Your church’s internet presence and social media footprint—whether on Facebook or Twitter or elsewhere—often serve as your church’s first impression to the world. It is a face that you present in much the same way that your greeters and ushers make a first impression to visitors.
One of my church clients has seen a tremendous increase in the number of foreign visitors on any given Sunday. What started with a group of 30 to 50 people, who were visiting from out of the country and wanting to visit an “American Gospel” church, has turned into hundreds of individuals from throughout the world who come to visit the church based on its website, Yelp reviews, and posts by previous visitors. Both an international ministry and a translation ministry (to provide interpretation during services) have resulted from the influx of global visitors, and much of it has been fueled by the church’s web presence.
As such, it is critical that what is posted on your social media accounts, as well as your website, is intentional and congruent with your overall ministry goals. If your target is millennials and evangelizing to them, then you post material that is relevant to that generation. If your focus is missions and international aid, then you adjust your focus accordingly. Use your church’s social media accounts—and wider internet presence—to perpetuate the mission and vision of your church.
3. “Free speech” is not so free.
Many people believe that what they post on social media as part of their “personal lives” is their business: that it’s protected by “free speech,” free from employer scrutiny, and not potentially serving as the basis for the loss of employment.
“Free speech,” however, is a concept that is often misunderstood. The basis of free speech is protection from governmental interference and constraint. As such, if you are a public employee, you have some free speech protection because you work for the government (although courts have been cautious in this area and have limited the protection to speech that includes “matters of public concern”). But if you work in the private sector, such as a church, you do not have the same free speech protection, and social media posts—even on private accounts—may indeed serve as a basis for termination from employment. Thom S. Rainer recently published an article on five reasons pastors get fired due to social media posts; making combative or political comments, taking on church members, criticizing other people, and making unsavory or lewd comments were noted as the major culprits.