Being a pastor today is no easy task. Living, working, and existing where you have to have a reasonable grasp of social media alongside copious degrees and ministry certifications while possessing off-the-hook skills with people of every age range, speaking skills, shepherding abilities, and non-stop energy to deal with difficult people and relationships can seem unattainable.
While these pastoral responsibilities are often overwhelming, Facebook does not have to be. This article aims to help you, as a pastor (or pastoral assistant), to tackle some of the challenges of being effective on Facebook.
While other articles might address your church’s public Facebook page, this article is about the pastor’s personal Facebook page. We all know that ministry is really intimate work; while in some professions you’d never friend your boss or co-workers on the big FB, as pastors, connecting with your parishioners via your personal Facebook page is needed, and even required, to be authentic in your church community and in the lives of the people you aim to serve.
Much has already been written by many other blogs about this topic. One site suggests that pastor’s not say anything on social media that you wouldn’t say from the pulpit. While this sounds reasonable in theory, the truth is, from an effective communication standpoint, there are many, many things that don’t have a place being said in front of everyone. It brings me to my first point:
There’s so much inauthenticity on Facebook from the perfect vacation photos to the perfect shot of all the kids getting along. Pastors need to be sensitive (as well as pastor’s wives on Facebook) to the fact that everyone is watching you. While we want our pastor to have a healthy family life, be careful not to paint the picture that it’s too perfect. There’s a fine line between being authentic in sharing something you’re struggling with and sharing too much. That’s probably why many pastors are afraid to post anything or post anything personal (for good reason).
Facebook Update Ideas:
- Share a recent family vacation photo with your family making crazy faces (shows your fun-loving personality).
- Share an interesting story of connecting with someone about faith while visiting your parents out of town (shows you care about taking the Gospel with you wherever you go).
- Share a funny story about taking out the trash at church and killing a giant roach behind the church (shows you aren’t ‘above’ doing the menial tasks around your church building and that you share a mutual dislike of large insects like most people).
This might seem like an obvious point, but for some people (myself included), setting a schedule or reminder to actually visit Facebook regularly (daily is good) to post an update and interact with their friends is needed. Don’t forget about it. Don’t leave it for weeks and weeks only to come back and miss gigantic events in the lives of your members. The millennial generation primary relies on social media to get the word out about things going on in their lives. If you only check in once a week or even less frequently, chances are you are missing an opportunity to connect, listen, serve, and be there for the people you care about. If you already have many Facebook friends, you can group these ‘church friends’ into Friend List in Facebook and even just post updates to this one page, or catch up on the updates of all the people just in your church community.
Facebook Update Ideas:
- React and respond to members’ posts with likes, emoticons, and/or comments daily or every other day to stay connected.
- When it’s a church member’s birthday, take the greeting offline as well as online by texting, calling or emailing to go the extra mile to show you care.
I know you have to be diligent in so many places as a pastor. Let Facebook be one of them. Take time to fill out your profile on your Facebook page. Upload some family photos, some ministry photos, even some photos of your cat, for crying out loud. Be personal. Be real. Let people see the human side of you. What’s your favorite movie? Where do you love to eat? Let us get to know you better. If you need help with your header image (the one at the top) you can use Canva to create one with their super easy Facebook header template. Next step is to actually friend people in your congregation and in your personal life. Crazy if people in your neighborhood knew you were a pastor and you invited them to your church. Sometimes reaching out on Facebook (even though you live two doors down) is a less-threatening way to gently share who you are and what you’re all about.
Facebook Update Ideas:
- Check in with Facebook at Chipotle (your favorite burrito place ever). Post a close up of your burrito and ask what others’ favorite order is at Chipotle.
- Put a few pictures of ministry events together from the past few years with people you serve, thanking them for allowing them into your life.
- Invite your next door neighbors over and share a picture or video.
Here comes the part that is the most difficult for many pastors: What to post. First off, since it’s election season AND there’s enough racial strife going on in our country to ruin every friendship with anyone you’ve ever known, please, for the love of Jesus, steer clear of these topics. It’s one thing to have a face-to-face conversation with people about these hot debates in their living room, but Facebook is not the place. I know countless people who’ve unfriended relatives and friends over repeated political rants and articles links. Just. Don’t. Do. It.
So what should you post? You do need to post on your very own feed. Don’t be a ‘stalker’ (you read everyone’s posts but never post your own or like anything) or ‘liker’ (you never post your own updates, you just like everyone else’s). You’ve got to get active and “be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” (James 1:22)
Facebook Update Ideas:
- Share a quote from your favorite theologian (but please make sure the quote makes sense and isn’t super theological or confusing – no one likes to feel like a dunderhead) along with a short note about why this quote moved you today.
- Tell a story about something funny that happened at church or in your family (as long as it doesn’t incriminate anyone).
- Bible or inspirational quotes (verse only or perhaps in a graphic made with your YouVersion App).
- Open (and approved) prayer requests – make sure to ask for permission and make sure it isn’t something embarrassing or too personal (please pray for Sister Theresa’s urinary tract infection, that she would be healed quickly . . .)
- Share the occasional church event that might apply to most of the people in your feed like the fall festival or Christmas party.
- Share something that moved you about Sunday’s service or share something you’re working on for the next service. Be real and show people you struggle with teaching God’s Word and living as a flawed, imperfect person (we will feel relieved to know you’re human just like the rest of us).
- Start a blog and post new articles to your page.
- Post recent sermon podcasts.
Shout out to my pastor, Chris Ivens, for sparking this article idea. I hope your future with Facebook is a bright one.