Explore our recommendations regarding the general
world of social media, especially if getting into it for the first time. Or return to the Recommendations page for more. Explore the Findings tab for more information about the rest of our work.
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- Remember that the church is not just a
collection of people in communion together, but rather that we are brought
together by the Holy Spirit in the name of Christ; that is, the church is not just a social connecting point.
- Don’t be
too quick to blame new media for distraction or lack of spiritual discipline. Church leaders throughout the ages have
exhorted (or harangued) the faithful to be more
mindful, more contemplative, more engaged. New media may present new challenges to our multi-tasking, distracted
minds, but it also brings new
possibilities for connection, relationship, and presence across time and
space. Think intentionally with your
communities about the spiritual disciplines you value and when and how new
media enables or hinders them.
- Don’t do
“Facebook for the Lord.”
If it feels
overly programmed, vetted, like a broadcast commercial, it won’t work. It has to be like a conversation. Leave space after you talk for the other
person to chime in.
- Resist using
New media will
neither save the church, nor damn the church. Some speak of the democratizing
effect of digital media, of its abolition of authority structures. They may be changing, but they are not
disappearing. Nadia Bolz-Weber, one of our case study subjects, is highly clerical in her ministry. Yet she tweets.
beware of others’ hyperbolic rhetorics.
Question assumptions about social media. Ask whether hierarchical authority structures have just been replaced by
flatter, but still as powerful, authority structures. In other words, has social media and new
media simply accelerated the transfer of authority from traditional leadership
to charismatic leadership as expressed through “hits” and “followers” and
- Don’t act
out of fear.
Don’t get online out of
fear that something bad will happen if you don’t. It most likely won’t. Don’t not
get online out of fear that something bad will happen if you do. It most likely
won’t. Go forward in faith, in response
to God’s calling, not out of the negative motivation of fearing what will
happen if …
- Don’t deliver
difficult news online.
That can show
a lack of respect for the people with whom you are in relationship. Be brave enough to talk to the major
stakeholders face-to-face. And take
While using social
media, it is essential to keep in mind the importance of balance, of keeping a
healthy perspective as new tools evolve, and not letting digital media take
over your life. Some ideas: don’t check in online on your day off. Or first thing in the morning. Or last thing at night. Boundaries can be very difficult to maintain
in an online, all access, all the time world. Ask questions about how much of your private
life you will share, how much about your family? Is this Facebook page for the ministry or for
myself and how do I delineate the two, or should I even try?
- The same
temptations for obsessive overuse exist online as they do offline. Be
careful not to become addicted, not because social media aren’t worth it, but
because addiction of any sort can too easily distort relationships and
communities. If you need help, limit
your social media use to certain times of the day, or limit the number of
friends you really follow, or plan to take social media sabbaths once a week,
or once a month, or once a year.
- Be careful of the permanence and
pervasiveness of online postings. We
don’t yet know what it will mean for today’s teenagers to find their “honest
teenage selves” captured online when they are 35 years old and up for a
major promotion at work. If you don’t
want it out there 20 years from now, then don’t put it out there now. And if
you are an employer, take care how you evaluate
- Fetishization of social media is a danger,
indeed. Remember that content is
king. The message that is shared
continues to be as important as the means and character of the sharing. The
purpose for social media use by a church should always be about drawing nearer
to God and growing stronger in discipleship—not about being “better” at social
the dazzle of new toys.
a good idea to set a social media policy
(including copyright issues) for any organization that has an online
presence. There are a number of examples
you can explore online. Ask your
judicatory as well.
is extremely important to keep children
safe online, and churches can play an important role. Here we share
resources and ideas for how to do this. Check it out. Be careful sharing children’s photos and names online as
well. Always ask for permission from
parents or guardians.
that no matter how amazing you and your congregation think you are, everything you have to say may not actually
be that interesting. Maintain
some humility with your social media use. If content and the message continue to be important, then perhaps you
don’t need to share what you had for breakfast … unless there is a theme or
purpose to such sharing.
forget that older generations are
quickly adopting mobile technology. Be careful of your biases
and assumptions about social media and who uses the tools.
- Learn about the corporate interests
behind the development of devices and hardware, applications and software,
services and content. Someone pays for
this technology even if it’s not always you. Cool, open source, friendly, popular stuff is not immune to the power of
- Give attention to the danger inherent in
the speed of new media. Think carefully before sending out
messages. Consider waiting a full day if
you are feeling particularly emotional about something. Even a few minutes can help you detect errors
in tone … or spelling.
- Respect confidentiality even in this wide open
new media context.
If it would be
confidential in person, then treat it as such online. Your friends may not go to your church, but
their friends’ friends may. Such
considerations might be appropriate for a social media policy for the church or
to ask another basic question as you make decisions about new media and social
media: How will this decision affect the
poor and the marginalized? If you can’t arrive at a quick answer, research
it. And find ways to build
bridges instead of walls.