In today’s episode, we tackle the question that so many pastors need to ask. – Can I tweet that?
As the use of social media has increased, so has its ability to get church leaders into hot water.
To help you navigate these challenging times, we discuss five specific ways your church can steer clear of the minefield that is social media this year.
We hope it helps you reach people the right way.
How To Use Social Media In A Divided Election Year:
- Delete anything that takes you off message.
- Treat all posts as content that will be online permanently.
- Be careful what you retweet and like.
- Carefully address comments outside of your control.
- Work to establish a strong social media presence.
Welcome to the REACHRIGHT Podcast episode number 13, lucky number 13. I’m your host Thomas Costello. And with me as always is my cohost Ian Hyatt. Looking forward to our conversation here today. Our topic should be a challenging one. I would say maybe a it’s kind of a crazy time that we’re living through it is can we tweak that? How to use social media in a divided election year? I think this is so important for churches to tackle because, give a little context if you’re listening to this late, the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden that happened this week on Tuesday, we’re recording it on Thursday, October 1st, a couple days ago, we had that debate and it was a, yeah, you can say a lot of things. Yeah. We could say.
Speaker 0 00:01:55 And, for churches, a lot of times I find that it’s best to not say a lot of things about this kind of stuff there, but you know, even not saying something in our divided, crazy time we’re in, that could be explosive. Have you found that I’ve found that yes. Silence, this sin of silence, I guess, is how some people look at it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s right. So if you, I guess it comes from the idea that those that are silent when injustice is happening are just as guilty of though as those that, that are, actively doing injustice, I guess, is the thought behind it. I don’t, I don’t know that I buy into that. I think scripturally, um, I am a firm believer that being slow to speak and quick to listen. I think that’s something that is still valuable and it didn’t go away because of social media.
Speaker 0 00:02:45 But we want to give, I think pastors today, some ideas on how to manage this because social media is an absolute minefield, trying to try to deal with this, these kinds of conversations that, that are happening. And I don’t care what kind of church you are. I would assure you that almost every church in our country, there are people that if you come out to one way or another, in anything political, there are people that will be offended at least, and probably stopped coming and not be a part of your church and speak poorly of your church, just because of what your political beliefs as a leader in that church might be. So it really is a crazy time.
Speaker 2 00:03:26 It is, it is a crazy time. Yeah. And, it, that is, yeah, that is what you could say. Yeah.
Speaker 0 00:03:33 So what we have is we have five different items that we put together of pieces of advice we would have for churches on how to, how to navigate this minefield of social media in an election season. Every election year, it’s a little bit challenging, but this one, I, I am not currently pastoring a church. I pastored one in the last election cycle. And it was tough then I can’t even imagine now, you know, it’s, the political politicization of, the coronavirus and everything that’s happening there. And, it’s just, it’s a, it is a tough thing. So we have five different things that we’ve kind of put together here. We wanted to share with our viewers and listeners, to kind of give them some ideas on how to manage that. But I wanted to set the tone with what the stakes are. I just know that, there is a lot riding on this. There are, there are people that will literally break off relationship with us nowadays, if we don’t share their political beliefs. And so how do you, how do you think you manage something like that? I mean, I don’t know if you have any just general, um, general thoughts on that even before we get into the five, you have any, anything to share about that?
Speaker 2 00:04:40 Yes. You know, I, I think what I can share is that, yeah, it’s very hard to manage because I’m, I’m someone who’s on social media, but I’m, I don’t get political on social media. I choose not to. I don’t have personally, I don’t feel like I have the time to manage all of the comments and it’s like a full time job if you post something political. And I noticed the people that are the most political, I don’t know what they, if they work for a living or, you know, cause it’s a full time job managing that. So, yeah, I, I think, as, as someone, my wife and I both, who don’t, we choose not to get political, we’ve all been we’ve recently, even after the debate, you know, kind of ran into just because we, shared something encouraging. There was not political at all, but it was during this time, whenever one’s emotions were peaked after the debate and because it was an encouragement for all people, it still came off to some, as we were siding with one, one party. So, and it’s already caused a strain on a couple of relationships, which I think is just so unfortunate, you know, and you know, where are the days where you just called someone and you talked about an issue.
Speaker 0 00:05:59 I do that when you can insult them in front of a thousand of their closest friends. Right. So that’s perfect. Several birds with one stone, I guess. Exactly. That’s exactly right. So, well, let’s not hold back that we’ll get into the five here. The first one is that, we believe that it is wise counsel for churches to delete any social comments that take you off message when you can do that. And so let me explain what we mean by that is that on social media platforms, if you have any kind of a presence, at some point, you will have people that comment or say things that are not in alignment with the church’s position and for the most part, I think it is a good idea to delete that to when you can. And let me give you an example. So for, for us as an organization, at reach right here, we are a Christian, unabashedly Christian, led by pastors and we help churches.
Speaker 0 00:06:55 And that’s what we do. and we offer services that help churches do websites have been one of the big ones we do now is, helping them with the Google grant. And we do a lot of things on social media, promoting our services, where we help churches spend that $10,000 a month that Google gives to churches. And so we help them spend that. But I gotta tell you every single day on our social media posts, we get several people that comment on there about how evil Google is and how nobody I had one the other day that was hilarious. They said, I would rather cut off my hand with a butter knife than take money from Google is what they put on there. So humorous and listen, I’m not trying to defend, it’s not my job to defend Google or their positions. There’s all kinds of things that I I’m sure that as an organization that we would, we obviously do very differently than how they run things.
Speaker 0 00:07:48 So that’s not the point of what I’m trying to say here, but when we get those kinds of comments, I have faced with the choice, I can either respond and say, Hey, you don’t understand. Here’s what we’re trying to do. And try to give, give some, give kind of our reasoning, or I can just hit delete, or even better delete and ban. So we don’t have to have that kind of conversation anymore with these kinds of things. And I think that what the value to that, I think be very careful if you’re going to engage with someone that’s coming negatively online towards you, because there’s so many reasons. Number one, it gives them more search engine, velocity. So it’ll start to, if there’s a lot of comments on something the algorithm starts to, to boost it and it’ll show up at the top of people’s feeds and it puts this dissension right front and center for a lot of people that maybe you don’t want that there.
Speaker 0 00:08:39 And I’m just reminded of Jesus and the way that he was constantly, they constantly try to take him off of message every time the Pharisees would come at him. And they’d say, you know, what do you think about your disciples healing on a Sabbath? Or what do you think about your, your disciples that, they’re walking through the fields? The Sabbath was kind of the big issue of the day there. And he would always push back on them and not try to answer their, their foolish questions that were trying to trap it because they were taking him off message about what he was trying to do. And listen, I believe churches have the most important message in the entire world, and we need to be careful that we’re not giving credence to things that take us off message. So, my advice is when in doubt, throw it out, delete it and get rid of those kinds of things that take you off messages when you can. So what do you think about that? I totally agree.
Speaker 2 00:09:29 And we obviously, as the church of Jesus Christ, you know, the whole body of Christ that we do have the biggest message to stay on track with. And I think that that’s a good practice, even when we’re not in this type of political climate that we are, that’s always just a good practice to stay on message and know what you’re called to do. and, and so, yeah, it’s very important. And I think that it also, like we were joking about it at the beginning will help you avoid having to have an all day battle on social media, when you may not have the volunteer, the staff to keep up with that. and so, absolutely,
Speaker 0 00:10:06 I don’t know if you’re like me, but I’m the kind of guy where this is hard, right? Cause like, I don’t know if it’s my own struggle with pride or what it is, but when someone gets on there and says something that is really it’s, it’s a, you know, they’re taking what I said wrong, or they have a, an opinion that I just don’t agree with. My inclination is to get up in their face and come back at them hard and put them in their place. That’s what I would naturally do. But I have learned that lesson, that it costs you more to do that. And sometimes you have to just let go of those kinds of things. And it’s so much easier just to delete it and silence.
Speaker 2 00:10:41 It could be like turning the other cheek. Right. So, yeah,
Speaker 0 00:10:43 That’s a good way to put it. So we’ll just, just let it slide and get rid of it
Speaker 2 00:10:48 Is, and why that’s good to do is, is to stay on message and often delete things that would cause those types of issues is brings us to our next point. Number two, which is treat all posts as content that will be online permanently. and that is just something that I think in the last couple of years with not just the political climate, what we’ve been going through as a country and, you know, with the coronavirus and just, seeing people of high positions fall, within church and political, the political and business arena is that, you know, now we gotta have this mindset that, Hey, when something is on put online, you know, it’s going to stay there now, it’s, it is now, in the cloud as they would say. And, and it’s just, it’s, it’s going to go there. So that’s very important is that when you post something, just know it’s, it’s there to stay even years to come when you may want to run for president. Remember it was there.
Speaker 0 00:11:48 Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s one of the things is that when you delete a tweet or you delete a post, don’t be mistaken in thinking that that Facebook actually removes it from everything that they’ve ever done. They still there, like it, it’s just, it may not show up on your wall anymore and people have the power to screenshot things. And remember that, I find it interesting every year. Now I I’m a, I’m a football fan. I know you are too. And, um, we have a lot of banter back and forth on that, but we do have some banter on set. So yeah, that’s a totally separate topic of a podcast yet, but I love watching the NFL draft, but it wants to become the standard for the NFL draft every single year now is they look at all these kids and there’s people that go in and look at everything that these kids that are getting drafted, everything they’ve ever tweeted ever said online, trying to find anything offensive.
Speaker 0 00:12:40 And it’s literally costs some of these high draft picks millions of dollars because they said something back when they were 16 years old, they, they quoted our rapid lyric or something like that, that they had no business quoting or whatever it is. It costs them millions of dollars. And that’s the idea is that the things that you put online when you’re 16 years old, they still could have the power to come back and haunt you when you’re an adult, when you’re in your money. I tell this to my kids. My kids are just getting into that social media age, where we’re starting to let them dabble in it a little bit, but they need to know that anything they say, even as like a 15 year old, that that’s going to have an impact and be employers and people in your future and colleges, they will all see this kind of stuff. And the same thing goes for pastors is that, that don’t think that just because you put it on there now that you’ll have the ability to take that off. So if you, I, I’m not saying that, you know, most things that are in scripture are timeless. I don’t think that that’s going to change so confidently post scripture online, there is no changing in those things, but I think be careful with the things that you put out there because it’s going to be on there forever. That’s, that’s absolutely absolutely the case.
Speaker 0 00:13:53 Well, let me tackle number three, then we’ll dig into this and this one, I think it hit close to home for us. we’ve seen this one really play out in some, some experiences this year, but be careful what you retweet and like, so it’s not just the comments that you put onto social media. It’s also when you click that little heart button on Instagram or that little heart button on Twitter, or what you retweet. And even sometimes you’ll see people on Twitter that say retweets do not equal endorsements, but even when you do that, people will take those kinds of things as an endorsement. And, you know, we just saw that, um, over the summer, I believe here with pastor Chris Hodges, a church of the Highlands they’re in Alabama. Right. And they went through just, something that they, there was a hard campaign for those of you that don’t know in our audience, a hard campaign that cancel, pastor Chris Hodges, one of the largest churches in the country, what I believe to be a fantastic church, the church of the Highlands there.
Speaker 0 00:14:51 and, they, he, quick, he clicked on a tweet from a conservative author, somewhat mainstream. it wasn’t some kind of a radical far right position, but it was a mainstream conservative tweet. and he clicked like on it, and this got wind, people got wind of this and there was a giant campaign to change their relationship with the, with the state, and with the schools that they were meet again. And so this great church, they have campuses meeting in schools and they get kicked out of the schools that the church services or meet again, because the pastor click the like on a mainstream conservative, tweaked nuts, absolutely nuts that those kinds of things are happening in the state age. But I think if you, if you’re under the impression that hitting like is, is somehow not as big of a deal as writing out a comment, it’s basically an endorsement of all those kinds of things. And so, listen, we’re not here to comment on what was on those positions or conservative or liberal type takes on things. you, you take that up with the Lord and be who you are, but what we’re here to say is that you just need to understand that whatever you, like, whatever you retweet, those things will be taken as endorsements and they can be used to, to affect the things that are happening at your church. so I don’t know, have you seen that kind of stuff happening too?
Speaker 2 00:16:14 Oh yeah, absolutely. And it could be something small. Like I was just saying, giving the example of a life, sharing something encouraging, but at the wrong time, I, you know, when I say it the wrong time, it was, you know, during this again, heated time after that first debate. And, and it was just taken out of context and it wasn’t even political, but yet it was used against her as a political ammo, if you will. And, so, it’s yeah, it’s just crazy. And it goes back to also just, you know, what the scripture you quoted at the beginning to just slow to speak quick, to listen, to think about it, think about it before you, you like something, it, you know, it could be something that even at first glance, you think it’s just not a big deal, but you’ve got to kind of step back a little bit now.
Speaker 2 00:16:59 And yeah. And this is why I think we see a lot of people, normal people, not just people in the limelight, just posting less compared to they used to on Facebook. You know, I remember I’d post something silly, on Facebook, just, I dunno, just, gosh, I’m, I sure am hungry. Can’t wait to go to lunch today or something, you know, and now, now, you know, a lot of people just posted anything and then now it’s just, I might go sometimes a month without posting something, just because, you know, it’s, it’s like a whole endeavor, but again, so it’s just good to stop and think about that. so
Speaker 0 00:17:36 Yeah, I I’ve converted completely to family, and family and friends type posts that have pictures of us doing things, but even that can be a minefield now. So we were out, we were going out surfing the day with my daughter and I put a picture up and someone has the audacity to write where’s your mask. I mean, everything is absolutely political and everything that we do. So I,
Speaker 2 00:18:03 Yeah, here, here in Texas, you know, where, football baseball’s diehard, my kid plays both of those sports and I’m personally thankful that even over the summer, when a lot was shut down, they were allowed to go outside and, and it was deemed them as safe and everything. And, and so he, he he’s had a baseball season that has started and we’ve, we’ve seen comments like they’re actually playing sports and, you know, and it’s, it just, it’s almost like we’re the enemy now. do you know, for letting our kid get out of place in sports, so
Speaker 0 00:18:34 Great. Yeah, that’s great. So it’s, I think I’m reminded of another verse from James and I can’t give you the address of the verse, but that the power of the tongue. Right. And I think social media is, is really about that power of the tongue nowadays. And that is the, like, you can see how the tongue can set, an entire forest ablaze, right? How it talks about that idea, or it can steer a ship. And we talk about those things, but the forest ablaze thing, which is apropos with all the fires and stuff going on right now, but then you can start like one small thing that comes out of your tongue or comes out of your keyboard or your phone that can really start a forest fire that gets out of control. We need to be aware of those kinds of things. And yeah, the way you do that as being really careful and not indiscriminately clicking likes and clicking, and re-tweeting things just be really cautious with that as our advice to pass. So
Speaker 2 00:19:28 That leads us to our next point. I was about to say, yeah, so, I mean, carefully, number four here, carefully address comments outside of your control. Um, and so, you know, the first thing that comes to mind is like, you know, if you get a bad Yelp review, you know, you gotta be careful how much you address that you can’t control. You know, if you’re a restaurant owner or something, and, you know, waiter messed up, had a bad day, you know, you don’t want to stoke that fire. it happened already. You got the bad review. All you can do focus, all you can focus on now is getting better. Because if you start to, to address those things that are outside of your control, well, it takes you in a whole nother direction.
Speaker 0 00:20:11 Yeah, that’s exactly right. I think that, so this is to contrast with the first point. So firstly, we said, when it’s in your control and it’s off message of what you want to be as a brand or as a church, just delete it. Like you don’t need to go there. If someone’s going to come on and say, Hey, I went to that church and I, I, the pastor was a jerk and I didn’t really like him and, you know, delete it. You don’t need to, you don’t need to engage with those things online. But when it’s out of your control, like you mentioned someone putting a review on Yelp, which still strikes me as odd that we can review churches. it’s just a crazy world that we live in. Could you imagine if, if Paul and Peter got reviews for the ministry that did like what people might’ve said and those times there things they did
Speaker 2 00:20:51 Just kind of a weak miracle, you know what John did? Yeah.
Speaker 0 00:20:58 So, but that’s the world we live in now where, you know, we get to review. And so if your church’s, bet around at all, and you have a online presence, you will start to get social media reviews, Yelp reviews, those kinds of things. And you can’t usually, delete those things. Or sometimes you can appeal to them and say, Hey, this isn’t a, is a fake review. Or this is a, a competitor church. I don’t know who what you could say exactly. But, um, when that’s the case, I guess our encouragement is you have to ride this fine line of you don’t want it to descend into a long string of back and forth. So if someone gets onto Yelp and says, Hey, I didn’t like this because this pastor teaches, some specific doctrine. Maybe you’re a church that has women in ministry, and this person doesn’t like that.
Speaker 0 00:21:48 and they get on there about how all the scriptures about how you shouldn’t have women in ministry. My encouragement to you, if that’s the case is to, to be very cautious. You, you do need to respond. So you need to say something, to respond to that complaint, or because if you just leave it out there, it feels like it’s weak. And that you’re trying to Dodge any kind of criticism that you may have, but you also don’t want to respond in a way that would invite more back and forth. And more people piling on with the same kind of an issue. Because if someone writes to you about how they don’t view, there should be any women in ministry and you happen to be a church that believes that you should, then, and you write back and you give them all kinds of verses about why you think women should be in ministry.
Speaker 0 00:22:36 And then they respond. And then someone else searching about women in ministry who doesn’t believe in it, they’ll find your post when they search on Google and they’ll start to chime in. And then before, you know, it you’ll have, the top result on Google. When people look for women in ministry and it’ll be something you don’t want to be, it takes you off message again. So we really need to be careful. I think the right approach is to say something to the effect of, Hey, we can hear where you’re coming from. And we believe that a lot of good Christians can disagree on this kind of an issue. We’d love to have you come back and have a discussion in person. So you try to get that offline right away. But that’s the main thing is let’s, let’s talk about this. And I think there’s biblical precedent for that, right? We shouldn’t be having our conflict in our disagreement in front of the entire world. We should be good at bringing this to one another and having these discussions and disagreements in a one on one basis, because we want to make sure we’re presenting the gospel in the best light possible. Yeah,
Speaker 2 00:23:31 That’s right. Totally agreed. You know, that’s why it says, you know, if someone’s offended, you, you take it to them and or if someone’s wronged you, you, you rebuke them in a loving way, face to face. And, and I think that, again, you know, the great thing about it as even as crazy as this world is right now in social media, we can always, I like how in this podcast, right now we’re steering everything back to scripture, which is not something that we’re always, we’re not trying to over spiritualize it. We have like, you know, we talk about tech stuff, but really Jesus, he knew, he knows the answer for what we’re going through here these days. And, and, and absolutely it’s kind of funny, case in point, you know, there was a lot that was outside of my wife’s control, who was being twisted and commented on, on, on her post. And one of the best things she did was she kind of left it alone for a while and everyone was kind of calming on that. And someone finally came to her rescue actually, and, and kind of commented, in, in her, defense. And then it kind of just went away and we were just kinda like, good. That’s done. Thanks. Thank you. Let’s move on.
Speaker 0 00:24:34 Yeah, that’s it. I think one thing I’ll say is that even when people are coming to your defense, as good as that feels a lot of times that can continue the barrel rolling down the Hill. Right. And so we want to be careful like, you know, I, I, as nice as that is, I think just being careful with that and trying to put a, to invite people, to take the conversation offline, but I think that’s really what is best, like acknowledge their concerns, make sure they feel heard and then try to pull it offline. That’s our biggest advice on that there. So yeah. Let me wrap it up with number five here. And this one is kind of obvious, but I want to explain why it’s worked to establish a strong social media presence of your own. And here’s the thought behind it is that if you have a strong social media presence, that means when you speak, online, that your words get out to a much broader audience and you can nip these kinds of things in the bud, much more effectively than if you have a small social media presence.
Speaker 0 00:25:34 So if you’re a large church with very few people or very little interactivity on your social media platforms, well, you don’t, when you say something, it doesn’t get the audience that you would if you had a large social media platform. So I think just in general, there’s so many reasons why, for churches, it’s valuable to communicate through social media channels right now. And I know I watched the Netflix documentary, the social dilemma, I know all of the, kind of the arguments against it, but I think from a brand and a corporate perspective, there still is value for churches, and really any kind of a business or organization to have a presence. You can say what you will about our personal use of social media. It may not be valuable. And I find it having less and less significance in my life, because like you were saying, I find myself posting less looking at it less.
Speaker 0 00:26:26 Um, I think that most of the content that I loved about it originally of catching up with lost friends and people, I didn’t know, I didn’t, I hadn’t seen in a long time that kind of stuff has waned and it’s moved much more to, um, you know, what sells online is disagreement dissension, and that’s just not something I’m interested in. So, um, I think just it’s, it is important still for churches and brands to have a, to work, to build a strong social media presence, because it enables you to have a bigger voice to speak into these kinds of issues and to stop things when they’re getting off the rails here. So that’s
Speaker 2 00:27:02 Yeah. And I think, I think the temptation, I have a lot of friends that have left social media, you know, and, and, and that might be the temptation to pastors listening to us here today is that we, you know, why do I even want to be on social media? Because I big probably experienced some of this, but you still want to keep your influence, like you’re saying, and more that we can influence people towards Jesus, and, and, and, and be an influential church leader the better. So it’s, it’s worth the fight. But I think if we exercise that wisdom, like we’re talking about and, and kind of knows that no, the do’s and don’ts, it’s still a worthwhile endeavor. And I, that I, that came to mind when you were mentioning that partner, because just, we, in the last couple of days, we’ve had friends and it just I’m leaving social media, I’m done, you know, and all the political stuff,
Speaker 0 00:27:49 Some friends had said, they’re leaving social media, but funnily, they’re still on social media. It seems, I’ve read that post many times. Yeah. It’s a it’s right. When I try to get out, it pulls me back in that sort of thing. Right. That’s how that works there. So, yeah, I, I still think that it is important. And I, I, again, you know, going back to scripture, I see that it is the public square for us. Right. And it reminds me a lot of the way that they used Mars Hill, to go and, and to talk about spirit. Nobody made an argument that Mars Hill was a Christian place where only Christians could go and talk, but it was a place where people, they brought ideas and they would share about different, religious and faith related things or political discourse and all that stuff is happening on social media.
Speaker 0 00:28:32 That doesn’t mean that say a net good or a positive thing, but I think it’s something that can be used for positive. and I do think that in this day and age where we need to be communicating, it is one of the brightest spots for us to be able to get the message of Jesus Christ out to people. So I think churches should use it, but we just wanted to offer these five things as a way that you can carefully navigate the way that you use it and try to keep yourself out of some of that hot water that’s out there. So anything else to add?
Speaker 2 00:29:02 No, no, I I’ll end with a story and this dates me a little bit, but, remember, remember my space. I do. Yes. So I had a MySpace page that it was very proud of. and, and I was a new believer on fire and I even had like music playing, you know, gospel music, playing. And, and, and, but let me tell you something, I let a guy back to the Lord through my spirit, and so it’s worth it. That’s all I’m saying. And, and I, did you do that? How did that happen? So you remember you can, it had a feature where you can kind of blog on there. And I’m kind of remembering that now. And I had, I’d shared a blog or I’d shared just a topic of spiritual topic. And, I think just, it was kinda more of a testimonial thing and how I came back to faith and then it just totally hit it home with the guy he related to it because he had, he had kind of a drifted the same way I did. and then, and then how I shared, he came back at, do, you know, he’s brought them to tears and later on, we connected and, and, and he got closer to the Lord. And so I, you had reminded me of that. I think that’s, that’s, that’s the thing is that there’s still power in it.
Speaker 0 00:30:11 God can use it. Yeah. Yeah. That is awesome. So I haven’t heard of a MySpace a conversion yet, so that’s, that’s great.
Speaker 2 00:30:18
Speaker 0 00:30:21 A lot of MySpace conversions can’t wait. Well, good, good. Thank you guys for sticking around with us and a ticket part of this with us. If you have any other feedback for us, um, leave it in the comments. I can’t promise you. We won’t delete it if it’s taking us off message, but do leave that we love to have conversations with likeminded people on this. the best that you guys can do though, is if this has been important to you or good for you, a rate review, subscribe on iTunes, wherever you get your podcasts, YouTube, wherever you’re watching this, it really means a lot to us. And it’s really getting this out there to lots of, church leaders. So, thank you so much for all your help with that. and we’ll catch you guys next week. Thanks for listening to the reach right podcast. We hope this episode will help you reach people the right way, looking for more resources for your church. Check us out online and reach right studios.com. If this episode has been helpful to you, it would mean the world to us. If you would rate, review and subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks again for listening. And we’ll see you next week.