Church & Culture
Every Idle Word: 8 Cautions for Ministers on Social Media
Social media is a powerful tool for good, for evil, and for mischief. These eight ideas can help keep conversations civil and reputations intact.

2. Be Fair

Before offering criticism, here’s a helpful hint. Read the entire book or article, or watch the entire video first.

Not long ago, I offered this advice to someone who had falsely criticized someone's video that he obviously hadn’t watched all the way through. His response? “I didn’t have time to watch the whole stupid thing.”

If you don’t have the time to read or watch it, you don’t have the time – or the right – to criticize.

3. Praise with Abandon, Criticize with Care

Do you really want your criticism to matter? Use it infrequently.

Do you really want your criticism to matter? Use it infrequently.

The rarer something is, the more valuable it becomes.

Some people are so full of criticism that we discount them automatically. Even if what they’re saying is accurate, a constant critic is exhausting. But there are other people whose criticism we pay attention to because they almost never speak negatively.

Our conversations, both in real life and online, should be at least 20:1 positive to negative. Maybe 100:1.

4. Seek to Build Up, Not Tear Down

Even when we offer necessary criticism, we should always aim to be constructive, not destructive. Corrective, not punitive.

In addition to asking “is this criticism accurate?” we should ask, “is this criticism likely to be helpful?” If not, why bother?

5. Criticize By Invitation Only

Walking up to a random person on the street to tell them you don’t like what they’re wearing? Not okay. Responding to a friend or spouse who asks “what do you think of these jeans?” Okay. Dangerous, but okay.

So do we need to have a personal relationship with someone before offering a critique of their words or work? Of course not. If they made it public, it's an implicit invitation for commentary.

But our criticism needs to be about content, not motivations. Only God knows the heart.

6. Grow a Thicker Skin

Just as we all reserve the right to offer criticism when someone makes their thoughts public, we need to realize that we’re offering that permission to others when we make our thoughts public.

Too many people are quick to criticize the faults of others, but can't hear criticism themselves. If you give it, you have to be willing to take it.

If you don’t want feedback, don’t post it.

If you do put it out there, be prepared to hear criticism. And remember to respond graciously when treated unfairly.

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The views of the blogger do not necessarily reflect those of Christianity Today.

December 03, 2015 at 12:18 AM

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