Pastors and other church leaders must be very cautious about what they post on social media, Bickers observes. (Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
There are so many positive things a minister or church can do with social media that it is hard for me to understand why some avoid it with a passion.
I think every pastor and church should use social media to connect with the congregation and the community they serve.
However, churches and ministers also need to recognize that there are dangers when using social media that need to be avoided.
I recently read of a senior executive in a large corporation who recorded himself berating an employee of a fast-food chain. This chain had taken a position on a moral issue with which this individual disagreed.
He posted the video on YouTube, and by the time he returned to his office a receptionist informed him his video had already gone viral. He was called into his boss' office and terminated that same day.
He soon found work with another organization, but when they learned of the video they terminated him as well. The story closed with him and his family living on government assistance.
We frequently read of persons who have been terminated because of something they've written in a blog, posted on Facebook or posted on YouTube.
We read of other individuals who are turned down for a position when something improper shows up during a review of their social media accounts.
Pastors and other church leaders must be very cautious about what they post on social media.
Once it goes online, it's there forever and can easily be discovered by anyone willing to search for it.
What are some things that should be avoided?
1. Crude speech
I had "friended" a pastor on Facebook but soon noticed that he was not averse to using profanity in his posts.
I "unfriended" him very quickly, as a result. I know some Christians curse, but to do so on social media doesn't seem wise to me.
I am often amazed at the number of arguments I see going on between Christians on Facebook.
I can't help but wonder what image that projects to non-Christians who might read some of these discussions, especially when such arguments turn nasty and personal.
Last year I responded in agreement to something a Facebook friend wrote, and another one of his friends soon disagreed with us.
I responded with some reasons why I felt our position was correct, and much of her response to that was to attack me personally.
I answered her attack by stating that I had no intention to get into an argument on Facebook on this or any other issue, so I would withdraw from the discussion and not respond to anything else she might say.
We should be willing to discuss things on social media but we must avoid the temptation to argue about them.
3. Personal attacks
Why do pastors and church leaders feel they must attack other Christian leaders when they fall or take a position with which we disagree?
It's one thing to disagree with a position; it's something else to launch personal attacks on the one who holds that position. The same is true of political leaders with whom we may disagree.
4. Making assumptions about someone's tone or attitude
One of the problems with the written word is that it can be difficult to discern the attitude of the person who wrote it.
When we don't have the context or the opportunity to see the facial expressions or body language of the person communicating, it is easy to misinterpret what they are writing.
We don't want to come across as rude, condescending, arrogant or obnoxious on social media. We need to be very careful about how we express ourselves to limit the opportunities to be misunderstood.
This may sound like a lot of things to be concerned about, and you may be more determined to avoid using social media. That would be a mistake.
There are so many good things you can do with social media, but it is important that we be wise in how we use it.
Dennis Bickers served as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Indiana, for 20 years before accepting his current position as a resource minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky. He blogs at Bivocational Ministry, where a version of this article first appeared. You can follow him on Twitter @DennisBickers.