This is the fifth and final post of a series of posts from Matt Ward, associate pastor of FBC Thomson. Read the previous posts here:
- Your church needs a social media policy
- You’re still a Christian while online
- Social media expectations are higher for church leaders
- Church staff: You’ve signed a contract that might include social media
What follows are three lists that were helpful in crafting this series of posts: biblical passages related to communication, a business approach to social media, and a short list of applicable websites.
Biblical Passages about Communication
- Proverbs 12:18 – There is one who speaks rashly, like a piercing sword; but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
- Proverbs 15:4 – The tongue that heals is a tree of life, but a devious tongue breaks the spirit.
- Proverbs 20:3 – Honor belongs to the person who ends a dispute, but any fool can get himself into a quarrel.
- Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 – Don’t pay attention to everything people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you, for in your heart you know that many times you yourself have cursed others.
- Matthew 5:13-14 – You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
- Matthew 12:36 – I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak.
- Matthew 28:19-20 – Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember. I am with you always, to the end of the age.
- Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
- Romans 14:19 – So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.
- 1 Corinthians 8:13 – Therefore, if food causes my brother or sister to fall, I will never again eat meat, so that I won’t cause my brother or sister to fall.
- Ephesians 4:25-32 – Therefore, putting away lying, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. . . . No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by him for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.
- James 1:19 – My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
- 1 Peter 3:14-16 – But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear them or be intimidated, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. Yet do this with gentleness and reverence, keeping a clear conscience, so that when you are accused, those who disparage your good conduct in Christ will be put to shame.
Common Business Guidelines for Social Media
Every employer has a document governing expectations for employee online behavior, and some have posted them (like Coca-Cola, adidas, FedEx). Just about every policy I read shared these bullet points in common. Should Christians have higher or lower expectations for on-line behavior?
Commonly Accepted Secular Guidelines for Social Media
- • Be transparent.
- • Protect privacy.
- • Respect others’ rights and properties.
- • Observe the company code of conduct.
- • Do not claim to speak on behalf of the company when you don’t.
- • Let the “pros” handle the difficult questions or complaints.
- • Be knowledgeable, accurate, and professional.
- • Do not use slurs, obscenities, or crude language.
- • Online isn’t always a good place for a conversation.
- • Everything you share online is public forever.
I like that list. Simple and versatile. Here is the list again, with more details:
- Be transparent. Companies don’t want their employees pretending to be a regular consumer or impersonating a competitor. This guideline means, “Don’t hide who you are or what you represent.” That is equally true of Christians. Perhaps you can get a better hearing if you pretend not to be a Christian or church member, but that’s not how Jesus wants us to represent ourselves or Him.
- Protect privacy. Companies don’t want employees betraying the outcomes of private meetings or leaking private information. Christians have that too, particularly in the form of “prayer requests.” Basically, don’t post any information unless you know that the source wants that information shared.
- Respect others’ rights and properties. Companies don’t want employees plagiarizing other people’s work or using copyrighted/trademarked phrases and graphics; there are legal ramifications. This also applies to Christians: if a thought or a graphic isn’t original to you, don’t claim it to be. If you’ve copied something from another account or website, make sure you have the right and also give credit.
- Observe the company code of conduct. This one should be obvious from a secular perspective. For Christians, our “company code of conduct” is the Bible.
- Do not claim to speak on behalf of the company when you don’t. Companies don’t want their employees saying things that may not be accurate. Instead, they want all official communication to come through the public relations department. The same is true of Christians and their churches. First Baptist Church has some official statements (found on our website), but no one can claim to speak on behalf of every member of FBC (or every Christian). Rather, we should at most say things like “this is what our church website says , and this is what I believe about it.”
- Let the “pros” handle the difficult questions or complaints. Companies train certain employees to handle controversial, problematic, or difficult situations online. They don’t want a random employee to jump in and create a problem. The same can be true of Christians. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you should stay out of a conversation. We will have someone in our church family with first-hand experience who can speak to a situation knowledgeably and accurately. Ask for help.
- Be knowledgeable, accurate, and professional. This is a universal expectation of companies for their employees. It should be a minimum expectation for Christians. And this is not just talking about biblical matters. If a Christian wants to speak to a social or political issue, we should expect that Christian to have taken the time to learn about that issue and be able to speak clearly and informatively to it.
- Do not use slurs, obscenities, or crude language. Again, if this is a universal expectation of secular companies for their employees, it absolutely should be for Christians as well. Companies understand that even on personal time, an employee always represents the company. Isn’t that even more true for every Christian and how they represent their church and also Jesus?
- Online isn’t always a good place for a conversation. Based on everything said above, these last two rules should only make sense. Sometimes it is impossible to be clear and accurate online, where people can and will misconstrue and misunderstand what you say. Some conversations (perhaps most) should be had in person and in private.
- Everything you share online is public forever. Likewise, companies want their employees to respect the immediacy of social media. Once something crosses a person’s screen, it can be captured and distributed, even if you intended it to be private or something to delete later. And that’s true for all people who use social media, whether you like it or not.
Some Websites That Helped Us
- “A template to help start your social media policy,” https://www.socialfresh.com/a-template-to-help-start-your-social-media-policy/ (secular perspective)
- “Biblical Guidelines for Social Media,” http://www.operationsaveamerica.org/biblical-guidelines-for-social-media/
- “12 guidelines for church social media,” https://ministrytech.com/social-media/12-guidelines-church-social-media/
- Statements related to our church’s beliefs can be found on our website, https://www.fbcthomson.org/about-us