This is the big question in social media and pastoral transition and the way you answer this question has a lot to do with your Facebook philosophy.
If you are among those who see your Facebook profile as a professional tool, you may be more inclined to unfriend former parishioners. Your professional responsibility ends with your call and you can go on to apply these tools to your new congregation.
However, if you see social media as something more than just part of your professional practice - as something about relationship and community building, the sharing of grace in a network that extends through and beyond the local congregation (as Elizabeth Drescher and I suggest in our book Click2Save: The Digital Ministry Bible), you may be more inclined to remain friends with former parishioners. Yet, this raises a set of complicated questions about appropriate boundaries and digital ministry practice.
I started a sermon blog in 2006 for myself as a way to easily search and sort my sermons using categories and tags. It turned into a useful service to our congregation, and eventually, with the ability to share them through social media, to many people beyond Redeemer.
I called the blog Sermons at Redeemer, and included this explanation, “Our sermons at Redeemer are our weekly blog. They are our reflections on the ways God is at work in our lives, our church, and our world.” We included sermons by our deacon and guest preachers.
Now that it is time for me to move on I’ve been wondering: whose sermons are these, anyway? They live on the church blog and I wrote them on the church’s time. They represent my intellectual work but they were inspired by experiences within the congregation. Should they remain on the blog, be deleted or live somewhere else?
Social media presents those seeking a new call with great opportunity but also potential risk. Today, you must be digitally savvy not only to help land a call, but to manage your digital connections and communication during the interview, call, and transition processes.
Calling is a heady, intense, and disorienting time and often the last thing on your mind is digital media. I’ve just been through it myself and these nine big things I learned.
What you need to know is that just nine months prior, the day after Christmas, a Woburn police officer, Jack Maguire, was shot and killed under very similar circumstances - while intercepting suspects from a jewelry robbery. We were also just days away from the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The robbery and shooting had brought back the painful memories of Jack’s death to our collective consciousness. The memory of 9/11 loomed as images of that day were continuously replayed in the media. We were emotionally raw.
I was up early the next morning, wondering how, as a pastor and neighbor, to support the community in the wake of our shock and grief.
Much of the conversation around social media and pastoral transition revolves around whether and how to stay connected to former parishioners on social media. I address this in another post. However, I also want to highlight some of the other, less discussed, ways technology plays a role in pastoral transition.
One important step in pastoral transition is digital disentanglement - handing over access, control, and information about the congregation’s website and social media platforms to those that remain.
This can be a bigger job that we expect. Often, we don't appreciate how digitally integrated we have become in our ministry settings until its time for us to leave.
One of the most common questions about social media in ministry — “How much time do you spend on Facebook?” — is quickly becoming an irrelevant one.
Today 46 percent of American adults own smart phones and nearly 20 percent of Americans use a tablet or e-reader. They manage multiple social networking profiles, spending upwards of 15 minutes a day on Facebook alone, and carry out many everyday tasks like shopping and banking online.
As the Internet goes mobile and we spend more time there, the line between our digital and face-to-face lives is rapidly blurring.
This integration of our digital and analog lives, whether we choose to embrace or resist it, is changing our lives and, therefore, the practice of ministry, in profound ways.
Today’s ministry leaders are called to be present and minister not only in person, by phone, snail mail and email, but also via text message and social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
I experienced this myself recently when one of my parishioners — I’ll call her Sally — had surgery to remove a tumor from the right side of her brain.