Facebook guidelines for pastors and others

(7 Do’s – 7 Don’ts – 7 Questions)

Social networks have become the way people connect and communicate. Like other mediums, communicating through Twitter and Facebook has both positive and negative potential. A very sad use of Facebook recently came to my attention.

While speaking at a conference, a pastor asked if he could talk with me about a heartbreaking situation in his Church. It was a large Church and he was one of the main leaders. With a heavy heart, he told me that their founding and senior pastor left the Church and separated from his wife. He had reconnected on Facebook with a girl he knew from college and started a relationship with her.

Perhaps their Facebook conversation started casually as they shared updates on their lives. No doubt a few photos provided visual connections (more on this in a moment). Perhaps he was frustrated in his marriage and began to share his feelings with her. Somewhere along the way the idea of meeting up comes up and excuses were being made to travel to the State where she lived. Finally, an illicit relationship formed.

Meanwhile back at the Church, the pastor began to show signs of stress and physical depletion. The board suggested a sabbatical since he had served for many years. He accepted. But shortly into his time away, he made his confession to the leaders and to his wife and children. He then moved away to be with his old friend, leaving his family and Church reeling in shock. Sadly, this was not the first Facebook affair I’ve heard about but it brings up an important question. 

How should Pastors use networks like Facebook and Twitter?

My first recommendation is that if you’re married your spouse should have full access to your Facebook account. I recommend this for all married people not just pastors. My wife and I share one Facebook account. Beyond this, consider some Do’s and Don’ts for pastors who update and tweet:

Seven Do’s  

  1. Announce events and teaching themes
  2. Link to helpful resources
  3. Encourage others
  4. Let people know a little about your life
  5. Share Scriptures and helpful quotes
  6. Ask for prayer for yourself and others
  7. Limit your time on networks

Seven Don’ts

  1. Post anything that you would fear being read at Church
  2. Engage ongoing conversations with the opposite sex
  3. Fish for affirmation or support
  4. Post ambiguous or manipulative statements
  5. Vent about Church matters or members
  6. Become combative or defensive
  7. Embarrass your family with comments or photos

Facebook photos:

Facebook allows us to reconnect with friends from the past and to see their family pictures without being asked to watch a slide show of their latest vacation! My wife especially likes to see pictures of the children of old friends. Facebook has allowed many people to feel connected in ways unheard of not long ago. In a mobile society, this has been a blessing.

On the darker side, Facebook can easily become a private world of careless conversations—especially for people in difficult marriages. And Facebook photos often play a role in the darker side. Jesus taught that the eye is a gate to sin (Matthew 5:28-29), so we should be careful about even subtle dangers in viewing photos.

Young girls, in particular, enjoy posting their photos. Their self-portraits often number in the hundreds! When I was young I could only get a girl’s picture if she “liked” me and wanted to “go out” with me. Young men can now access endless pictures of girls that would never like them or go out with them. Some photos are fun and harmless; others are edgy and seductive. Do young girls realize the potential dangers in this? Would they be disgusted by Facebook stalkers pouring lustfully over their pictures? Are they too gullible to think this would happen? Or, do they find a subtle form of satisfaction in the possibility of guys enjoying their pictures?

Sometimes Facebook photos seem like self-portrait on steroids! It’s so easy to post hundreds of pictures of yourself! Why wouldn’t people want to see you in every possible pose? We must not allow Facebook photos to become an outlet for self-absorption.

I have no interest in projecting motives on anyone but merely offering these concerns for reflection between you and God (or, if you’re under your parents, between you, your parents and God).

A social media prayer 

Before using social media, offer this prayer: “May the words of my mouth (or my fingers on the keys) and the meditation of my heart (or the photos I post) be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

Questions for deeper reflection:

1. Do you check Facebook in the morning before checking in with God?
2. Are you disappointed when people don’t respond to your posts?
3. Do you waste too much time on Facebook?
4. Do you use Facebook to avoid real life contact?
5. Do you use Facebook for intimate conversation with the opposite sex under the guise of counseling?
6. Do you use Facebook to complain about life or people?
7. Are you always truthful and loving in the things you post?

Steve Cornell

See also: Facebook: Stop and think about it


27 comments on “Facebook guidelines for pastors and others

  1. […] Facebook Guidelines for Pastors and Ministry Leadership…  this helpful post gives us 7 do’s and 7 don’ts that are informative. […]

  2. A good and convicting wisdom

  3. […] Facebook guidelines for pastors and others (Steve Cornell) – Cornell blogs on do’s and dont’s on Facebook and Twitter. He […]

  4. Travis says:

    Excellent post! I’ve passed it along via Twitter, and some have expressed their gratitude for what you’ve stated. Thought I’d pass that along.

  5. […] Really good stuff  here by Steve Cornell.  Here’s an all-to-true paragraph, and some helpful questions. […]

  6. Bruce says:

    Bruce.

    Great post. While face book can be an excellent tool to keep in contact with your congregation, and for ministry it seems it can quickly consume a lot of valuable time. I would suggest limiting face book to 30 min a day max.
    There is also the risk of having many online friends but no real life friends

  7. Daniel Silveira says:

    I think that it is important to remember that all those dangers are not because Facebook is evil, but because man is evil, and unwise, and precipitate, and disrespectful, and harsh, and sinful. All those dangers are also present at many other medias, long before Facebook ever existed. It is true that Facebook paves to way to the expression of our own sinfulness in many ways. However, it is easy to blame Facebook, and it is painful to blame ourselves.

    “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” Matt. 15:19-20

  8. Spencer Snow says:

    I agree, Daniel. Technology is a wonderful gift from God, showing us part of His character and creative mind. However, sinful human beings distort God’s character when we use His creation in sinful ways. That being said, this article is very helpful in assisting pastors, as well as all Christians, properly navigate online networks. In the crazy world of online networks Christians need to be especially careful to magnify God’s glory in all the earth!

  9. Trey says:

    Good point, Daniel. But I would also point out that Christians struggle with indwelling sin, and there is an old saying, “If you play with fire, you are gonna get burned.” I have heard that being a pastor is one of the loneliest professions. Social media/internet seems like a tinderbox for lonely people in general.

    I will not deny that the internet and social media have good uses, but being old enough to remember what life was like before cell phones, internet, and social media, I have noticed two issues that trouble me about our high tech society. First, it has become a substitute for personal (face to face) interaction and second, it seems to be a means of instant gratification. It has become too easy to click a button and BOOM! I have an instant and artificial friend and access to things in my home that I would have had to go completely out of my way to obtain before.

    I understand not everyone is affected the same way by social media and technology, but do any of us really master it or does it in varying ways master all of us? Call me old fashioned, but I find the less time I spend on a computer the better. In fact if it were not for a class assignment I would not be making this post. It is probably best for each individual to know his weakness and stay out of the fire.

  10. Kyle says:

    Interesting article. I admit I have to resist the temptation to say “Pastors shouldn’t have FB.” As Daniel said FB isn’t the problem, the heart is the problem. It’s issues like these that remind me how easy it is to be Pharisaical about things–the more human fences we put around things, the less chance we’ll transgress the law of God! Nevertheless, I think Trey brought up a good point, each individual must know his own weaknesses. It’s ultimately a private judgment.

    That being said I think, if his conscience doesn’t condemn him, pastors can profit greatly from FB. It does allow them to stay connected with people in the congregation, to see an aspect/side of their life they may not be eager to share in pastoral visits and on Sundays. It helps to stay connected with the congregation, perhaps even opening the door to skip the small talk (since everyone seems to post about their daily schedules on FB) and get to more serious issues. But I also think John Piper had a great point when he shared his rational for setting up a Twitter account. It’s avenue to set an example, and, Lord willing, perhaps even save some out of online temptations.
    Cheers!

  11. Good guidelines. As a general rule, I consider anything that I post online as public – even if it’s restricted to friends only.

  12. […] Facebook guidelines for pastors and others […]

  13. […] Facebook guidelines for pastors and others […]

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  15. One area we are exploring, as you, is the benefits of being online. We have a church website and I have my blog. If you would check both out – and perhaps link back to my blog with insights – I would be very appreciated. I have also been looking for the best tools and wordpress plugins and themes to make my blog more appealing.

  16. If you recieved an odd post from me earlier, I apologize. I was having PC “issues.” I am a pastor and my ministerial blog is http://www.nieporte.name – I am a real person, not a machine – and I have been interested in all things theological. Our church is struggling, like most in this pluralistic/post-church era, to make a difference. One area whenre we are seeking to make a connection is on the itnernet via our church site and ministerial blog. We are looking for ways to make a local connection, have global impact, and become sel-sufficient in the process. That is what put me on a search that landed me on your site. have enjoyed reading your posts. My request is for a linkback to my blog; a candid review of my site’s strengths and weaknesses, and any pluging/themes/or strategies to enjoy the success you seem to be experiencing. Of course, I will be happy to provide a linkback to your site as well. My best email is billnieporte@pastor.com – I monitor it daily.

  17. This blog was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something which helped me. Appreciate it!

  18. I want to to thank you for this great read!! I absolutely enjoyed every little bit of it. I have you saved as a favorite to look at new things you post…

  19. It’s nearly impossible to find educated people on this subject, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  20. Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thank you so much, However I am experiencing issues with your RSS. I don’t know the reason why I cannot join it. Is there anybody else having the same RSS problems? Anyone that knows the solution can you kindly respond? Thanks!!

  21. […] Facebook guidelines for pastors and others (7 Do’s and Don’ts) […]

  22. Felucille Veraque says:

    A lesson to be learned for those who are deceived..

  23. […] Facebook guidelines (7 Do’s and Don’ts) […]

  24. Facebook do can help every pastors to gather for their every meeting announcements. An intriguing discussion is worth comment. I do believe that you should publish more on this subject matter, it might not be a taboo matter but typically people don’t talk about such subjects. To the next! Cheers!!

  25. You’re so awesome! I don’t suppose I have read through anything like this before. So great to discover someone with genuine thoughts on this subject. Really.. thanks for starting this up. This web site is one thing that’s needed on the web, someone with a bit of originality!

  26. I blog frequently and I genuinely thank you for your information. This article has truly peaked my interest. I will take a note of your site and keep checking for new information about once per week. I opted in for your RSS feed too.

  27. David says:

    I have my own list of do’s and don’t

    Do: Have your own mind about things, and don’t let your fear of other’s opinion’s of you hold you back
    Don’t: Care about what uptight christians think of what you post on facebook. If they don’t like it, you should probably unfriend them and not look back.

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