I’ve become a better pastor thanks to Facebook. I joined the social networking site a while ago, but never used it for some time. Therefore, I had few friends or followers on social media, and I had little interaction with the community which was often restricted to Sunday church. But then, I became an avid user (my friend Jae Hess claims I need an intervention, but so far I’ve managed to avoid anything so extreme). Now, I understand that social media stars need more engagement for themselves, and may therefore have to go searching for the best place to buy Facebook likes. While I don’t share the same inclination, I have, nevertheless, become more aware of the positive impact of social networking on me as a pastor. This is what I have noticed :
- Facebook helps me connect with more people in the church. One Sunday, I was able to greet someone with a followup to a statement they had made on Facebook! We enjoyed a short conversation and a laugh that might not have otherwise gone beyond “good morning”. And it allows me to make connections with people at their convenience, without intruding into a busy schedule or hectic home.
- I send daily birthday greetings to members of my flock who are on Facebook. It only takes a few seconds, but it’s such a blessing to have that brief connection. I can’t help but believe it means something to send those greetings.
- I’m in the loop. Through Facebook, I’ve been much better informed about the lives of my brothers and sisters: who’s on vacation, who’s having surgery, who’s having a bad day, and so on.
- I pray via Facebook. I have had multiple opportunities to include a short prayer for a member of the church, and I’ve linked my daily prayer blog to my profile page, so my church family can gain a sense of what I’m praying each day.
- It makes me “normal.” As normal as a pastor can be, that is. People can see on Facebook if I share an interest of theirs, or keep up with the semi-normal pursuits of my daily life.
- It extends my example when I mention that I’m on a date night with my wife, or “sabbathing,” or “complaining before bedtiming,” for example.
- It helps me learn names. I have actually studied photos of people in the church whom I’ve “friended” on Facebook to try to improve my recollection when I see them at church. And we got a program tab with a newcomer’s contact info on it, and I wasn’t sure of the last name…until that person asked me to “friend” her on Facebook!
- It has increased my photo library of church things. For example, after a child dedication on Sunday, a friend posted photos of her child’s dedication and “tagged” me in the picture. I copied those photos to my own files.
- Facebook gets the word out. When my church got a donation of brand new white boards, we installed those we needed and had one left over. I saw a ministry friend’s update on Facebook saying he was shopping for a white board. I sent him a message and a few days later he had a brand new board at no cost.
- It encourages me and invites prayer for me. A while back, I was having a really crummy day, and said so in my update. Within minutes, a bunch of friends assured me they loved me and were praying for me. For a guy whose tendency is to suffer alone, that’s a huge benefit.
- It makes me laugh. With all the stresses that come with public ministry, having an occasional friend poke fun at me-or me at them-makes the load a little lighter.
- It makes me look cooler than I really am. At least, cooler than pastors who aren’t on Facebook, right?
I’m sure I’m forgetting or overlooking a few more ministry advantages to Facebook. Feel free to add your own in the comments. And, by the way, it’s not as time-consuming as most people think. I keep my Facebook page open in the background and check it a few times a day, max. Honestly. Seriously. No, really. No kidding. I’m being straight with you. Oops, just got a message on Facebook. Gotta go.