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?