Pastoring on Facebook
More and more youth are spending their time online. Entire friendships are being made and lost online today. Social Networking sites have become, for many teenagers, an integral and regular part of their lives. They are often online checking their pages eight of nine times a day. And with many phones now having the ability to update their Myspace and Facebook status, many people are never away from their pages.
While these sites offer unprecedented ability to connect with friends, they also create a new world of interactions that has completely new challenges. Unfortunately, most pastors are completely ignorant of the potential for both good and harm that social networks have to offer. So here are some of the aspects of social networking that can be most significant to pastors, especially youth pastors.
It may sound weird, but by talking about faith online with people, it shows those people's friends that they are Christian. Creating a Christian presence online can help many people to begin to be more open about their faith with their friends, as people ask what event their pictures are from, or who that strange person messaging them was.
Anyone can create an event in Facebook, and then invite people to join. A winter retreat or camp event can easily be created on Facebook, allowing people to RSVP digitally. Once they have RSVPed, they will be reminded when the event is approaching so that they do not forget. All of their friends also see that they have said they're going, providing good publicity for the events and encouraging your people to stand up for their faith and what they're doing for it.
It shows you care
By involving yourself in what is important to your people, even online things, it shows that you care about your people and what is important to them. Of course, if you begin to involve yourself in online social networking sites it is important that you maintain your presence. If you create an account and then don't use it, leaving messages unanswered and questions ignored, it will hurt instead of help your relationship with people.
Keeping up with Lives
Knowing Who is dating who, and when someone is having a bad day can be very difficult sometimes. What people won't tell us to our faces, however, they often will post in updates to their status. When any one of your friends posts something, everyone can see it. This allows each person to be very aware of what others are doing and feeling on a daily or even hourly basis. You can therefore easily see who is dating who, and what is going on in someone's life, by checking their recent status updates and posts.
This allows the pastor to be up to date in knowing what is going on in their people's lives. It also provides a way for pastors to communicate with their students every day as events happen and not just once or twice a week. A failed test, a break-up, sickness or a great vacation can all be well known. All of this allows for unprecedented levels of communication between the pastor and congregation.
This also helps to remind people that their lives are not anonymous just because they're online. Often people will mention drug or alcohol use online that they wouldn't mention in person. This allows for a pastor to keep track of the darker sides of people's lives as well, and help where possible. With a simple message, a pastor can set up a meeting with one of their students, offer support, or remind them that everyone can see what they post. And since everyone can see what one friend posts, you will also be modeling good actions for the other people you are both friends with.
Pictures and Videos
Pictures and video can easily be posted, and individuals tagged as being in those photos. Camp or church event photos can be uploaded and everyone who is in those photos will be told they're in it. This will remind people of the events and help to promote the church's ministry.
Videos can also be uploaded as promos of events, pumping people up and creating some buzz for what is happening in the Church.
Reliable Contact Information
One problem many pastors have, especially with youth, is getting reliable contact information for people. This is especially true with people who only attend infrequently, or are friends of regular attendees. In Facebook, however, pastors can easily contact the friends of their students in a reliable way, without ever having a phone number or email address. As long as one of your contacts is friends with the person in question, you can contact them fairly easily.
Birthdays and later in life anniversaries, are important things for a pastor to remember. However, often we don't even know when someone's birthday is. Fortunately, Facebook tells you when any of your friend's birthdays is coming up, giving you plenty of time to send a card, give a phone call, or even just drop them on a line on Facebook itself.