Can Google Hurt a Church Leader's Job Search?
Weighing online realities about our reputations--and ourselves.

I keep my CV updated. People often need it to introduce me for conferences. The strange thing is, in this era of shared information, I often do not know where my work has been published. My mother recently let me know that I had an article in an Assemblies of God journal. I had no idea. The viral nature of our information is the magical part of the web. But there are difficult things about it too.

I have friends who make sure that they are on top of each time someone is talking about them on the Internet. I'm not so vigilant. I usually run into stuff by accident, and recently there has been some rather strange things popping up. A "heresy hunter" has been trolling my information. He finds it offensive that I am a woman minister, so he writes unflattering portrayals of my work, peppered with name-calling. The site looks legitimate, and the blogger maintains that he is the pastor of a church, but when you try to look up the congregation, it's actually a Chinese restaurant. As a writer, I shrug and think, Any publicity is good publicity. But as a pastor, I'm not so sure. As church leaders, what we do hinges on our reputation.

This experience has made me wonder: what happens if someone on a search committee Googles the name of a candidate who has been attacked by a vicious blogger? How much will that weigh on the committee's decision? We can usually control what sort of information we put on the Internet about ourselves, but we cannot control what people say about us. We also have very little legal recourse in these situations (to dig deeper, see Daniel Solove).

How do we lead religious institutions in the Google generation? There are a few possibilities:

Continue reading "Search Committees and Google," at Off the Agenda, our sister blog. This article originally appeared in Faith & Leadership (reprinted by permission).

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."


Displaying 1–1 of 1 comments

One of Your Readers

August 19, 2010  5:38pm

If I was "Rev." Merritt, I wouldn't worry about "Google searches." Her church's (Western Presbyterian, Washington, D.C.) "What We Believe" statement on their web page is enough to disqualify her, and the church, from anyone seriously considering her to be a Christian Pastor, or the church being Biblical, or Christian (There is no attempt to declare "Jesus is LORD."). ––– WPC's Statement of Belief: Presbyterianism is "reformed and always reforming." Presbyterians are open to change and new ideas as our surprising, steadfast God puts them before us. Therefore, while Presbyterians used to limit ordination to men, oppose the scientific theory of evolution, and believe in predestination, we no longer do so. We try to rectify our past failures to understand God's Word and to stay open to God's new revelations in the present. In the Presbyterian church, each individual person is given great authority. Each one is asked to read and interpret Scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This leads to a healthy diversity of opinion within our church. However, we also have shared beliefs. We believe that: * God is good and continually working for good in history. * Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God's being and will. * Scripture contains the Word of God. Humans are created good. * When we are not good, God forgives the contrite. * The church is a place where we come together to discern the will of God, grow spiritually, and work for justice and peace. * All persons are invited to participate fully in ministry, regardless of age, disability, economic or social circumstance, gender, marital status, race or sexual orientation. PS: I wonder if those who hold to the traditional, grammatical, and historical interpretation of Scripture are, in "Rev." Merritt's church, allowed "to have great authority and discuss the Scriptures" that teach that "Pastor's are to be the husband's of one wife," and that all have sinned, there is none righteous, no not one," and that "homosexuality," as well as "heterosexual sins of promiscuity" are exactly that, "sin," and should disqualify the unrepentant from church membership? And "is Jesus Christ, co-equal, co-eternal, and Fully God, and Fully Man, LORD GOD, and the ONLY WAY to the Father?"

Report Abuse
Recent Posts
Subscribe to Church, Law & Tax
Juvenile Offenders in the Church

Juvenile Offenders in the Church

How to protect children from juveniles who sexually abuse other children.
Safe Practices for Planting a Church

Safe Practices for Planting a Church

Step-by-step help on the key issues you'll face when you plant a new church