Yesterday, Bruce Reyes-Chow posted an open letter pastors who are using social media, warning of some of the dangers and pitfalls.
As usual, Bruce is dead-on in his observations about ministry in the digital age. What he has named here are very real risks. I’ve seen each of these things happen, and if you are involved in ministry on social media, I’ll bet you have, too.
And yet I worry.
I worry that the very real pitfalls that Bruce names here will become causes for clergy, leaders, and congregations to stay away from digital ministry. Yes, Bruce rightly says that such avoidance of social media is not his point. However, there are those who are going to look right past that, and only see the dangers that are Bruce points out.
Let’s be honest. In most of our denominations, we do not need to worry about an over-use of social media. For example, in my synod there are 120 congregations. On a good day, maybe a third of our leaders are using actively social media. Of those, a very small portion are the high-volume social media users to whom Bruce's letter is really addressed. If social media is the “information highway,” the leaders of the mainline church are sitting in the garage.
And while we are sitting in the garage, we are getting messages about the dangers of driving too fast ... Not just a little bit too fast, NASCAR fast. Sure enough, the dangers are very real. For the very small percentage of leaders who are out there, doing ministry and living life on social media, these are real dangers. And we should find ways for leaders who are using social media intn tese ways to be equipped with the tools they need - just as we give NASCAR drivers the proper safety equipment. But meanwhile, the dangers of going too fast are stoking fears, and keeping everyone else in the garage.
Ask anyone who advocates for the church to use social media as a tool for ministry. People are already afraid of it. Those who are not using social media have a laundry list of fears. Yes, some are real concerns, like what Bruce has named here. They are possible. But just because they are possible, does not mean that they are probable.
Let’s get people out of the garage and onto the road before we start handing out NASCAR safety equipment. Warning signs are not for those who are in the garage, but those who are on the road.