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 how the founding and senior pastor left the Church and separated from his wife. It began through Facebook as he reconnected with a woman he knew from college and started a relationship with her.
Perhaps their Facebook connection started casually as they shared updates on their lives. No doubt a few photos facilitated visual connections and soon the conversations became intimate. Maybe he was frustrated in his marriage and began to share his feelings with his friend from the past. Soon excuses were being made to travel to the State where she lived and 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?
If you’re married, your spouse should have full access to your Facebook account. This applies to 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 (and others) who update and tweet:
- Announce events and teaching themes
- Link to helpful resources
- Encourage others
- Let people know a little about your life
- Share Scriptures and helpful quotes
- Ask for prayer for yourself and others
- Limit your time on networks
- Post anything that you would fear being read at Church
- Engage ongoing conversations with the opposite sex
- Fish for affirmation or support
- Post ambiguous or manipulative statements
- Vent about Church matters or members
- Become combative or defensive
- Embarrass your family with comments or photos
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?