7 Ways Pastors Can Overcome Conflict in Social Media

social media conflictRecently, a pastor expressed a in a comment  his concerns about social media:

As a Pastor, social media is very dangerous for me in the sense that what I post, somebody will inevitably be offended (even if there is nothing clearly offensive in the matter). I find it challenging to post anything on Facebook without somebody managing to shoot me down or get upset. Relational engagement through social media, in my experience, tends to lead to people being able to tear another down in a safe way. Suddenly, it becomes much more confusing about the depth and significance of social media. When engaged in conversation through comments and the like, we often end up with people saying thing that would be “socially unacceptable” face to face. Suddenly, we begin wishing that people were hitting “Like” instead of adding a “Comment”

It saddens me to hear this, and unfortunately there are probably a lot of pastors who feel this way.

Is this how God wants the church to be? Where people don’t want to share what God is teaching them and doing them in their lives for fear of offending someone or starting an arguement? No, of course not.

The bible tells us…

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. -Hebrews 3:13

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. -Hebrews 10:25

The hard truth is that if the people in your church think it’s OK tear others down online you probably have not only an ettiqute problem but also a heart problem.

But remember, pastors, you were not called to lead perfect people. You were called to shepherd people through the sanctification process, and help unruly heathens become like Jesus. This is an opportunity to do just that.  So, here are…

7 Steps to Developing a Healthy Online Culture

1) Set the ground rules up front.

If you’re setting up community space online like a blog, Facebook page, or discussion group, post the rules where they’re easy to find. Let people know that the space is being created to foster open discussion of ideas, and that personal insults, name-calling and mean-spirited arguments will not be tolerated. Posts or comments that go against these community standards will be removed and people may be banned.

2) Start with a series of posts about love.

Take a group of critical, argumentative people and teach them good manners and they may stop saying nasty things, but they will continue to think them. Jesus didn’t live to show us out to be courteous, he lived to show us how to love. He came to change hearts not just behavior, and that should be our focus as well.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered” This applies both online and offline.

3) Continue with a series of posts about online etiquete.

I frequently hear people say that people will say things online they would never say to someone face-to-face. I’ll be honest that I don’t get this. But I suppose people need to be reminded to think before they post:

  • Would you say this to their face?
  • Would you want it reprinted in the newspaper?
  • Would you want your mother to see that?
  • What would Jesus Do? (Cliche perhaps, but  seriously, could you see Jesus posting that?)

4) Set a positive tone.

Pastor, people will generally follow your lead when it comes to tone and attitude. If you are argumentative or condescending toward those who don’t agree with you on something, others will be too. If you give people the benefit of the doubt, ask clarifying questions, treat people with respect and agree to disagree most other people will as well.

5) Give serious thought to what you post.

I could write a whole post (or 2) on this. Oh wait, I already did. 😉 See 18 Ways Pastors Can Ruin their Reputation on Facebook  and 8 Things Pastors SHOULD Do on Facebook.

6) Have a thick skin.

No matter how wise you are about the way you use social media, some people are going to get offended, some will question your judgement, and some will disagree. It’s OK. God loves you. That is enough. You don’t need everyone to like you or agree with you. You don’t need to prove yourself or get in the last word.

7) Address offenses privately.

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. -Matthew 18:15

This is just as true online as offline. If someone behaves inappropriately online, don’t call them out or correct them publicly. Send them a private message. And when you do, try to do it as a brother in Christ not as imperial ruler of the online universe. You might say something like, “Hey John, I saw your comment on the article the Hellenistic Period. To me it sounds a bit harsh and could be perceived as condescending. That’s not what you intended is it? Perhaps you’d like to delete that comment and repost your thoughts in a kinder tone.”


  • Pastors, are you hesitant to use social media because you’re concerned it will lead to arguments and offended parishioners or do you know some pastors who are?
  • Do you think it’s the pastor’s responsibility to create a culture in the church he leads where ideas can be discussed without fear and people can disagree without being disagreeable? Why or why not?
  • What have you done (or what are you doing) to create that kind of culture at your church?

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

14 Responses to “7 Ways Pastors Can Overcome Conflict in Social Media”

  1. Wow. This really puts a lot of things into perspective. I'm struggling through the whole "Have Thick Skin" part. I'm fairly sensitive at times (and am fully aware of it) and tend to be a people pleaser. Yet it's God I need to be pleasing, not people. What a challenge.

    I really appreciate this blog Paul. It's put a lot of things into perspective for me, so thank you. I'll be reading it over a few times the next few days as I consider my new approach to social media. Thank you!!

  2. Paul, thank you for this posting. You answered so many questions for me about BLOGS and online study groups.


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