Social Media, Blogging, Ministry and Work

August 18, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Monday night was not the first time that is happened, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.  All it is is the most recent.  It wasn’t a public rebuke.  I don’t know if you could even consider it a rebuke per se.  More than anything it was an encouragement to be better and to be a more effective successful pastor.  Now mind you, I have been rebuked before.  I have also been just asked questions about this before.  This was somewhere in between.

The issue, and I’ve probably been asked this 5 or 6 times, has to do with blogging, ministry, social networking, etc.  If someone is a pastor or a minister, is it “work” to be on Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?  This brings up a much broader question about what is and is not work.  If I’m out to eat with my family and someone from the church comes up and talks to us for 10-15 minutes, is that work?  If I am at home sort of watching TV, but rehearsing my intro to my sermon in my head, is that work?  Is having coffee with a guy from the church talking about sports work?  Is it only work if it’s in an office with papers and/or computer?  Some of my job can easily look like fun, does that make it “not work?”  If a pastor is going to be honest, he will often admit that this issue is a struggle.

However, we are talking about something specific–social networking.  If I am on my computer, replying to people’s emails or working on a sermon, and I click over to the Facebook (friend me here.) or Twitter (here) and talk about what I am doing, is that work or not?  If I blog about something related to church, and ask people to read it, is that work?  What if it’s a devotional?  What if it’s silliness?  What if it’s all three? Let me give you my reasoning (defense?) for why I do what I do.

I view my job as being somewhat complex and relatively nebulous (vague, undefined).  However, the goals are pretty clear.  I am to help people have a relationship with Jesus, grow in that relationship, and then help them help others have that relationship.  How one best does that is a matter of style, effectiveness, personality and a lot of factors.  I believe that I need to teach and inspire.  I also believe that the best way to do that is through relationships.  I want to know people and for them to know me.  I believe that gives me a stronger platform for teaching and influence.

Therefore during the day, I will take time out to post something about what’s going on with me and will check on what people are doing.  Sometimes it’s informational.  Sometimes it’s humorous.  Sometimes it’s an invitation to church, a ministry or to read something that I wrote on my blog.  Most of what I write on are short devotional thoughts that I hope can help people grow in their walks with God.  Short, on-line devotionals.  To me, there is little doubt that the writing of a devotional and the encouraging the reading of said devotional is “work.”  If not, then the preparation and delivery of sermons would have to be called into question.  To me that is an easy way to take a few minutes and connect with about 200 or so people and help encourage them.

FB posts and Tweets that are not of an overtly spiritual nature feel like a good thing for me to do as well.  I am connecting with people where they are–on-line.  If there were a few hundred people gathered somewhere and I went to talk to them, I would consider that productive, even if it were just to say hi.  If I then got to share a thought about God with them, all the better.  It is my desire to be with people, connect with people, be it “live,” on-line, on the phone, whichever.  To me Social Networking is a highly effective ways to do what God has called me to do as a pastor.

Now, let the debate begin.  Does this ring true to you?  Does it seem like the ramblings of a guy who likes to justify goofin’ around on the computer?  What do you think when you see a pastor that does a lot of that?

Please, let me know what you think.  My guess is there are churches our there banning FB at the church office and those that require Twitter accounts for all staff and everything in between.  What do you think?  If you want to say something that you feel would be a public rebuke, don’t sweat it.  If you want to make it anonymous, you can.  I will make sure it still ends up in the comments.  Now…go!

Pastors, Tiger Woods and “Privacy”

February 19, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I have been rooting against Tiger Woods for about 13 years now.  I actively watch golf, especially the major championships.  I remember him winning his first Masters and many more tournaments since then.  Why would I root against him?  At some point I will blog about my philosophy about whom I root for and why.  For now, here are two of the top principles on the list.  I do not root for the person or team that wins all the time.  I do not root for whom the media tells me I should be.  Suffice to say, if you are over-hyped and win a lot, you can imagine that I will root against you and your team.   I say all of that, because most of my friends know this and will think that this post comes from that.  It does not.

I am struck by the calls from Tiger’s defenders and Tiger himself for his desire and right for privacy.  Even listening to the radio this morning, Bob Steele on KARN was getting lambasted for even talking about it.  “This is a private matter.”  “This is between him and his wife.”  “This isn’t even news.” 

I understand some of that, I suppose.  But I look at this from a completely different angle.  I know what it is like to be a public figure.  Nowhere near to the degree that Tiger Woods does, of course.  But on a much smaller scale, I do know.  All pastors know what I am talking about.  People always recognize you.  People recognize you and you don’t know who they are.  Those same people are always watching everything.  “What is he doing over there, sitting at McDonalds on his computer?”

Do I deserve privacy?  Do I deserve to be able to walk around Wal-Mart anonymously?  Do I deserve the right to have a life that is private?  What right do people have to know what is going on in my life?   With my wife, Heidi?  With my daughters, Maylee and Lauren who are 12 and 9 and are prominently pictured on the front page of my website?  Do people have the right to critique my parenting skills about which I blog on a regular basis and use to encourage other people?  (Hopefully, you by now, see the ridiculous way this is going)

I gave up the right to anonymity when I made the choice to enter a profession that put me in the public view.  I give it up even more when I talk about my life in a sermon.  I give it up further when I publish parts of my life and then post links encouraging people to read what I have written.  My livelihood depends on my reputation.

So what happens when a celebrity, sports figure, or pastor fails?  Do we get to invoke the privacy card?  The very same reputation that I need to have to do what I do is now gone.  Is it unfair that people would judge me?  Celebrities, sports figures, and yes pastors don’t seem to mind as long as they hear the cheers and cash the checks, but when it turns…?

Are we a celebrity-obsessed culture?  Yes.  Do we have too high of expectations of the sports figures we love?  Yes.  Do most pastors live in an unhealthy fishbowl also with unreasonable expectations?  Yes.  However, the time to complain about it is not when it starts working against us.  If this is not what we want, get out.  Better yet, don’t fail.  Be in your private life who you say you are in your public life. 

(That’s good advice, even if you are not a celebrity, sports figure or pastor)

****addendum, post Tiger’s prepared statement

There was a lot in that statement.  As a public speaker, I analyze things very differently.  He is not a great public speaker, so it would be unfair to read too much into his inflection, tone, body language, etc.  I am tempted to say a lot here, but I want to keep it on the topic addressed in the post. 

He did not make a desperate appeal for his own privacy, which is good.  He did make a passionate appeal for the privacy of his family.  Again, not reading too much into his tone, his appeal was angry.  Humble would have been better.  “I have failed, they don’t deserve this.  Please, leave them alone.  Harass me, but please give them some space.  They need that.”  He is right in saying that he has protected them from the public eye, mostly.  They are a part of his image, and he did bring them out.  He is their protector and defender.  He brought them into the spotlight, and it his responsibility to protect them.  Every paparazzi picture and salacious article is his fault, fair or not.  Now, humbly ask for help and support from the media.  Then we will turn against the media, and this can die slowly.

  I give the whole thing a C+,kinda what I expected.

Can Pastors Like Each Other?

January 5, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Something happened today that was fun for me and seemed normal to me.  I saw a fellow pastor drive past me and pull into a restaurant.  (Ok, I will tell you who it is.  It was Paul Luman from Grace Family Church.  Website here).  I immediately pulled out my phone and texted him (I wasn’t driving.  I would never text and drive.  It’s against the law, you know.)  I said “I just saw the coolest pastor in town pulling into Colton’s.”  (I like inserting links).  We texted back and forth teasing each other.  It ended with him complementing this blog and me saying thanks.

Does that seem unusual to you?  Shouldn’t I be sending him hate mail?  Shouldn’t I be jealous, resentful and disdainful towards other pastors?  In our world, it is not unusual.  I really like Paul.  Would it surprise you that I spoke at one of the men’s groups at his church? Would it surprise you that men from his church come to one of our men’s groups?  Would it surprise you that some of my best friends in Cabot are “rival” pastors?  Would it surprise you that I recommend their churches to people?  Would it surprise you that I have recommended their churches to people who were currently visiting our church?

We are not rivals.  We are not competitors.  We are on the same team.  How can two churches trying to accomplish the same goals, led by the same God be on different teams?  The answer is rhetorical and obvious, if not rightly applied by people.

I hope that wherever you go to church, that God is blessing you and using you to impact the world.  I hope that all churches in Cabot and Central Arkansas and around the world prosper.  We are all on the same team.  Do you believe that?  I hope you do.