Social media can be a fantastic tool to promote the message of the Gospel. It can also be a weapon used against the church. This can be a result of poor security practices. It can also be a post that is sent by mistake. You may not have any real rights on the Internet. But this article provides guidelines you should follow using the famous Miranda Rights.
If you were born before the late 1980's, you had the luxury of growing up without social media. Many say this because you did not have the potential of posting inappropriate content. The era of smartphones was not upon us, nor were there easy ways to share with the masses. Many church members and pastors use social media with some degree of ignorance. I consider myself a fairly savvy social media user. And I have a few posts I wish I could erase from history. So what can your church do on social media? Here are your rights:
You have the right to remain silent
Some churches and pastors have walked away from the table. For a multitude of reasons, they cannot justify the risks you take on social media. Thus, they choose silence. You cannot say the wrong thing if you say nothing. Yet this will not stop others from talking. If you are silent, the world will only hear one side of a story. Also, abstinence from social media ensures you are not corrupted by it. Corrupted? Yes, many pastors leave social media because they do not want to play the numbers game. Some worry about competition and envy. I do not think this is the right thing to do. Yet I understand why some people and groups decide it is their path.
Anything you say will be used against you
The Bible is often misquoted. Why not you and your posts? When you do venture out online, prepare to have your words taken out of context. This may be a nudge to focus on videos. There you can get the benefit of tone of voice and body language. This way your words can not be easily taken out of context. But when (not if) your words are turned against you, relax. You have time to think out your response. Take a cue from Jesus and give just the right amount of truth and grace. Reply when you are ready. Pray beforehand about your answer. If possible, get the advice of church elders. Just do not rush out to be overly emotional. That is how a public relations situation can get out of hand.
You have the right to counsel
You do not need to do this alone. There are many people and companies that can help you. Some even specialize in aiding churches. They are often Christians themselves and want to further the Gospel. They have services that coach you on what to say. They also understand the various online cultures you are dealing with. Each social media platform has its own nuances, and those coaches can help you navigate them.
If you cannot afford counsel…
… get it for free! There are a ton of resources out there on the Internet that offer sound advice. Of course you can always reach out to me. But often you want many opinions and options. Take part in the weekly #ChSocM chat to get ideas from around the globe. Listen to the Social Media Church podcast. Check out the latest from Brady Shearer, Derek Oulette, Darrel Girardier, and Josh Blankenship. If you want broader technical advice, check out the treasure trove of articles on Church Mag. These are just a few of the people out there trying to help you get the Gospel out on social media. Take some time to get some free advice. Then if possible, share with others. Many can learn from your successes and mistakes.
Now that you know your rights, change something. If you make a decision to be silent, understand the repercussions. The biggest one is that you will not have a voice online. That will not stop others from talking about you. It will just give them free reign to say whatever they want. Yet if you do venture out, be careful, and do not go alone. There are hundreds of people doing jobs like yours. Reach out to them. Take in the knowledge others are producing for you. Then share with others as your journey takes off. Finally, pray about your online conversations. It is easier to pray for wisdom ahead of time, than forgiveness for a mistake you just made.
Photo courtesy of Dave Conner