There was a time in the church when much of leadership was about gate keeping. It was important to keep the church safe from heresy and protect the members from exposure to dangerous ideas about the world and about God. Truth was filtered and mediated by the church.
This was one of Luther’s objections to the Roman Catholic Church at the time. He believed if you gave people the right tools, people could be trusted to use their own judgment about the information they received.
Much of the Reformation was about giving people the tools (the bible and education like the small catechism) to discern the truth and wisdom of any ideas they may encounter.
Today church leaders still have some gate keeping work to do. Certainly you don’t want to include everything in the Sunday bulletin that come across your desk every day.
But this is the thing—just because you don’t put it in the bulletin doesn’t mean that folks won’t encounter these things.
One of the responsibilities of today’s church leaders is to be curators of content. This is especially important on social media. A curator finds, filters, interprets and shares information.
As a leader on social media, you help folks find what is useful and relevant.
I believe it is important that as church leaders we view social media as a public ministry tool and use it as such.
That means we need to use social media for the sake and witness of the church.
It means we think about how what we share reflects on the church.
We set an example and teach others how to use social media by what we do.
No doubt most of the readers know this but I am going to remind you of some things a church leader should not post:
Off color jokes
(be careful about even liking posts like this because they may show up on your newsfeed)
Anything sexist, racist, or homophobic
Overtly Partisan Politics
Everyone has to decide for themselves how to post with integrity and for their context.
No matter how important you believe an issue is, consider how useful a social media post can be. It may be a face to face forum or even a closed discussion group (as long as you remember even a closed group is not private) is a better avenue to address controversial issues.
If you feel compelled to take a stand on a controversial issue, make sure that you show respect for those who disagree.
Generally speaking, if there is any question in your mind as to whether it is appropriate or not, it is best not to share.
What should I post?
Uplifting, positive things. If you see others sharing negative, judgmental posts, instead of arguing with them, post grace filled memes and posts.
Share articles about how to be more welcoming in church or how to be open to change in church. You may tell your members these things all the time, but often reading about it in an article will reinforce what you teach.
There are plenty of negative things online so you should be the one posting positive things.
Sometimes though, we do need to share news that is sad or disturbing. Add some words of hope or suggestions of what people can do about this upsetting news.
Also be sure to like and comment positively when others post good things. (As well as liking their photos of grandchildren and puppies.)
Help your members be better curators.
Hold confirmation, youth and adult bible studies on how to clarify biblical and Christian values and use those values when discerning the value of what we see online.
The following are some questions we explored in small group discussion following this presentation at Day of Renewal:
- How does the idea of leadership as curation resonate with your experience?
- What are some things that might get in the way of moving from “gatekeeper” to “curator?
- What are some ways you can help people navigate the amount of information that comes their way every day?
The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson
Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA