social media pastor or pastor with social media

Emilio rises at 6:00 am to the smell of coffee. He moves his head carefully, until he is sure that the migraine from yesterday is gone. It is. He’s grateful.

He doesn’t get those headaches often. They seem to show up when he is particularly active off-line AND on-line AND is facing a major vulnerability deadline.

That doesn’t mean what it sounds like. It’s just that Emilio is committed to openness in his preaching and teaching and talking–in whatever venue.

  • When he is talking with people face-to-face, listening, holding hands, praying, looking for answers to really difficult questions, it takes energy to be fully present.
  • When he is talking with people keyboard to keyboard, “listening” to a dozen people at the same time, following threads of conversation, maintaining an active presence on facebook and twitter and his blog and other people’s blogs, it takes energy to be fully present.
  • When he is teaching, looking into the Bible, into his own life, into other writers, it takes energy and concentration to be fully present, particularly as the speaking deadline approaches.

For any given hour of time, those threads are mutually exclusive. As a result, in a week when all three are pressing, the day seems to run from 6:00am to 12:00pm.

Today, Emilio is thinking about “the rise of social media pastors.” It showed up in his RSS from a great blog exploring digital issues in ministry (digital @ leadership network). What’s interesting is the idea of having one’s primary responsibility being in one of those three threads, working particularly in social media.

He has wondered often about whether he is a social media pastor, or a pastor using social media.

There have been lots of modifiers of pastor.  Senior, associate, worship, youth, executive, children. In each case, if the idea of pastor as shepherd/guide/care-giver is the emphasis, you can do a thought experiment.

  • A senior shepherd could be the shepherd for senior citizens or the senior-most of the shepherds.
  • A worship pastor is the shepherd of worship, guiding people in that context.
  • Children or youth? Those seem pretty clear.
  • An executive shepherd…hmm. That’s a challenge. Is the person a shepherd first or an executive first? Is the person about people or about structures?

And then, and then the experiment turns to social media. A pastor that uses social media probably has always been using social media. Emilio laughed as he thought that. He realized that sitting in the hospital room last week talking with his friends, he had been using the old social media of touch and eye contact and vocal inflection. Sitting the restaurant, he had been using a napkin and pen, stories, questions. That night, he’d been using new social media in gchat.

But, he wondered, what is a social media pastor the pastor of?

He needed help with that one. Otherwise, he was pretty sure the headache was going to be back.


For more about Emilio:

“Workflow – Social Media Pastor.”

Social Media Pastor Part Two


7 responses to “social media pastor or pastor with social media

  1. Jack Repenning

    Probably pastoring via older electronic media–radio and TV–is a better model for understanding: is a radio pastor a pastor of radios? Of course not. Does he need to dedicate time to the use of radio? Surely. Might he do the radio job better if it were his sole focus? Possibly.

    Is there a way to use both face-to-face and electronic modes without going nuts? Ah, there, now, there’s the question!

  2. Jack – a great set of thoughts.

    Is the radio person a pastor…or a preacher? The one-way of radio and TV made those platforms good for preaching but lousy for shepherding. But social media gives the opportunity for relationship, or at least the perception of it. And really big churches are working on social media as a way of getting the touch happening.

    and i wonder about going nuts every day.

    and it’s time for supper.

  3. my thought was
    ack too much!!
    stick to the real life in front of you!
    it’s plenty
    but then
    i also realize
    that for me
    without “social media” (online)
    it may have been many more years before i felt safe enough to whisper “I believe”
    and so in a selfish way
    i’d say
    “stay online!”

    my experience has been this
    when someone is good at something
    scrambling eggs
    giving of time
    more people will show up to take a piece away with them
    but it gets to a point where someone will always be at the door
    and so then what?
    Jesus was a man of his times
    he walked
    he saw them
    but he had those gaps in between right?
    the walking time
    and his time was so finite
    not spread over a long life time like the one most of us are blessed with
    also Jesus wasn’t raising a family
    he couldn’t do everything he did if he had kids at home needing him to be an active dad
    it’s 4 am
    i just took a sonata
    and now i will try to let it work
    my day is filled with so much less inputs
    i short circuit daily
    and at night i worry about the parts i didn’t get done
    or didn’t do well enough
    we are all so doomed!

  4. Hey there, I just started reading your blog a little while ago. I am a Community Manager for a social network, something I decided to do instead of going to Seminary. Very complicated story. Anyway, my first thought is that Pastors (as in people who do pastoral work including counseling, teaching, and relational activity) are being given more options with how to be connected with the people around them. Our job descriptions expanded with the advent of social networking. And rightly so, where people are is where we ought to be. But it’s also true that we are finite people and the more options for connections that become available, the more intentional we need to be about our time and energy. I think Pastors by nature want to help and give and want to do it all well. But we can’t say yes to everything, and shouldn’t. I think this is where our ability to know ourself and our intentions is important. Because I think the truth is that we are often saying yes because we want to be the hero, the healer, the one who does the great work. Henri Nouwen said it’s not I that heals or works, it’s Christ. I am continually learning to trust that it’s God who has begun the good work and it’s he who will see it through, not me, regardless of context. I am just a willing person. And I need to get some sleep and eat some food at normal times. So, I say no to stuff, because I am working to believe that it doesn’t all depend on me or my capabilities. Hmm, it appears to be a faith issue. Well, now I don’t even know if I have stayed on topic. Oh well, may we all learn some balance, and our position in the story, whether that is online, in person, or behind a pulpit.

  5. Kat – yes. He built times in between. And he was clear about what he was about.

    So he does this healing. Then he gets up before everyone else and goes to talk to his Dad. And they come looking and saying “Hey! You’ve got a great healing ministry here. There are a ton of people waiting for you. Finally! Popular!” And he says, “Nope. I’ve got what I’ve got to do. On to the next town.”

    From a PR perspective? Catastrophic. Ignoring sick people.

    If, on the other hand, you are about saving the whole world, then moving on was important.

    I’m pretty sure there is exactly enough time in my life to do what I’m supposed to do (not that I always know that that is or think that it is the most efficient use of my time to stop and listen). There was exactly enough time for Jesus to do what he needed to do.

    The problem for me is that sometimes I think i need to believe the press releases rather than the operator’s manual.

  6. Christi –

    yes you stayed on topic.

    I love that you are a community manager. I have thought on occasion that I am trying to be a community manager in my associate role, that a new way of understanding shepherd is with that metaphor.

    You are absolutely right about the need to be the hero, to be the rescuer, to be the savior. We end up trying to fill a job that is no longer open, and in the meantime don’t take the positions open to us.

    And, it’s all not simple. which is why we need to talk about it.


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