The Bi-Vocational Pastor: Social Media

I realize that this is a topic that has had no small amount of attention from the blogosphere. Social media is so commonplace in the world today that it only makes sense that it attracts some attention. It’s a great tool for communication, whether it be for communicating with family and friends or promoting a cause or organization. It can also be a great vice, in that it can consume massive amounts of time from our day and even be allowed to be an extremely poor substitute for real and meaningful relationships. And while there is much more to be said about the positives and negatives of social media, the purpose of this post is not to delve into those topics, but to simply say that whether it’s being used for effective, meaningful communication or as an excessive, indulgent time consumption, social media can be simply exhausting.

As a pastor, social media has become a staple in my life. The world is becoming more and more digitized and technology, particularly mobile devices, has become a primary medium for communication. Yes, there are other ways to communicate with people and social media is not a means to building meaningful relationships, but in order to initiate connections with people you have to be willing to meet them where they are, and in today’s world people are on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, and the rest. And, if this is where the people are, the church must be willing to meet them there with some sort of presence. The problem is, this can become an overwhelming task.

One of the biggest problems is that there are multiple social networks that do different things and reach different demographics of people in different ways. And for the pastor, trying to keep up with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Vimeo, YouTube, etc., can become extremely overwhelming. Admittedly, using all of these platforms is certainly not necessary, but each one has its own benefits and uses and trying to consistently add content to just one or two of them can become quite demanding. While there are ways to integrate all of these networks (many can be linked in a way that a single post can go to multiple networks), there is still a great deal of time involved. Preparing an event and adding the information, including and editing an image or video, and scheduling multiple times for the post to go up can be quite tedious. Not only are you posting event times and images, but there is also the content of the information which isn’t simply the same as a typical post about a personal activity or emotion. The content must be relatable and must effectively communicate the information being disseminated. And, if you’re using Twitter, it must be limited to 140 characters. This requires thoughtfulness and planning, which often makes what seems to be a simple task much more painstaking. It’s not really difficult; just extremely time-consuming.

However, the point of this post wasn’t meant to be a complaint about the necessity or effort required in maintaining a consistent and effective social media presence. Here’s the point: since maintaining such a presence can be so exhaustive, every church attempting to do so needs to have someone (or in some cases multiple people, depending on the size of the church and the amount of information being disbursed) who is responsible for this task. It’s a responsibility that requires a bit of technological savvy, careful thought and planning, and maybe most importantly, time commitment. And ideally, it’s a responsibility that should be given to someone other than the pastor. While maintaining a social media presence is important, let’s be honest, it cannot and should not become more important than the pastor’s commitment to preaching and teaching, counseling, preparing for corporate worship, visiting the ill, or other vital parts of their ministry. While it certainly is possible, the time and focus that is needed to maintain an effective media presence is something the pastor, especially a bi-vocational pastor, does not typically have or simply cannot afford to give without sacrificing his time devoted to other ministry commitments. Furthermore, with the ease and accessibility of social media from mobile devices, it has become easier and easier for pastors to take this burden home. If the extra time spent on social media isn’t taken from these commitments, then it’s likely to be taken from his time spent with his family or his personal time of prayer and devotion. And, reducing the amount of time spent in any of these areas will be just as damaging to a pastor’s efficacy in ministry as taking his time from sermon prep, counseling, visitations, etc.

I understand that not every church makes such a commitment, and may not even agree that there is a need to do so. However, if a church is going to share its content effectively and efficiently via social media, the church and the people it is trying to reach will be better served if the responsibility is relinquished from the pastorate and others in the church are trained and empowered to take on what has become an increasingly important responsibility.

How does your church handle its social media commitments?

Robie Day is the pastor at Grace Brethren Chapel in Piketon, Ohio and the vice president of the SOPC. He is a graduate of Shawnee State University (BA), Ohio State University (MA), and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary (MA).

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