22 November 2011
Facebook Is Not The Fax Machine: Technology and the Pastoral Office
I believe one of the major underlying reasons many congregations and pastors are reluctant to adopt social media for ministry is because historically we have had such low expectations when it comes to ministry leaders and technology.
Think about it.
While You Were Out
Technological compentence has never really been an expectation of the pastoral office. In most cases, there is a secretary or parish administrator to operate the technology - the phone, the fax machine, the keyboard, the copier - on behalf of the pastor. That's both because of the low expectations of the pastor's technological competence, but also to "shield" the pastor from the technology, so the pastor can spend time on more "spiritual" work.
The problem with this paradigm is that social media is a different kind of technology.
Social media is not like an email that can be printed off, a phone messages that can be relayed, or a copy that needs to be made. Social media is a place where people are gathering, connecting, conversing, living, and sharing their faith. Like a church building, a hospital, nursing home, or a community center, social media like Facebook and Twitter are locations where pastoral presence is needed and ministry happens.
This is not primarily a technology issue. This is a ministry issue. And there are clear and high expectations that pastors will engage in building relationships, fostering community, sharing the Gospel, and provide pastoral care - and that is what's happening in social media.
Shift Your Expectations
Right now most people in the church are applying the wrong set of expectations to social media. We should be applying ministry expectations first, and then technological ones.
At the same time, we need to be competent in the technology to do the ministry, and so the church must also quickly raise its expectations for pastors around the use of technology.
Congregations must give their pastors time and support - and pastors must take the time and initiative - to learn social media and cultivate a meaningful presence as an investment in their current and future ministry.
Make learning social media part of your continuing education for the coming year. Find a local workshop. Read a good book. Buddy up with a colleague or congregational members and learn it together.
Today pastors must not only be theologically informed. They must also be technologically competent. You can no longer have one without the other.