Some things are easy to do online. Want to broadcast a sermon? That's simple. Just post it on your website—or YouTube. Need to inform people about an upcoming event? Blast your email list. Want help with sermon prep? There's an app for that. Dozens of them, actually.
But not every ministry task is quite so easily accomplished via the Internet. How would you, for example, give a cup of cold water in Jesus' name online? Or comfort someone who is grieving? Not every ministry task can be accomplished online, but it is where people are spending more and more of their lives.
Social media is here to stay, and it is already the norm. It's the reason family vacations become global broadcast events via Instagram and every popular television series has its own #hashtag to allow people to see tweets from fellow fans in real time. If you're waiting for this "fad" to pass, you'll be waiting forever. Leaders who fail to turn the technological corner will find themselves ministering to a dwindling audience. We must engage people now, both online and off, for their good and God's glory.
But how exactly can we engage social media in a way that is shepherd-like? How do we pastor people via social media? Here are some principles I've found helpful.
1. Connect with People
In 2010, I received an email from David Chrzan, chief of staff at Saddleback Church. He wanted to talk about social media, online publishing, and how pastors were interacting with new media. Eventually, this led me to re-locate to Southern California to help re-launch Pastors.com, Rick Warren's online community of church leaders. My relationship with David started over Twitter, where he had observed some of the conversations I was taking part in. My life changed dramatically ...