Social media is here to stay. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Periscope, Blab, blogs and other forms of social media continue to dominate communication. According to Pew Research (as of September 2014) 71% of online adults use Facebook, 23% use Twitter, 26% use Instagram, and 28% use Pinterest. Teens prefer Facebook (71%), Instagram (52%), Snapchat (41%), Twitter (33%), G+ (33%) and Vine (24%). Around 6.7 million people worldwide in 2014 published on a blog. Millions and millions more read blogs. One 2012 estimate was 25 billion blog pages were viewed each month. Facebook and YouTube have hosted national political debates.
Sporting events, broadcast television shows, and political programming all use hashtags to create community around the event. People who will never meet are able to participate in conversations together because of social media.
Yet, despite the amount of available help for people on social media, and the overwhelming impact social media is having on our culture, many pastors make these five mistakes.
1. Not being on social media.
A pastor who is not on social media could be compared to a pastor not using the telephone, computers, or microphones when they preach. Social media gives each pastor the equivalent of their own TV station, radio station, and printing press. This is one area of our culture pastors cannot afford to sit-out. The potential reach of social media is far more than the average pastor will personally minister to personally in their lifetimes.
2. Not being consistent.
Pastors need not be involved in every social media platform in order to been effective in one or more. Consistency is a big factor. Logging into Facebook every week or two, or tweeting once a month is nearly pointless. People prefer engagement, which requires consistency. A post on your blog at least three times a week, sharing good content on Facebook, or Periscoping a summary of your sermon Sunday afternoon can be very effective.
3. Going on the attack and staying there.
Sometimes people use social media as their outlet to attack everything they don’t like. They have been called “keyboard warriors.” Taking to social media as one’s sole means of complaining about politics and society is a bad strategy. We need to be known more for what we are for rather than what we are against. Being constantly on the attack can drive away the very people who need to be reached with the gospel.
4. Not using humor.
It is obvious not all people have great senses of humor. Not everyone could be a stand up comic. That does not mean, however, that pastors need to be dour. The plethora of memes, videos, and other people’s humorous content available for sharing gives a lot of opportunity for making people laugh. Proverbs says it is laughter, not complaining, that does good like medicine.
5. Assuming social media is inherently bad.
When Facebook began to gain a large following, there were many stories of marital affairs starting “because of Facebook.” At least one pastor forbade his staff members from having Facebook accounts. It was like adultery never existed before social media. One story had a large portion of divorce filings attributable, in one degree or another, to social media.
Social media is like a phone, car, newspaper, magazine, hammer, weed whacker, or skillet. It can be used constructively or destructively, but it has no inherent morality. Blaming social media for being misused is misguided.
For pastors, the potential good uses for social media far outweigh the bad ones. In our constantly interconnected world social media provides the opportunity to have influence far beyond our immediate circle of contacts. Pastors should avail themselves of the possibilities social media provides as a tool useful for the Kingdom.