Social media is pervasive and unavoidable in our culture today. You are likely on it. Your friends are on it. The young couples in your church are on it. Your elders may be on it. Your students are definitely on it. Everyone is on it. Link’dIn, Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, and the list continues to grow day by day.
It can be a great tool and resource. “What was the name of that guy I met at church yesterday?” “How is my buddy Chuck doing from high school?” “How could I push information out about what’s coming up tonight for our service?” “How might I connect with potential companies or contacts so I might land that new job?’ Their are benefits to using this tool and resource, but challenges as well.
It is a tool and resource- thus it is neither good nor bad. How we choose to use the tool or resource makes it good or bad. In the same way, a scalpel can be used to save someone’s life or to take it. Honestly, from the start of my career in ministry, this has been my personal struggle with social media. How can I both use this tool to reach and connect with my students, but also use it responsibly enough to protect myself and my ministry?
If you look at my social media profiles, then you look at the title of this blog, you may wonder why I have the credibility to write this entry. I have been accused of posting only what is going on in my ministry-sending information out to students and parents about events, details and times and what to bring. Everyone once in awhile, I will post about my incredible wife or post a picture of a neat thing we got to experience. However, in my opinion, this is healthy and responsible use of social media. [Let me state here that “healthy” is relative; what is healthy for me may or may not be healthy for you. Let me also say that I am focusing on the arena of conversation and discussion with social media].
You see, not only do I not believe my life or what I eat is interesting enough to merit daily postings (or more), I am also protecting myself. You might pushback because you believe social media gives us the platform to have a voice, I agree with you. But please show me when a conversation, mediated by screens, truly convinced someone else, or led to a good conclusion for both parties, and I will believe this is the best way to have a conversation with someone. It is my opinion that we are much more bold and unrelenting when we can type and post responses quickly on a screen and do not have to talk to the person face-to-face.
Similarly, I think we need to be more careful about what and how often we post things. As a Student Minister, I am stuck in an interesting in-between. I am called to shepherd and walk with middle and high school students, yet their parents and other parents help contribute to salary, and those who choose whether I continue working at the church or not are my co-workers or the governing board or elders. So, while I may believe strongly about something, I have to be very careful about how much of my hand I show. Now, you may pushback here as well and say, “If you cannot work for people or at a place where you cannot express what you think, then what kind of church is that?” Sure, churches should be full of people who are overly gracious and respond to anything first and foremost with understanding and grace and a desire to listen before speaking. Unfortunately, I don’t think most churches are full of those kinds of people.
Perhaps social media is all about conversations and perhaps there is a better way to have conversations. Perhaps conversations should be slower and take more time than five minutes. Perhaps conversations should be face-to-face, looking each other in the eye. Perhaps conversations should be more about listening than about trying to get your point across. (At least Jesus’ own brother agrees with that). Perhaps conversations should work to move us towards the next conversation where we can slowly work to bring people together and not further apart. Perhaps….
Wes Rasbury | firstname.lastname@example.org | Instagram: @wesraz