As employees, we can sometimes be viewed as extensions of our jobs, and a pastor is often viewed as synonymous with the church they lead. Suppose a pastor makes comments like the ones Rainer notes—comments that may go viral and create ramifications for the church. Suppose a pastor takes a position that is contrary to that of the church by virtue of its established tenets of faith or its governing documents. The church has the right to terminate employment and should exercise that right.
One preventive step churches can take to address this issue is to create a social media policy. This is an effective way to manage expectations regarding the use of the various platforms and what is (and is not) acceptable content.
4. Manage the platform by just being you.
Yes, social media is a forum to address issues impacting the world: but you can comment without politicizing or offending.
In conversations with church leaders following the viral post I described at the start of this piece, pastors were concerned that they were being told they could no longer say or post their true feelings—that they would face repercussions if a segment of the population did not agree with them and decided to share and create viral sensationalism.
Proverbs 4:6 tells us to “not forsake wisdom,” and that tenet is surely applicable here. Of course, as a pastor and as a Christian, you are an ambassador of Christ, and you must espouse that which is in alignment with the Word of God—but use wisdom. Remember that though we are not of this world, we live in it. As such, you must consider the time and place for your comments. Sometimes you must conduct a cost-benefit analysis and determine whether you do more harm or good to the cause of God if you address a particular issue. Additionally, how you say something is often just as important as what you say. The Bible should not be diluted, but the Word is to be delivered in love. You can speak to sin with love and create just as much of a viral reaction.
5. Use social media—don’t let it use you.
Social media has many favorable attributes and can serve a church and a pastor well, with access to an immediate audience and an amazing platform. But much is required in the way social media is utilized. There must be an intentional approach to its use, as well as an understanding and sensitivity to the way most people process social media feeds.
Overall, however, churches benefit greatly by investing in their social media presence and leveraging this powerful tool for all of its positive elements, so that it becomes an instrument for the good the church does—not a point of challenge or contention.
Gisele Kalonzo-Douglas is an attorney, risk manager, strategic planning consultant, crisis management professional, and an editorial advisor for Christianity Today’s Church Law & Tax Team. She is the founder of a risk management company helping ministries, The Kalonzo-Douglas Group. She also serves as the Corporate Counsel for Bethel Gospel Assembly in New York.
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