At the social media discussion at PC(USA)’s General Assembly one lady was concerned that someone outside of the church was posting about a random mission trip not associated with the church or their denomination. Recently a youth group leader told me with no hesitation that she deletes things off the youth group’s Facebook page that are not “of the group.” (She did not clarify what that meant.) When I asked if this was a control issue, she agreed and said she would not let control go on anything around the youth group.
Had I not heard these concerns directly from church leaders, I wouldn’t have thought tip #4 was necessary to blog on. When you use social media, you can’t control everything. Honestly, you don’t want to control everything. As I said in tip #1 the thing people want most in social media is for people to be authentic. When people are authentic, you can’t control them.
Just like in other conversations, people can easily seem off topic to an outside observer in social media. Maybe it’s just a fun or silly conversation to you, but to the people involved it can be deep relationship building. You can’t police what other people do on social media. You want to leave room for the Spirit to work within the conversations.
Church leaders have a choice to make when they see something they don’t like. If it’s spam, delete it. If someone is “grief-ing” you (a random person just trying to make trouble) you can choose whether to engage them, ignore them, or boot them. If a conversation arises that is between a small group of people and is distracting everyone else, you can ask that group to move their conversation.
But you can’t tell people what to talk about.
You can be part of the conversation. In social media, the field is pretty even. As a church leader your job is not to give people answers or steer them to talk about what you want to talk about. People will push you in person and on social media to see how much they can trust you. If you take them seriously about what may seem to you silly and off-topic they will be more willing to trust you and engage you with the difficult stuff.
If one of the purposes of the Christian life is to be a disciple that includes all parts of our lives–including our actions online. We are in Web 2.0 where things are relational, not just static information. If you try to control the conversation, you’re going to kill connectivity. Choose to be part of the conversation.