Social Media for Pastors and Other Adults


A friend of mine likes to say, “Sometimes the pastor’s main job is to be the grownup in the room.”

Sometimes the “room” you’re in is the Internet.

And sometimes we need to model healthy communication, despite the fact that we’re subject to the same fears, insecurities and foibles as anyone else. It’s easy to hide behind a screen.

Do you have rules and norms for social media and e-mail? Here’s one of mine. It’s not hard and fast but I’ve found it to be useful:

When you’re dealing with sensitive subjects, or the potential for hurt or angry feelings, “bump it up.”

In other words, however the person contacts you about an issue, you respond with a more direct mode of communication.

One level up should do it. If they send you a text message, you respond with a phone call. If they send an e-mail, pay them a visit.

What do you think? Share your rule or experience in the comments.

9 thoughts on “Social Media for Pastors and Other Adults

  1. sherry

    Wow. This is such a simple and great way to handle things….I would suggest that it is also be a wonderful way for to handle the new communication modes of this day and age. Dealing with friends, dealing with co-workers, dealing with children, etc etc etc

  2. Teri Peterson

    I actually think a phone call is the one-level-up from most forms of communication commonly used right now. the only time I escalate to a visit is if the initial communication was a phone call, or if the topic is obviously too heated for anything other than face-to-face. text? phone call. email? phone call. facebook post? phone call. phone call? coffee.

    Having gotten into trouble by responding via email to something that didn’t *seem* like a drama, but then turned into a drama (in part because of who was involved, in part because of lack-of-tone-of-voice), I have finally learned my lesson.

    1. MaryAnn

      You may be right, Teri. I wrote this with a specific incidence in mind in which I will follow up on an e-mail with a visit, but… I maybe be bumping it up 2! And yes… a good rule needs wiggle room.

  3. Stephanie

    As a conflict avoider (not celebrating it, just owning it), I’m better at following some of my own rules than others – – like why use e-mail when the phone is just as easy? I don’t like making phone calls, but sometimes, for some people, it’s just better.

    One rule I have is that I will not forward an e-mail to others, even a relevant committee if I haven’t gotten explicit permission from the original writer. There’s an out-going committee chair who did that a LOT and drove me crazy because sometimes the content of the original message had details or nuances that were not for public consumption.

    Which brings me to rule #2 – – Don’t email anything you don’t want more people than the recipient(s) to see.

    Rule #3 – – Know your people. I sort of said it before, but with some people e-mail just isn’t good. Either they aren’t proficient and don’t use it well, or you know they’re constant forwarders, or they are the kind of person who will wage and escalate a war by e-mail that can be handled much more maturely on the phone or over coffee.

  4. RevKel

    This is good, MA. I almost always respond to sensitive emails with a phone call. Too much can be misread in writing.

  5. Leslie Klingensmith

    Agreed. I don’t knowingly email about anything remotely sensitive. (Of course there are those occasions when something becomes sensitive or dramatic and I did not see it coming.). In general I only email about really routine, admin type stuff, because it is so easy for things to be misunderstood without facial expression, tone of voice, body language, etc. I have not consciously done the “bump it up” approach, but have definitely been aware that I don’t “bump it down,” i.e. I don’t respond to a phone message with an email. Good stuff to consider. Thanks, MA.

  6. Roy Howard

    My ordinary practice when some relationship goes awry is to make a phone call. Occasionally I will precede that with a hand written note, which nowadays “bumps it up” quite personally. Still the phone call is best even though it can be awkward and difficult.

  7. Nick Larson

    I like this as a “rule of thumb.” My typical practice is to respond in the method of contact. email with email, facebook message with message, etc. But in my response I always offer a “bump” in contact. More often than not that person welcomes the opportunity.

    1. MaryAnn

      That’s also a good one. A bit of middle ground. I can also see situations in which this approach could keep the emotions subdued. By automatically bumping it up, you may be escalating things emotionally without realizing it. Usually not, but… anyway, I like this.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *