I’m a big fan of social media; I use it on the regular. I post, I tweet, I like, I retweet, I comment, I share, but I never poke…mostly because I don’t really know what that means. I’ve been poked and I always feel a little offended when it happens. But I digress…
Most of my volunteers are also social media aficionados. In fact, for many of my teenage volunteers, Facebook has become the best mode of communication. Based on response time, I’m convinced that some of my volunteers are gazing at their Facebook page every waking hour, just waiting for something to happen.
Occasionally, something will pop up on my news feed from a volunteer that disappoints or even shocks me. Status updates with obscenities. Inappropriate pictures. Disparaging remarks about someone else. And, as much as I’d like to pretend I didn’t see those things, I can’t. And, as a leader and shepherd, I must respond.
Usually my response involves sending that volunteer a private message on the site, encouraging them to remove or edit the post. I never respond publicly, i.e. commenting on their wall. A response must always be gracious and loving. In the limited number of occasions I’ve encountered this, here is a likeness of the response I have generally given…
“Hey, I was browsing on Facebook this morning and noticed a status update from you that has me concerned. First of all, is everything alright? I hope you know that you can always come to me with the stuff that’s going on in your life. I’m happy to pray with you. Secondly, I would ask that you remove that update as soon as possible. As a believer, you represent Christ. As a volunteer in this ministry, you represent our church. In both of those roles, inappropriate content is diminishing your impact as a representative.”
That’s the gist of it. In response, one of two things will probably happen. Hopefully the volunteer will see the error of his ways and remove the offensive material. If that’s the case, thank your volunteer for being cooperative and ask that, in the future, he uses more caution when posting online. It’s also possible that the volunteer will respond negatively to your approach and/or unfriend you. If that happens, a firm and timely follow-up conversation is necessary.
Social media has become a way for people to express themselves. And, as wonderful as self-expression can be, we must also remember that there is a time and a place for that expression. I would encourage anyone who is leading a team of media-savvy volunteers to have the talk as soon as possible. Create some social media guidelines, print them or email them; require your volunteers to agree to them and hold them accountable to that agreement should they default. The stakes are too high to ignore it.