Leadership and Social Media
Dr. James Emery WhiteJames Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture (www.serioustimes.org); and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture on the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. White holds the B.S., M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, along with additional work at Vanderbilt University and Oxford University. He is the author of over a dozen books.
- 2014 Aug 18
There is a lot of advice out there for the use of social media that usually falls into two categories: 1) don’t put anything dumb out there for the world to see, and 2) leverage it as much as you can to your advantage.
But if you are part of a church’s leadership team, whether staff or volunteer, there’s more to add to the mix that isn’t being talked about very much.
For example, I’ve needed to remind some of our staff about the following:
1. Don’t post anything that could potentially undermine your reputation or the church’s reputation for Christ-like character.
I know, this goes without saying. But it’s stunning how many people feel there is a disconnect between what they post, what people will see, and who they say they are.
At Meck, this tends to play itself out with younger interns who, usually innocently, tend to mimic culture’s values about what is and is not appropriate. For example, a link to a popular video which is, in truth, inappropriate. Or favoriting a website that while popular, often features sketchy content.
At other times, we have Meckers who have biblical “freedoms” in certain areas but are not discrete in terms of making them known. Yes, usually this has to do with drinking. You may feel free to imbibe, but posting pictures flaunting it is not only unwise, but can be misconstrued as abusing the freedom.
The point is that when you post something, you are putting it out for public consumption. Make sure it won’t cause indigestion.
2. Don’t post anything that would potentially undermine the maturity and gravitas accompanying your leadership role.
Let’s state the obvious: If you are a leader, people WILL Google you, search you, find you on Twitter and Facebook…and then make an evaluation. Does your online presence support your leadership role, or undermine it? Does it breed confidence in you as a teacher, as someone who is wise and mature?
I talked to one of our worship leaders recently about his Facebook page. I had no idea what he had there, as I am not on Facebook, but asked him whether or not it aided his ability to lead people older than him, or hindered it. He went back and was shocked at how many middle school postings there were on his Facebook page. Yes, he was in his twenties, and there were still postings from his middle school years. He just hadn’t cleaned it up in years.
The point is simple: have everything about your social media presence support your position in the church. This is particularly important if you are a young leader, as you may still have a “college-y” feel to your online presence that makes you seem juvenile to older adults you are attempting to serve.
3. Don’t retweet from, or link to, any person or source you are not absolutely 100% willing to endorse.
Let’s state the obvious: if you retweet something, you are endorsing it. You might say, “No, I’m not! I just liked the saying!” Wake up. That’s not the way it works. If you retweet someone, your followers will be led to follow that person, and then receive an endless supply of tweets. Are you wanting to lift that person, that church, that ministry, up? If not, no matter how much you may like that particular tweet, don’t risk infecting others.
The same is true to things you link to.
Bottom line: if you cannot 100% sign off on someone’s theology, practices, ministry, lifestyle, etc., then DO NOT retweet them or link to them in any way that may convey your support.
4. Don’t overdo it.
There are some people who seem to live on Facebook and Twitter – or for it. This is problematic on three fronts: first, for the average busy person it sends the message that you have a lot of time on your hands. Translation: you’re not working very hard. That undermines your leadership.
A second concern is that if you overdo it, you set yourself up for mistakes. This is particularly true for Twitter, as it invites instantaneous communication. But that’s not always wise. You can say things you regret, or say things that prove to be untrue or premature. You can also react emotionally in ways that are inappropriate. As Scripture reminds us, “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.” (Proverbs 10:19, NLT)
The final concern is that if you overdo it, you will lose people’s attention. People who tweet every 10 minutes fail to realize that their followers aren’t reading them every ten minutes. Nor do they want to. I’ve had countless conversations with people who say they stopped following someone because they tweeted too much – and ninety-percent of what they tweeted was insipid.
Oh, and two more things: 1) don’t put anything dumb out there for the world to see, and 2) leverage it as much as you can to your advantage.
James Emery White
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is now available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit www.churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.