Love One Another–Online and Off

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.

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Meredith Gould
Meredith Gould, PhD, is the author of seven books, including The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days, and Every Day, Why Is There a Menorah on the Altar? Jewish Roots of Christian Worship, and The Word Made Fresh: Communicating Church and Faith Today. She serves on the team at The Virtual Abbey and founded the Twitter chat for church social media (#chsocm).

10 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent article – I completely agree that social media is a large outreach tool that every ministry should be involved in. The percentage of online growth is phenomenal – we just can’t ignore it. I just finished a great book about this by author Jason Caston entitled, The iChurch Method: How to Advance Your Ministry Online. I believe his book is a MUST READ for every ministry leader who desires to have a global presence online. You can find the author’s website here: http://www.theichurchmethod.com/

  2. Amen, I see social media as a tool for ministry. Fr. Jim Martin converted me back to Catholicism (from Unitarian Universalism) in 5 months with his Gospel reflections on Twitter. Plus, he is (I think) training his many followers in civility; he regularly confronts inappropriate posts.
    I do find it easier to spill my guts about emotional pain on Facebook. I have at least a little privacy when venting with my friends…. but I admire those who are able to do it more publicly.
    Thanks for the post, Meredith.

    • You are most welcome, Sara. Many people find that FB is a hospitable place for deep sharing, especially those who have figured out how to manage all the privacy settings. I personally prefer Twitter because it’s shorter, faster, and more immediate. Still, as much as I love Twitter, I tend to recommend people and especially organizations make FB their first foray into social media.

      • I love the way the police are using the social media outlets to grout out bad guys. Even civilians get into the act and turn people in through their posts. You know sometimes I think there really is more good than bad out there.

  3. YES. I confess to sounding off too quickly at times but I have also been saddened by the amount of mud-slinging, name-calling, harsh judgement and downright nastiness purveyed by xthose who bear the name of Christian. I pray thet henceforth I will slways stop and pray before pressing any keys.

      • I love this post for a couple of reasons. First, I think that as much as I want to rail against all of this sometimes (being a baby boomer), it’s here to stay and restrictions aren’t the answer. Secondly, though, it speaks to me of the embodiment of Ignatian Spirituality. God is where we are, facebook, twitter, the grocery store, school. The more I remember this, the more God feels present in this crazy world.

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