5 Social Media Ministry Boundaries for Leaders

Social Media BoundariesI wrote this article a while back, but recently I have heard about friends in ministry who have been burned by some poor decisions when using social media. I’m reposting this today in the hope it will be helpful to those of us who are in ministry and use social media…

Using social media can be your friend when doing ministry, but it can quickly become your enemy too…  I have heard stories of youth workers who are getting into trouble because of the way they are using social media. I have also heard quite a few stories of people not getting a new position because of the social media ‘past.

5 Social Media Ministry Boundaries

1) Accept that leaders live in ‘glass house.’ This is hard to accept, but when you are in ministry and you are using social media, it automatically means that you are under the spotlight. Leaders, parents, students, and children are looking up to you and will often follow you for inspiration, guidance, and hope. On the other hand, others will follow you to get an inside track to see whether you fit their mold of someone in ministry…

Like it or not, the reality is that a leader is always watched closely. What are others seeing?

2) Wait to be Friended or Followed: If you don’t know a student well, wait for them to friend or follow you. I know this might seem a little extreme, but unless I know a person quite well, I will wait for them to friend me. If there is a person in your ministry who is new and getting plugged in, it might be worth waiting for them to friend you. Waiting for someone to ‘friend’ you simply avoids any weirdness and ensures they are happy for you to get an inside track to their life.

3) Avoid Private Conversations: When working with students, try to keep messages public and for all to see. If a students wants to talk to you about an issue or a problem, try to do it face to face in full site of others. It’s also essential to communicate with parents that you are talking to their student. I know this might seem a little over the top, but here are two good reasons why contacting parents is a good idea:

  • It opens the door for a relationship to partner with parents.
  • It avoids parents wondering what your intentions are. In this day and age, parents are protective when other adults contact their kids, and rightly so. Honor parents by touching base and letting them know who you are.

4) Consider carefully what you post: Here are three things that can get you in trouble.

  • Questionable pictures: In certain social media platforms such as Facebook, you can create a setting that gives you the option to ‘allow’ pictures you are tagged in. Ensure that the pictures of you will always allow others to see you in a positive light.
  • Complaints: Complaining about others simply does not look good. It shows weakness that we can’t talk to the person directly as well as modeling a poor method of dealing with conflict.
  • Controversial Issues: For me I don’t post  anything that could divide people in my church. Political statements, local controversies, and attacks on political leaders should be avoided.

In what you post, would others describe you as a  divisive and opinionated person, or an inspirational leader? 

5) Leverage social media to inspire and uplift:  This should be a given, but many of us have discounted the great value of regularly posting to inspire others. As I said at the beginning of this post. People are looking for hope and direction. Consider what influence you can have by using social media effectively?

What would you add to this list? In what ways has social media caused issues for you? What are the most widely used forms of social media by your students? Where are your students trending to? 

Phil <><

photo credit: mag3737 via photopin cc

4 Responses to 5 Social Media Ministry Boundaries for Leaders

  1. John-Peter March 11, 2015 at 11:00 am #

    Great article! These are very good things to think about. I was cut to the quick on the question of if others would consider me divisive and opinionated or an inspiring leader. Everything I post is to help someone grow spiritually, but I often delve into the realm of the controversial because I think there’s such a need there.

    Great things for me to think about! I welcome your opinion personally because I respect you.

    • PhilBell March 11, 2015 at 10:40 pm #

      John-Peter, I struggle in the same way, and that is in part why I mentioned it that way. For the most part, I try to keep my posts and comments uplifting and encouraging. It’s not a hard and fast rule, I just find it helpful as a leader in the church to keep a positive focus that inspires others. Social media has enough negativity and I believe it’s better for me to be a contrast to this… Thoughts?

      • John-Peter March 14, 2015 at 11:17 am #

        Perhaps there is a way to frame really difficult words so it is clear they are meant to build up as they challenge, not criticize. If so, this is going to have to be a practice I am intentional about.

        Thank you for provoking these thoughts.

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