Just because .you. only use Facebook to play Farmville…

Should ministers be friends with parishioners on Facebook? If so should they only allow a very limited profile or let them see everything? What about when you have friends in the area who become parishioners? Do you treat them differently online that people who are “just” parishioners?

I graduated from high school the year before Facebook become something everyone could have; prior to that it was only open to people with approved college email addresses. Because the first college I went to was in its first year it was really exciting when we got approved for Facebook. Soon after Facebook opened to everyone and Oh. My. Word. The. FRENZY. The complete frenzy of friending people who you knew or sorta knew or maybe knew…

Now we all “get” Facebook. We know how to hide certain stuff from certain people, how to ignore friend requests, how to hide people. We also all use Facebook for a lot of various things, some professional, some purely social. Some people have a ton of information listed, some have almost nothing. And we “like” things all the time, sometimes without thinking.

I understand the reasoning behind not friending parishioners. But I think that that will have to change that with this new generation of people. Students are often friends with teachers and may pop online to ask a question. Younger folks will make “groups” for a class, a workshop, an event they went to, a group that all eats lunch together, stuff like that. I am in a group called “MII” which stands for Milliken 2nd floor, a dorm I lived in. Seriously, we have groups for everything.

Very soon after I started going to church I looked up and friended my minister on Facebook, almost without thinking about it. And we used to talk on facebook quite a bit. Later I realized she was totally providing pastoral care… on Facebook. But then? It was just talking with an adult who was willing to respond in a kind and understanding way. I was going through a lot of crap around that time; some of it was therapy-worthy, but a lot of it was really just me trying to figure out life. You know, stuff that you might talk to a minister about?

Except I would have never gone into her office to chat with her. The thought STILL terrifies me. And I liked her! A lot! But go into her office to just talk? Not a chance. But Facebook? Facebook I am comfy with. Chatting online is something I “get” and I like and I’m at ease with.

I think that being accessible online, in a more-than-email format, is really useful and, in the future, will be necessary to connect with the new, upcoming generation in church.

Ministers, what do you say? Are you friends with congregants online? If so, do you keep a limited profile or do you just keep everything online acceptable?

How does this carry over to blogs? Do you think ministers should have public blogs, even if they don’t in any way advertise that they have one to their congregants? What about Twitter?


5 Responses to “Just because .you. only use Facebook to play Farmville…”

  1. While I do think that it is in some ways useful to use Facebook as a tool for almost anything and everything, i do fear that it is creating a whole new generation of casualness. I worry that students and parishioners fail to convey a certain amount of respect (and grammar) when dropping a wall post that says ‘hey prof when is dat paper due 2morrow?’ I believe that facebook sometimes blurs the line between positions, and while this can be great and make people more comfortable with approaching a professor or Minister, I worry about that figure is not getting the respect he/she deserves.
    I feel that getting up the courage to approach someone you look up to, or want to talk to, is very difficult, i think that it is one of the things that everyone needs to learn to do in order to become a more confident individual. Facebook, myspace, and twitter have created a generation of people that are more than welcome to share their deepsest, darkest fears and wishes online, but who are scared to death to venture next door to ask a neighbor if they could borrow some sugar.

  2. I couldn’t disagree more.

    I am friends with a number of professors on facebook, and was prior to graduating this spring. I still recognize that they are professors and thus treated them as I would in class. I don’t know of any friends who have or would lessen their level of respect because they were or are friends on Facebook.

    Professors, ministers, etc are free to make their own decisions based on whether or not to friend parishioners or students but I do think that your response is very “worst case scenario.” If teachers are friends with their students on Facebook the students will start showing up to class without work and cussing all the time!

    I am incredibly comfortable online. I am also more than capable of walking next door and borrowing a cup of sugar. I am able to negotiate appropriate online interactions between friends and professional contacts.

    Society is changing. One of the things that is changing with it is the increased level of technology in it. That needs to be accepted because it’s not going to change. 10 years ago the question was “do you have an email address?” now the question is “what is your email address?” When I started high school we were not allowed to email papers in to teachers. Now many teachers prefer it.

    Things change.

  3. I am friends with a number of ministers on Facebook, and for those who are or have been “my minister” (i.e. pastor or worship leader) I really prefer that they keep a limited profile. I recognize that they are human just like I am, but I want that boundary between personal and professional to be preserved. I don’t necessarily want to read stuff like “OMG OMG it’s Saturday night and I still have to prepare this sermon”; it takes away from the Sunday morning experience. I felt like I lost something when I started reading details of a previous minister’s personal life.

  4. Let’s not confuse “boundaries” with “barriers.” We are all human.


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