Earlier this week I found myself in a phone conversation with someone with over a decade of experience in church leadership. Yes, we were on the phone talking about social media, which just underscores my perpetual point about choosing communication tools wisely and well. Among other things, she was concerned about the questionable quality of interaction among Christians that sometimes shows up on social media. “It’s much too snarky, too negative,” she said. My response? “Please do not blame the tools.”
I pressed for more information.
Was the edginess coming from GenXers or Millennials? If so, they might characterize it as their form of humor. Was the negativity coming from those in church leadership? If so, they might characterize it as blowing off steam. What happens if you respond with concern, either in public or through a back channel like email or private message? Have you considered offering the option of continuing the conversation by phone or in person?
The question behind my questions: are you willing to view social media as a tool for ministry?
Over the past four years of engagement with social media, I’ve had the privilege of observing people reach out to one another in response to posts that were raw expressions of pain. I, too, have been the grateful recipient of tender outreach when I’ve jammed my frustration du jour into 140 characters. And I prayerfully hope I’ve provided such comfort for others, especially those for whom gallows humor is a coping mechanism for living a life of faith these days.
On social media, as in daily life offline, we choose the lens that informs our vision. When it comes to social media, I suggest choosing to look through the lens of ministry and then answering the invitation to love one another.