Thinking back to when I left the first church that I served, one of the most difficult aspects of that transition was helping folks come to an understanding of our past and future
relationships. Those sad and complex "But I thought you were my 'friend'
and not just my pastor." conversations that were so difficult, were made
easier by the reality that my physical absence would ease the
transitions. And even though I stayed in the same city, it was fairly easy to distance myself, because for all intents and purposes, I was out of sight and thus out of mind.
Oh the days when cutting off relationships was so simple ;-)
This new fangled Social Networking craziness has changed the very meaning and
experience of what it means to be "friends" forever. This insane Myfacing, Spacebooking and the Twidiot invasion have messed up what used to be such a clear part of pastoral transitions handled with a simple "Good-bye."
So now what do we do?
- Do we do a blanket purging or "defriending" on Facebook after the
final "Go in Peace" is said and last sip of of red dye #5 punch is
downed during coffee hour?
- Do we just move forward like nothing about the pastoral relationship has changed, commenting, taking quizzes and inviting each other to this and that?
- Do we find creative solutions to this complex problems?
- Do we run away, waving our hands in the air to find the first twittering pastor and scream at the top of our lungs while pointing, "See I told you this would destroy all that was good and right about the ministry. Be gone with you evil tweeter, be gone!"
And while #4 would certainly be entertaining to watch and twitter about, I am going to have to go with answer #3. Shocking, I know 😉
As we know, just as there are many ways that we each
individually participate in the pastoral aspects of Social Networking,
there will, I am guessing be just as many ideas about how to navigate
post-pastoral relationships. Below is a question that I have received
more than once in various venues. Let's give it a try.
I would be interested in getting your thoughts on how social networking
media presents an issue for the separation ethics that most
presbyteries have put in place to help pastors and churches navigate
the cleave. I sit on my presbytery's Committee on Ministry* and while it isn't a problem
that we've run into yet, it is one that I can see coming down the pipe
as more and more pastors are using Facebook to coordinate ministry,
share sermons, check up on members, etc. When technology makes it even
easier for members to hold on to the pastor who moved away, what advise
and expectations do we give to make sure that the next pastor has a
chance to thrive? As a pastor who uses this kind of media in your
ministry and as our blogger-in-chief, I thought you might have some
thoughts on how to navigate the minefield that we're walking into.
* For you non-Presbyterians, the Committee on Ministry is a committee
of elders and pastors that oversees Pastoral positions in a particular
So what do you think? What can we offer in the form of more questions, examples, etc. to help us collectively come up with some approaches to this situation that is sure to become only more prevalent in the future?