17 May 2012

Digital Disentanglement (Social Media and Pastoral Transition, Part 1)

Posted in Social Media and Pastoral Transition, How To, Social Media, Tagged with digital ministry how to pastoral transition social media

tangled wiresMuch 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.


In this way, it very much like the rest of the pastoral transition process where we disentangle ourselves in several ways - relinquishing our leadership and the marks of our calling, notifying people and companies of your change of address, looking at all your stuff and figuring out what to keep, sell, donate, and trash, and tending to relationships and saying goodbyes in your leave taking.

Here are four things that have been important in my experience of digital disentanglement thus far:

Institutional Memory, Now In The Cloud

Like everything else in pastoral transition, there is a large amount of handing over of institutional knowledge. This now includes technology. A convenient way to share this information is through Google Docs. I've created a Google document with detailed information about log-ins, access, and payment information for all our web platforms and shared it with staff members. We are also using them to compile basic information for the interim pastor, like committee contact lists. It enables all of us to easily edit and view these documents.

Add Administrators

Always have more than one person as an "administrator", "owner", or "super administrator" - whatever the highest level of control is called - on your website and social media properties. This is important for sharing your digital ministry but also for making sure someone else has access and authority if you leave or are incapacitated in some way - sick, without wi-fi, etc. This will save you from having to add people later during your transition. It's also always a good idea to have more than one staff person as an administrator to help monitor and maintain good boundaries.

Avoid Using Personal Accounts

Try not to use your personal email address when creating new accounts. Use your work email, if you are given one, or better - create a dedicated email account (I like Gmail best) for your church web work. Again, if you set up a stand-alone email, share the log-in information with someone else. In most cases, you can change the primary contact and email address later, but if you have a lot of digital platforms it can be a pain (as I can attest!). If you are worried about keeping up with different email addresses and logins, you might try the excellent program 1Password, which helps you keep track.

Set The Table

A word about content. The actual content that gets shared and communicated via these various applications and social media is the work of ministry and generated by the congregation and whomever they call to be their pastor. My job now is to set the table, so people can access and make use of them, if they wish.

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More specifically, here are some things to keep in mind as you think about digitally disentangling yourself:

Checklist for Take Off

Church Website: create a Goole Doc with information about the domain name and hosting (including how much it costs and when the charges come), and how to log-in. If necessary, train other staff members on how to access and maintain it.

Sermon Blog: assign two other person as administrators and include information about access and any related charges on the Google Doc. The incoming pastor will have to decide whether to continue posting sermons in this way.

Google Groups: delete old groups that aren’t used anymore update group lists just as you update the church directory and membership roles. Make an existing member of the group and a staff person as an “owner”, giving them authority to manage the group.

Google Docs: delete old documents, and share remaining docs with appropriate staff and members, giving people full administrative access to edit documents and invite others as needed. Use Google Docs to collect institutional information and history for the incoming pastor.

PayPal: although we created a business account for Redeemer, the registration required my social security number. I didn't feel comfortable with that and seeing as how the account was hardly ever used and we have a new online giving option, I closed it. Redeemer can create a new account in the future, if it seems worthwhile. Make sure none of our sensitive personal information is kept or used for these digital platforms.

YouTube: Redeemer already had a Google account so I associated that account with our YouTube channel, which we've used primarily for our 2 Minute Bible Studies. I love doing this series and, fortunately, I don't have to leave them behind. Even though they remain hosted on Redeemer's YouTube channel, I can add these videos to a playlist on my personal YouTube account. 

Twitter: Our tweets are generated from of our Facebook page using the Twitter app in Facebook, so this is very low maintenance for us. I changed the email address listed on the account to another staff member.

Facebook: This is the easiest platform to add someone as an "administrator." You can do this using the "manage admins" tab. The person needs to already be a fan of the page before they can be administrator.

Yelp!, Google Places, HotFrog: These are local search platforms that we maintain (more information about this in a previous post). I changed the contact information to the office and removed my picture and biographical information.

I hope this is helpful. Have you ever had to deal with these kind of transition issues? What advice would you share? Anything I missed

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