In a tech-driven society, the topic of social media in ministry couldn’t be more timely, especially in a generation that’s trying to figure out whether or not it’s a key component worth investing in. Speaking on this subject was a crew of social media mavens who have influenced tens of thousands of followers. More importantly, they comprise a group of people with deep conviction about what matters most when we share our personal lives as emerging leaders.
At the table were Adrian Humble, Director of online marketing for Life Church; Jeff Moors, a speaker, leader, creative, culturalist, and youth pastor at North Coast Church; Alejandro Reyes from Church Marketing Labs; Haley Veturis, former Social Media Director at Saddleback Church; and Sean Cannell, a consultant and head of the YouTube channel, Think Media.
Moderating the topic was Saddleback’s Mingo Palacios who dug deep into the dark side of social media.
For Adrian, his social media pitfall is failure to unplug for fear his followers are awaiting content. With this power of influence, he feels that constant itch to lead them in the right direction.
Overseeing social media for 19 campuses, Haley says the dark side for her is definitely lack of rest. “This is a position that a lot of churches haven’t quite come to value,” she says, “so they’re not investing efforts in building a real team around it. Social media is awake 24/7 and that’s a lot of pressure for one person. Rest is biblical, and it’s a nice concept, but we’re not factoring space or teams that can support that.”
Echoing Adrian’s thoughts, Alejandro too has a fear of missing out, but for other reasons. For him, social media has almost become an addiction of longing to know everything that’s happening online. This fascination with the screen has caused him to consciously strive to be present with the things physically in front of him.
Even Sean admits to grabbing his phone first thing in the morning. This habit is something he calls the “wheel,” by moving from Instagram to Facebook to Twitter to Youtube, and then starting the pattern all over again.
Between online obsession and fear of missing out, it’s no wonder that the younger generation wrestles with identity and acceptance, they explain.
“Everyone is always being left out in some way, shape, or form,” says Jeff, “and social media makes you keenly aware of that. As a dad who understands social media, I also want to help my kids be honest in their posts, because they’re really creating a brand of who they are.”
Especially with kids and teens, clicks and likes can lead to an instant gratification that releases endorphins in their brains. Over time, it becomes an addiction that subconsciously connects their own validation with that of their “likes” and comments.
In an age when social media was nonexistent, it was Theodore Roosevelt who said “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Comparison has never been a good thing, and has only increased with the introduction of social media. That’s why Sean suggests curating our feeds by hiding certain posts and editing out “friends” that will lead to envy.
“God has given us our own talents and things to handle,” says Sean. “If we’re following somebody that makes us feel less than, or makes us jealous, that’s not healthy. It’s up to us to focus on what God has called us to do.”
Adrian goes as far to pinpoint the purpose of his posts. From simply sharing a moment, to seeking instant gratification, he wants to know the motivation behind his actions.
Taking a “them, not me” approach is Alejandro who habitually starts his day by liking people’s photos and posts in an effort to bring about daily encouragement to others.
“I try to like almost everyone that I’m following because I know that it feels good,” he says. “Hopefully it adds some value to someone’s life.”
This positive reinforcement is what Sean considers the light side of social media, by creating a platform for church leaders to build each other up. Not only is encouragement powerfully biblical, but it’s an opportunity to disciple thousands of people, one post at a time.
“You can be very intentional with social media, to develop people and other leaders, simply by what you post on your Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat,” says Jeff.
Outside of her Saddleback job, Haley makes a habit of taking encouragement offline, by simply writing a note or sending a personal text rather than a Facebook comment. Not only will this carry greater value to the receiver, but it will also serve as a reminder that life exists outside of social media.
Regardless of in-person conversations, or on-screen chats, there’s a burning desire for all of us to be relationally connected to leaders, the team explains. When it comes to posting as a pastor, followers want to know what takes place beyond the sermon. This comes about by simply documenting moments of transparency and authenticity that people can relate to. As ministry leaders, we must steward these tools with wisdom and self awareness, and above all, model humility and integrity.
“It’s incredibly important for pastors that do have social platforms, to be theologically correct and doctrinally sound in what they post,” says Jeff.
As a major player in next-gen content, Mingo suggests we rise to the occasion by utilizing social media as a way to give away ministry. “I’ll promise you this, if you give it away, you will earn trust credits with a generation that you probably aren’t in. You’re going to give them a shot of confidence and build a bridge between two generations that’s very much needed in today’s church era.”