Social Media and Moving Pastors


First off let me announce that at this time I AM NOT moving. I’m not on the move list (as far as I know) and since I did not hear anything last week I’m pretty sure it will stay that way. Why do we UM ministers have to always lead with this stuff! But moving is on my mind since cabinet did meet last week and I do know people who are on the move list.

As I started thinking I realized the changes in social media since I moved last (June of 2007). When I moved to Trinity I had a very inactive Facebook page with only a few friends. Since moving I gained more and more friends on Facebook as it became even more popular. Many of my parishioners from my current church are friends of mine on Facebook. There are great opportunities to be in contact with them and pray for them as we share life via social networking. But what happens when I do move?
I know there are some pastors who are processing this thought since they will be facing this reality in June. There are others who have already lived through it. My main question is…how do you handle making pastoral transitions and your social networking?
I know there is a rule (written or unwritten) that a moving pastor should not be in contact with the congregation they are moving away from for about a year. This gives the pastor moving in a chance to settle and establish ministerial authority without being in competition with the one who just left. This was easier to do BFT, (before Facebook & Twitter). But we live in a world that breaths FB and Twitter now and so how do you handle the transition. Do moving pastors take a year off form FB and Twitter? Do they de-friend/unfollow their old congregation and only accept friends from their new one? Do you limit past laity’s access to your account and give them no ability to comment on your wall and posts for a year?
This is a new realm of thinking when it comes to moving pastors but it is a reality. I know if I was getting to know a new congregation, Facebook and Twitter are places where it would be easy to start building relationships but it would be hard if you kept seeing the previous minister adding the conversations.
So what do you all think? What have you done? Should a petition be written to General Conference and our disciple changed because of these new social networking sites? (just kidding on that one) But what have ministers done or are doing to give room for saying goodbye to old relationships and welcoming new ones in the area of social networking?
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6 thoughts on “Social Media and Moving Pastors

  1. I think it depends a lot on how you use Facebook / social networking. I have several FB friends from my current congregation, and a few from my previous one. But I don't really interact in any pastoral way with people from my former congregation (I guess I don't use FB to interact that way with my current congregation either, now that I think about it). For me, its a venue for posting interesting links that I think some of my FB friends might like to know about, although I do use its message function to communicate sometimes with current congregants about church business. However, I suppose if you were using FB for staying up on people's lives, including spiritual needs or concerns, then you'd want to take a look at that when you moved.

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  2. Very interesting dilemma. Not that this is a solution, but you can group your facebook friends and control what they see (photos, wall posts, what others post, etc). I have experienced that it can be very difficult for a congregation to make the transition with contact, but if a pastor would set their old congregants on a limited profile view, they wouldn't have to “unfriend” them. It puts the ball of communication in their court, so to say. If someone from an old congregation wants to ask them a question or say hello they could. Good question!

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  3. I think a lot of it depends on the situation. Was the pastor in good standing with the congregation he/she was moved? Was there tension and conflict and that's why he/she moved?

    I would probably not change anything in Facebook and just be careful about how and with who I communicate. I would make it clear that while I can be pastoral to my old congregation, I cannot be their pastor.

    I would make it a point to speak well of the pastor coming in and get the people excited and on board with him/her.

    I'm of the notion that it is okay to make friends with people in the congregation…didn't Jesus say something about the greatest love and friendship? And doesn't he continue to be our ultimate Good Shepherd (i.e. Pastor).

    With that in mind, I would apply the same idea to Facebook and continue to communicate with my old congregation using discretion and wisdom with how and what I communicate.

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  4. Karen and I have been wondering this too. I did move last year and I still have the same friends from the last church and have added more. But the way I see it, I can be the FB buddy without being their pastor. There's the line I draw.

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  5. Hacking Christanity has a great post on this very topic. Jeremy gets into the details of how to change your security settings and so forth.

    I am going to probably start a different list for each church I serve, that way I can keep past or present parishioners at certain security and interactive levels.

    Thanks for the comments everyone and go here to read Jeremy's post, http://hackingchristianity.net/2011/05/facebook-how-to-for-pastors-changing-churches.html

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