Social Media Pastor part two

Emilio rises at six and starts coffee. His RSS reader has many blogs to read, plus links to a “Bible in a Year” website that sends him daily updates.

He took the weekend away from the internet, kind of a forced tech sabbath. He would have loved to have the willpower to walk away for a whole weekend. Other people do it regularly. Other people don’t feel like they have a spiritual responsibility to stay connected. Because he is so aware of the relationship element of his work as a pastor, Emilio has a hard time disconnecting from his social networks, whether face-to-face or online.

This time, however, Emilio didn’t have much choice. His parents didn’t have wifi anywhere close to their summer home and he needed the weekend away to see them. He considered the $9.95 connection at the hotel, but decided that if he needed to pay to connect “just to find out if anyone wrote to me”, then he probably needed a break.

Back in his home office this morning, recovering from being away, among the 200 new items in his reader was one that would change the week significantly. Emilio had a vanity search set up with Google, looking for his name on the internet. Usually it only showed his own writing. Today he discovered that Chris Brogan and Jon Swanson had been talking about him.

“Workflow – Social Media Pastor.”

As he scanned through the post, all his social networking struggles came rushing to the front of his mind, not the least being, “What if someone from the church reads this?”

Emilio regularly wrestled with what he called his “living in two worlds” question. He had his “real world” congregation, the people he saw and talked with and cried with every day. But then he had his “digital world” friends, the people he saw and talked with and cried with…every day. To call the latter a congregation was a stretch. But they were friends, he was their touchpoint for questions about God and church. He even was in conversations once about doing a wedding for a couple he only had contact with through twitter.

If he were hired to work full-time in social media, working as campus pastor for an online campus, for example, it wouldn’t be so hard. The worlds could merge that way. Instead, like most of the people he knew in social networking, whatever their occupation, he had real world responsibilities. He had to manage a facility and visit sick people and teach and preach. He had to spend time in meetings and in counseling. He struggled to keep up with reading and silence. And he didn’t even want to think about that tech sabbath question.

He was torn: one of his worlds paid the bills. Both of them were full of people that he cared about…and for.

And now people from both groups might be reading about the other. And the people in his ‘real world’ might look at the time of his posts and think, “is he writing that on work time?”

Emilio had a funny feeling that now that people were inside his head, there were going to be a lot of conversations. Some of them were going to be pretty uncomfortable.

“But maybe ministry is supposed to be uncomfortable,” he thought. “Maybe transparency will be healthy.”

18 responses to “Social Media Pastor part two

  1. Pingback: Social Media Pastor Part Two |

  2. Wow Jon,

    This reads so much like my last four years!

    I found the other reason to stay connected was to see if any would-be visitors had tried to connect with me for directions to our church.

    It is stretching to interact incarnationally in both face-to-face and byte-to-byte environments, isn’t it?

  3. that last statement captures it very well, Marc. If you are adding another communication platform, that adds one level of challenge. If, however, you are adding another way of interacting with people as a person, then you are adding more people, not just more messages. And to actually care about lots of people…..

  4. Emilio’s thoughts at the end your post ring very true to me: “maybe ministry is supposed to be uncomfortable” and “maybe transparency will be healthy.”

    As someone who spent many years trying to appear the way I thought people (mostly other Christians) expected me to appear, I can attest that this approach is worth no amount of perceived “comfort.”

    If our Christ-like goals are: 1) to reach out to people in whatever ways possible, and 2) to be real about the balancing acts embedded in life and faith, then Emilio is on the right track. The people in his “real world” need a broader definition of who our neighbors are and what it means to love them.

  5. Hmmmm. Why has it become accepted practice to call the physical world the “real world” as if somehow when we communicate with each other via electronic means that is less real? Is it because we often can’t see the other person when communicating online? Usually, these are real people communicating with each other. And isn’t all of this very similar to spiritual conversations anyway?

  6. Kristin – your two goals are well summarized. Those two in tension are huge. But the challenge for a follower, a disciple, is to live your life as if Jesus were living your life (Dallas Willard summarized). And in this there will always be a struggle.

    Morriss – exactly. I frequently have real conversations with real people that I have never seen. And the interaction changes both of our lives. And yet, physical world doesn’t work for me any better because we are both in physical worlds. AND in the past year, several of the people I first met this way I have actually touched. So I can’t figure out how to do an accurate “world A, world B” line.

    (So I just use quotes).

  7. Jack Repenning

    Once upon a time, there must have been revolutionary, cutting-edge pastors who dealt with some folks by telephone, while others could only be reached by hitching up the buggy. I wonder if this was a problem for them?

  8. @Jon Thanks for the response. I guess I am questioning the need to draw lines. I mean, we don’t divide the world into telephone-users and non-telephone users. We just accept that sometimes we talk to people on the phone, and sometimes we talk to them in person. We don’t think of them as living in different worlds, or us occupying two different worlds depending on the method of communication.

  9. Emilio has a story that sounds very familiar to me – even down the to conversations of marrying a couple I met through my blog.

    As someone who was working as a minister and then who happened upon blogging as a way of supporting his family I grappled a lot with the lines between my public online life and ‘ministry’ life.

    Not sure I ever resolved it except to say that I think I came to the realization that the two worlds were actually more the same thing than I’d previously thought.

    PS: I wrote a few thoughts that i was having around some of these issues here.

    I hope Emilio is encouraged to keep grappling with this!

  10. Jack – i chuckled as I read your comment…I have buggies that go past my office every day. But I think that there have always been those struggles…and will be.

  11. Morriss – that’s a great analogy. Part of the distinction is how we meet people. Few people have met on the phone. Part of the distinction is in the anonymity that used to characterize parts of the internet. Many of us are looking to remove that anonymity.

    Thanks for pushing the thinking.

  12. Darren – your link is great. In fact, telling stories that people can read is a challenge Emilio is considering. Thanks for stopping by.

  13. any time – looking forward to future musings on this as it’s something I keep coming back to.

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  16. your post reminds me of somthing someone said to me, in the context of innovation and new ideas : john, you need to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. New things will bug some people and as one introducing new ideas we need ways to help those disturbed plus push on those that appear too comfortable.

    Great to meet you today !
    John Blue

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