Online Communications & Social Media Advice

To help us in setting our boundaries, here are a few reminders:

  1. Have a communications plan. Determine what media network(s) will work best for your needs.
  2. As you move to a new appointment, consider redesigning your (1) personal and (2) professional online presence and strategy.
  3. Maintain your professionalism. Your online profile says you are a pastor 24 hours a day, 7days week.
  4. For sensitive matters, scrutinize and re-read before your send. If possible, have a second set of eyes to double check what you are about to send. Consider “sleeping on it” before pressing SEND.

[pullquote cite=”
Source: Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association” type=”left, right”] Sensitive matters that should not go through the Board system:

  • Negotiations information
  • Contract interpretation
  • Personnel issues
  • Information regarding members
  • Remember: emails can be subpoenaed

[/pullquote]

  1. Any written documents (emails or attached documents), must maintain professional standards – they may potentially be shared with a wider audience and can lead to potential liabilities. Always verify your sources.
  2. Interactions with parishioners, support staff and colleagues are always under scrutiny by others.
  3. Be ready to support other clergy. Is a colleagues online account being hacked? Is she really traveling in Hong Kong right now?
  4. Any form of communication (electronic or not) should always be treated with utmost care so as not to undermine the ministry of a colleague.

TRUE of FALSE: Once I delete something online, it’s gone forever. [extra href=”#example” title=”FALSE!” info=”popover” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” info_content=”Once something is online we should expect that it has a shelf life that can extend well beyond our intentions.” ] THE ANSWER [/extra]

Social Media & Collegiality

[image type=”thumbnail” float=”left” src=”http://pnwumc.org/transitions/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Safe-Church-Social-Media-Guidelines-Draft-1.png” link=”true” href=”https://s3.amazonaws.com/PNWUMC/Communications/Social+Media+Guidelines+Draft.pdf” info=”tooltip” info_place=”right” info_trigger=”hover” title=”Click here for Social Media Guidelines!” alt=”Social Media Guidelines”]With social media, the line between public and private communication is thin, blurry and often non-existent. It is not good to speak ill of anyone through social media, even if you presume that the comment is private. Just like communicating within a particular community of faith, it is never a good idea to make disparaging comments about fellow clergy or their ministry in social media. When it comes to the use of social media, support your colleagues and be respectful of other clergy and other opinions. Once you say something on the Internet it remains accessible forever—even if you delete it.

It is recommended that professional staff and pastoral leadership reflect seriously on how the online connections they’ve nurtured with members of a faith community they are leaving can make ministry more difficult for those who follow them. While some may choose to defriend former parishioners upon leaving a faith community, Social Media platforms like Facebook offer some flexibility and alternatives for those wishing to limit their social presence with a select group of people.

For more advice on how to manage your online presence while engaged in ministry in a particular setting, and while transitioning from one place to another, please review the document: Social Media Guidelines for Clergy & Faith Communities.

Top Ten Best Practices of Social Media*

  1. When using social media, observe Wesley’s General Rules and the great Commandments:
    • Do no harm
    • Do good
    • Attend to the ordinances of God
  2. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, strength, soul, and Love your neighbor as yourself
  3. Claim, maintain and monitor your congregation’s social media profiles and websites. Take care to keep them current.
  4. If you are not sure about appropriate use of social media, ask for help. If you’re not sure about a post, do not post it.
  5. Be respectful, collegial, and intentional of other’s privacy including the announcing of prayer concerns and where location services are concerned.
  6. Be professional and maintain the integrity of the office of clergy through social media. 6. Protect the safety of congregants, minors, vulnerable adults, and yourself.
  7. Be friendly and fair – allow others to friend you instead of vice versa.
  8. When posting photos, allow others to identify themselves.
  9. Take care to adhere to Safe Sanctuary guidelines, adapting them to social media practices.
  10. Remember your Christian witness and allow your use of social media to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Stewardship and Boundaries

While Social Media is a gift, our Wesleyan theology reminds us that even good things must be consumed and used in moderation. When using social media, please remain attentive to the stewardship of your time and the time of others.

Always maintain appropriate boundaries with others and take care to watch for the proverbial “slippery slope.” Use care in your language, as meaning and tone are often lost in translation. Knowing this, it is important that we take the time to carefully craft words, especially when dealing with potentially sensitive topics.

If you would hesitate to say something in person, it is probably best not to say it via social media. Remember the Wesleyan commitment to care for others. Be inclusive and abide in love through your use of social media. After all, “the greatest of these is love”.


Image Credit: Some rights reserved by Thomas Leuthard

*Source: North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church (Used with permission)