Over @ Tim Challies blog he post some ideas for using Facebook as a ministry tool. He also gives a few warnings that are most appropriate as well.
Facebook. In so many areas of life it’s no longer an if, no longer an option. With 500 million users it is quickly becoming a near-essential tool for families, for businesses and yes, even for churches.
The good news is that Facebook has a lot to commend it; there many things it does very well and thus there are many ways in which Facebook can assist pastors and other ministry leaders. The bad news is that there are also (and inevitably) ways in which it can hinder ministry if not used well. Today I want to look at Facebook as a ministry tool and suggest a few ways in which it can help and hinder. Because of practical limitations I cannot tell you how to go about setting up an account, but at least I can give some suggestions on what to do once you’ve already joined and started to be active.
One of Facebook’s great benefits for you, as a ministry leader, is that it lets you be where your people are.If you are like most pastors, you will find that your church members are not only members of Facebook, but that they are active members. This is where people socialize, where they entertain themselves and where (occassionally) they discuss serious issues. This is not to say that you need to be on Facebook in order to effectively minister to your people, but it does give you one more way of interacting with them, and one that can be very effective. Facebook is at its heart a social media, one used to coordinate communication and this is where you will find that it assists ministry. However, there are a few areas in which you will need to be cautious.
Use Facebook to Supplement Real-World Ministry
As you consider using Facebook in your ministry, or as you consider how you are already using it, spend a few minutes thinking about what Facebook hasreplaced. It is generally true of new technologies that they do not just add something to life, but that they also replace something that is already there. continue reading
Learn, But Don’t Be a Stalker
There are parts of the shepherding ministry that are active and parts that are passive. This is to say that in many cases you will inadvertently encounter information relevant to your ministry—things you need to act on. You may be told by a mutual contact that there is an important date coming up in another person’s life or that someone has committed a grevious sin. You did not go looking for the information; rather, it came to you. continue reading
Be aware that much of what happens on Facebook is public and be aware that what is public and what is private seems to be in constant flux as Facebook matures. Posting “Had a great time last night!” on a friend’s wall may just be a little confusing (especially if that friend is a woman). Also, be careful as well that you do not assume too much from information you encounter about others on Facebook. continue reading
Be Present but not Always Present
Though Facebook can be a valuable tool for the pastor, it is a tool that is far more often used to waste time than to redeem time. Your congregation will be glad to see that you have a presence on Facebook, but they will be dismayed if they see that you have a constant presence. continue reading
Don’t Play Farmville
Just don’t. It’s stupid and it will make you stupid.
I am a bit indifferent when it comes to Facebook. I started an account to keep in touch with the youth of our church and it has since been a way to connect with old friends and classmates from years gone by. I do see its potential for a Ministry tool but I have also seen actions and attitudes expressed on Facebook cause a lot of disharmony within the church. Not just our own church, but often I hear other people complain about how people on Facebook have started riffs within their church as well.
One such case that I heard recently was from the technician who installed our phone line. The majority of people in his church were all on Facebook and they had formed this clique where they would not “friend” other members from the church. They became known for this and when the pastor found out about their attitude online from other members, he went to these Facebook users to appeal to them to change their attitude. Their response: They took a vote online to oust the pastor. The church has since split and now there are relationships that are in desperate need of restoration.
Is Facebook of the Devil? No, but he uses it just like he does anything else.
Don’t waste your time on Facebook. Use it as a means to reach people in this age of technology, but don’t let it replace one-on-one face-to-face relationships.
And remember, once you write something on your wall or comment on someone’s wall and they read it, it becomes permanent. You can erase it from Facebook but you can’t erase it from people’s memories!