Social media can be a really crazy arena where emotions tend to run high. Millions of people spend endless hours per day glued to their devices and immerse themselves in high-stress, high-drama, high-angst content like politics, Hollywood celebrity news, crime news, personal gossip in their own friendship circles, etc. There have been dozens of psychological studies on the negative effects that prolonged time spent on social media can actually have on the human mind.
In a culture that's become more divided and opinionated than ever, you've probably noticed people becoming more outspoken than ever before on social media where things were already tense, emotional, and drama-oriented. And if you're a social media manager for your church, then you might have noticed that you've had to keep a closer eye on the comment sections of your platforms — whether it's Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. And whether you're a pastor or the Communications Minister/Director at your church, you might even notice that social media interactions between people in your own church have become more tense or politically-charged.
So, What Should We Do?
#1. Post Plenty of Bible Verses.
"For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the hearts." — Hebrews 4:12 (The King James says the Word of God is powerful.)
There will be far less likelihood for people to engage in drama and tension in the comment threads of your pages or profiles if you're posting Scriptural content. The Word of God has power to speak directly to people where they are in life. Sometimes the simplest post of a Bible verse to your church's Facebook Page can minister to one of your followers in ways that you might never know. I really do believe in the power of Scripture even over social media and in its ability to gently soothe, alleviate, and dissolve tension, hostility, and animosity.
#2. Be a Role Model and Lead By Example.
As a pastor/church leader, don't engage in drama, hostility, political nonsense, etc. on social media yourself on your own personal profiles or in the comment threads of other Pages where your church congregants might see what you're saying. Don't get caught up in petty or trivial debates on social media that don't matter or further the Gospel. — "Don't have anything to do with foolish or stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels." - 2 Timothy 2:23
On a side note: There's nothing wrong with posting FUN stuff on social media. I'm totally all for that. But there's a difference between having fun and stirring up pointless drama or hostility. As the administrator of your church's Page, don't ever post anything to the Page that could be controversial or might incite potential hostility, arguments, debates, etc. — "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men." - Romans 12:18
#3. Keenly Monitor And Observe All Platforms.
To "keenly" observe something literally means to intently, intelligently, and attentively monitor it. You should be doing this every day with the platforms that you manage. It really should go without saying if you're a social media manager. Nevertheless, it will absolutely help to alleviate potential hostility and drama issues on your Page if you are regularly aware of what is happening on the Page. In other words: You should be checking in on it throughout the day. Know who is posting what on your Page. — "Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won't need to compare yourself to anyone else." - Galatians 6:4
#4. Delete or Hide Comments When Necessary.
Social media is home to a lot of people who are just plain bullies and live to intentionally blast Christians in comment threads. They are known as trolls. Do not respond to them. Do not reply to them. Do not engage with them. Most trolls aren't even loyal followers of your Page anyway. They don't attend your church. They probably stumbled across your Page through an ad or sidebar or a share from a friend. My Church Communications buddy Seth Muse is the king of writing about how to deal with trolls. He has a phrase he likes to use: "Don't feed the trolls." As the administrator of the Page account, you have total control over what comments will be displayed on the Page. There is a difference between hiding a comment and deleting a comment. Know the difference and know when to do one or the other. Don't get all panicked and worried about deleting a comment from your church Page or hurting someone's feelings. You can always direct message the individual and explain why you deleted their comment if you feel that it is appropriate to do so.
#5. Speaking of Direct Messages...
The private message feature is always another great tool for alleviating a potentially hostile situation or calming someone down or addressing a sensitive issue because it's, well, private. That's the whole point! It's a conversation between you — the Page administrator — and that individual. Doing this can seem like a lot of work or potentially awkward, but I promise that taking the time to personally engage with someone more directly — especially because of how impersonal social media already feels — can really go a long way in helping that individual feel like you actually care about their question or problem. Here's a Pro Tip: Be speedy when it comes to DMs. Not only do people appreciate you taking their questions and concerns seriously, but Facebook also displays how well your Page replies to DMs right there on the Page itself.
#6. Consider Developing A Social Media Policy For Your Church If Necessary.
A social media policy is essentially a booklet-style set of guidelines — usually in print form and PDF form — for how an organization's employees should conduct themselves while on various social media platforms. Most small churches do not have this, although that doesn't mean that they shouldn't consider it. These tend to be more common in the "big church world." If you're going to assemble one of these, be sure to include guidelines for how church leaders should act on social media in regards to the kind of content they should post. Back up your statements with Scripture verses. Make sure the guidelines apply to how they act on their own personal profiles and when they post content to the church Pages or account as well.
A good verse to include in your policy for this point: Colossians 4:6 — "Let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." (NIV)
A few things to consider including in your policy:
If you're the Communications Director or Communications Pastor, you can and should have guidelines for the person who will be running the Page(s) and social media accounts. These should include things such as:
#7. Be A Communications Pastor More Than A Communications Director.
Always care more about people than about media, design, perfection, and production. Care about using your God-given gifts and talents to promote and influence peace, unity, and harmony in the Body of Christ for the betterment of your church and the Kingdom of God as a whole. Always be willing to learn from someone who is a little further down the road from you in the ministry, especially if it's your field or notch of ministry. Listen to older and wiser counsel, pastors, elders, deacons, etc.
Further Verses For Reflection:
"So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another." — Romans 14:19
"My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." – James 1:19
"There is one who speaks rashly, like a piercing sword; but the tongue of the wise brings healing." — Proverbs 12:18
"Honor belongs to the person who ends a dispute; but any fool can get himself into a quarrel." — Proverbs 20:3
How Can I Help You?
Need help overhauling your church website? Ready to implement some social media? Stuck on how to design and develop better social media graphics or manage your social media pages? Want some help with effective church marketing and community relations? Book me for a coaching session or request me to speak at your church about these issues. Want to meet for coffee first? Visit my contact page and send me a direct message.