golf. Don’t forget…most church members work during the week.
2. Don’t Criticize Another Church…Ever
Like something off of the Jerry Springer show, two years ago leaders and elders at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky took to Facebook to publicly sling mud at elders at Crossroads Christian Church in Evansville, Indiana in a no holds barred online brawl. That prompted other well known church leaders to jump in on the chaos on Facebook, which then led to other church members taking sides and getting in on the social media mayhem. The unfolding chaos was covered on the local Indiana television news station, rumored to be fueled by fake press releases written by church staff members. Yes, this all really happened…let that sink in. It’s very hypocritical to tell your own church staff to “trust positive intentions” within the church while slinging mud online at leaders from other churches when you don’t get your way. Trusting positive intentions goes both ways. The BIG wisdom here is to always praise publicly and criticize privately…especially if you’re a church leader or elder. The only posting you should be doing about another church should be encouraging them or building them up or celebrating their accomplishments. Always BUILD UP other churches (even when someone gets fired that you’re related to).
3. Don’t Create Mysteries
Don’t create mysteries. If you’re a pastor in Seattle and you suddenly post a picture of yourself checking into the Miami airport, you’ve just created a mystery. And, if you’re a church leader, creating mysteries on Facebook is never a good idea. Why are you in Miami? What are you doing there? How long will you be there? This only creates confusion and usually causes minds to jump to negative conclusions: Are you interviewing for a new job? Are you having an affair? Are you doing coke deals? Who’s paying for your trip? Wise church leaders don’t create mysteries on Facebook. If you’re in Miami for a conference, post a picture at the conference with something you learned or someone you met…not a picture of your toes in the sand. If you’ve checked in at a restaurant and posted a photo with a woman who’s not your wife…tell us who it is. Oh, it’s your cousin? Okay, cool. But, we don’t know if you don’t tell us. Step back and look at what you’re posting…are you creating mysteries or are you being straightforward?
4. Don’t Post Headscratchers or Deadends
Headscratchers are Facebook posts that create bad optics. If you’re a church leader, and you post a selfie of yourself in full KISS makeup, sticking your tongue out, on Halloween, that’s a headscratcher. Even if KISS is your favorite band and you’ve dressed up like them a million times before, it’s wise to leave this off of Facebook. Yes, this really happened.
Deadends are posts that literally create a dead end. Examples are:
- “We won’t be having Sunday School anymore.”
- “I won’t be in the office on Friday’s effective immediately.”
- “I got a new phone so don’t call my old number.”
- “I’m leaving Facebook.”
Deadends usually answer questions no one has asked, and there’s no reason they should be posted publicly unless they’re backed up with a thought out explanation that provides more background information.
Also, sometimes it’s best not to post anything. Does everyone need to know that you deleted Facebook Messenger? Does everyone need to know you’re not going to be in the office on Fridays? Probably not.
5. Engage In Politics at Your Own Risk
When you call the President a liar or attack a member of congress on social media, you have nothing to gain. Don’t do it. People can watch CNN or FoxNews if they want political discourse. You’re above that. You’re a pastor. And you have more important work to do.
Engaging in politics on social media has a price, and you have to be willing to pay it if you go down that road. My suggestion is to avoid politics at all costs on social media.
BONUS: The Sabbatical Trap
Don’t forget that 99.9% of people in your church don’t get a sabbatical. And, when you share pictures of your feet in a hammock, reading Francis Chan’s new book, you’re doing it wrong. And, if you’re on sabbatical and posting on a Sunday morning how great it is not to have to go to church, you’re definitely doing it wrong. Does the world really need to know you’re on sabbatical? Probably not. A better option would be to fast from social media on your sabbatical and when you return get to work actually doing what God has put on your heart. Feel free to share what you worked on, a renewed vision for your ministry, or a thanks to your church for allowing you the opportunity, but the better thing would be to just actually do whatever it is God is calling you to do.
6. Don’t Post Reviews or Rants
No one needs to know if you hate American Airlines. No one needs to know that you’re upset there’s not a stoplight on the road you turn left on to get to church. No one needs to know your thoughts on every current event. Posting “These refs suck!” in the middle of the UK game or randomly posting “I LOVE the new Joker movie!” is a bad idea. It’s okay to have opinions, but Facebook isn’t the place for it, if you’re a church leader. See #10 on how you should post about news and current events.
7. Do Post Pictures of your Church
Your profile picture should be a picture of you, not a picture of your dog. Your cover photo should be a picture of your church, not the Guns ’N Roses concert you attended two years ago. Facebook is a great place to share pictures of your church. It’s also a great place to promote what’s happening at your church. If there’s a worship night at your church on Sunday night and you’re posting about the new Game of Thrones episode, you’re doing it wrong.
8. Do Highlight People From of Your Church
Celebrate members of your church for their accomplishments. Share posts about volunteers doing a great job. If you see a church member while you’re eating out, or at an event, snap a pic and post it on Facebook or Instagram. It’s also a great place to celebrate people from your community doing cool things. Make your Facebook about others…it’s not all about you. Encouraging others on Facebook is something wise church leaders do.
9. Do Share Meaningful Family Moments
The world is full of broken families. Your Facebook is an opportunity to lead by example. Show pictures that demonstrate you loving and encouraging your spouse, children, parents, siblings, and extended family. Celebrate your family on Facebook. Share family moments on Facebook, even the sad ones. Be real. If you’re going through a health crisis, share it. If someone in your family passes away, share it. Show people what it means to be a real person. Manny Pacquio, the world champion Filipino boxer, regularly shares photos of his family going to church together. Be like Manny.
10. Do Help Church Members Navigate the Complexity of Life & Current Events
Bob Russell uses his Facebook to share links to his blog posts each week that help Christians make sense of current events. In a recent post he references how “Brandt Jean, a Christian who is mature beyond his 18 years of age, forgave the policewoman who accidentally shot and killed his beloved older brother.” Bob uses that news story to talk about Christians imitating the holiness of God. Be like Bob. Use your Facebook to help your church make sense of current events.
By now you should notice a trend…
All of the things you should be doing on Facebook are positive, encouraging, and helpful to others.
All of the things you shouldn’t be doing are self-serving, manipulative, or lacking self-control.
Final Things To Remember About Facebook If You’re a Church Leader:
- Facebook is an extension of your ministry. It’s not your own private space.
- Be creative with ways you can use your platform to engage your church and encourage others.
- Optics matter more than your personal intentions when it comes to social media.
- Facebook isn’t the place for your stream of consciousness thoughts.
- Ask someone you trust to give you honest feedback about what you post on Facebook. Give them permission to let you know if you post something that might give the wrong impression.
- Be real. Facebook should be an extension of who you really are. Nothing is more icky than someone pretending to be someone they’re not on social media.
- If you’re a church leader, you SHOULD be on Facebook. Facebook is a valuable tool for engaging your church and your community. Not being on Facebook is like disconnecting your church’s phone line or dismantling your church’s mailbox. It’s almost 2021, and Facebook is the primary source of communication people engage with on a daily basis.
- Beware. Facebook will hack your brain’s dopamine over time if you let it. Consider removing the Facebook app from your phone, and only use Facebook while on your computer.
- When in doubt…don’t post.
P.S. I’m More Guilty Than Anyone
I’ve posted a lot of really bad stuff on social media. In 2011, I was at a party hosted by my neighbor. It was a very wild party. I posted a picture of me with some drunk party goers flipping off the camera. All in good fun, right? Nope…
The next morning my mom had sent me a message asking me to delete the photo. I was running a Christian company. “What kind of message was I expressing by posting that photo?” she asked me. I was so embarrassed. She was right. She wasn’t playing a “gotcha” game with me. She truly wanted the best for me.
This blog post is not about playing “gotcha.” I’m fairly confident I’ve done more bad stuff than 99% of the people reading this. I genuinely want the best for church leaders and I think we can all benefit from a gentle reminder that people are watching us and we need to set the tone for what it means to be followers of Christ. Don’t let social media ruin your ministry.