Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Why Facebook for Ministers?

A colleague has asked me why she should be involved in Facebook, what the boundary issues are, and how to not let it be a time sink.  Good questions.  Here are my answers.

One reason to be on Facebook is to interface with the many ministerial colleagues who are on Facebook.  In terms of keeping us in touch with each other, our families, transitions, and daily lives, Facebook rocks.  The UUMA Chat (email list) is fine for asking people's opinions of things.  Facebook is for whose kids have graduated from preschool, whose parents are dying, who is having a rotten week, who has what hobbies.   It's for sharing links to articles and crowing over the perfect sermon title.  It's quick to post, quick to read, quick to comment on.  I feel MUCH more connected to my colleagues than I ever have before.

A second reason to be on Facebook is that the people of our churches are on Facebook, from the 9 year olds to the 70 year olds.  They, too, are commenting about what they are reading, how they are feeling, what's going on with their parents and kids, what the stresses and joys of their lives are.  The savvy pastor can, in minutes, respond to those things with a quick click on "like", or easily send a private message of support or congratulations.   The preacher who is wondering what her people are thinking and worrying about will be very interested in the links they post, and enriched by reading the articles and comments.

A third reason to be on Facebook is that if you serve a mid-sized or larger church, only some of your congregation will have the opportunity to know you the way all would in a smaller congregation...that is, know about your children, your parents, your hobbies, your reading interests.  They might ask you about such things if they caught you around church in an idle moment, and you'd probably respond, but...they mostly can't get to you.  Through Facebook, they can see the public side of the minister's life.  They like that.

A fourth reason to be on Facebook is that your church should have a page on Facebook, for the same reason it has a website; people will look for it and use it to get information and work up their courage to visit.  If you want to see that page, you need a Facebook account.  The fact that the minister has a Facebook page is an important signal to trend-setting Facebook users, that this church and its leaders are a part of the culture in the 21st century.  You want to appeal to anybody under 50 and many over, you want to send that signal.

A final reason to be on Facebook is that the wise minister has fun, and lots of people find Facebook to be a fun way to keep up with friends, relatives, and culture, and they use it as a platform for computer games.  Speaking for myself, I love knowing what my niece and nephew are up to and there's nothing as relaxing after difficult board meetings than working on my Farmville virtual crops.  But...that's optional.

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