Why your church should NOT be on Twitter

bad twitterThis is a guest post by Kevin J. Duncan.

You would be hard pressed to throw a rock out a window and not hit someone who would wax poetic on the virtues of Twitter.

Granted, they would later Tweet something along the lines of “Some jerk just hit me with a rock and then asked me if I liked Twitter”, but that’s neither here nor there.

Mark 16:15 tells us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.”

Many churches today are using Twitter to help them do just that and many more are hoping to start. I myself have written an article or two helping churches do this very thing and, as I’m writing these words, Paul Steinbrueck right here on OurChurch has posted an article based on a quote from Twitter’s founder, Ev Williams.

So, great. Twitter is good. Case closed, right? Well, not necessarily.

Just as every rose has its thorn, Twitter and its social media brethren have their drawbacks.

5 reasons your church should maybe not be on Twitter

1. Hecklers

There is a reason professional athletes and celebrities frequently quit Twitter. (On any given day, actor Alec Baldwin will have quit Twitter, signed up again, then quit again all before you’ve had your first cup of morning coffee.) The reason? When you are in the spotlight, people like to take shots at you. They like to heckle.

Now, combine this phenomenon with the typical backlash those who preach the Kingdom of the Lord receive for preaching the Kingdom of the Lord.

There are people in this world who will be more than happy to heckle your church simply because you’re a church. And if you put your church on a public forum, such as Twitter, you may very well become a punching bag on said public forum.

Can you handle that?

2. Security

Hackers like to hack — it’s why we call them hackers. And if your church has a Twitter account, you run the risk of having your account compromised.

If you’re fortunate, you will notice what’s happened before any damage has been done.

If you’re unfortunate, your church’s Twitter account will do various things which most definitely do not further His Kingdom.

3. Takes time

If your church is big enough to have a position such as Social Media Director, time likely isn’t an issue for you. You have someone to handle Twitter duties for you. You’re covered.

However, if you’re a smaller church, it could very well be your pastor or someone else with existing church responsibilities handling such duties.

If all you do is post announcements on Twitter, this isn’t such a big deal. (And if your church’s website uses WordPress, you can use plugins to automate such announcements.) But if you want your Twitter account to engage with your audience, retweet prayer requests, really dig into Twitter and all it can do…

It’s going to take time. And if it’s your pastor doing it, time very well may be the last thing he has to give.

4. One voice?

In 2011, the Chrysler Group got into some hot water after the agency it hired to handle its social media accounts Tweeted an offensive message to Chrysler’s 8,000+ followers.

Needless to say, this reflected badly on Chrysler.

How does this relate to your church?

The person handling your church’s Twitter account is representing your church. They speak for your church and, as far as the viewing public is concerned, are your church.

If your pastor handles the Twitter duties, this isn’t much of a concern. After all, your pastor is very much used to speaking on behalf of your church.

However, what if someone other than your pastor is in charge of your church’s Twitter?

They are speaking for your church. Are you comfortable with that?

5. Miscommunication

Nathan Heflick, a post-doctoral researcher at The University of Kent, discussed on Psychology Today a study which found recipients of online communication could accurately guess the emotion — sarcasm, humor, seriousness or sadness — of the sender only 60% of the time.

Hopefully, no one who reads a Tweet from a church stating something along the lines of “We will be looking at Romans 9 this Sunday…hope you all can make it!” will think sarcasm is involved. Or sadness. (Although, with Romans 9 you never know.)

However, the reality is things get lost in translation all the time.

And if your church Tweets a lot, it’s possible, if not likely, you will eventually post something people take the wrong way.

Talking Points

What are some other dangers and concerns of which churches should be mindful when it comes to Twitter and other forms of social media?

Are Twitter, Facebook and the rest more trouble than they’re worth?

What steps can a church take to alleviate some of these concerns?

Leave us a comment below to tell us what you think.

Image by petesimon

Kevin J. Duncan serves a great God, loves a great wife, and creates websites that are sometimes great. You can follow him on Twitter and read more of his practical website, social media and blogging tips for churches at kevinjduncan.com.

14 Responses to “Why your church should NOT be on Twitter”

  1. PaulSteinbrueck Oct 15, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Kevin, thanks for guest posting today. Good points! I love Twitter, but I agree that churches shouldn't use it just because "everyone's doing it." It should fit with a church's overall communications strategy and there should be a tactical plan for how its going to be managed, otherwise a church does run the risk of experiencing some of the downsides you described.

  2. Thanks, Paul! And thank you for allowing me to guest blog on this wonderful site.

    Agreed. I am pro-Twitter (though my current Twitter handle only started being used very recently) and do my best to incorporate Twitter into the churches I help, but… As you said, there has to be a strategy in place. I've known instances where MULTIPLE individuals updated a single Twitter account, and the results were worse than bad.

  3. Great post! In the past I've considered suggesting to our leadership team and pastors that we have a Twitter account, since we already have a Facebook page, but you also have to take into account the membership of your church. In our case, the majority of our members are ones who probably have never heard of Twitter, let alone would know how to use it. That said, I think Twitter can also be a great marketing tool and is definitely something to consider for that purpose as well!

    • Thanks for the comment, Angi! It sounds as though your church is very similar to mine. My church is on the small side, and I don't believe I'm exaggerating in the least when I say I may be one of only three people in the church who are on Twitter. And on the "not on" list is my wife, of all people. :-)

      Still, rather than wait for the people to catch up to the notion of Twitter before having our church begin using it, I opted for the Kevin Costner "build it and they will come" method:

      Our church's Twitter account is built (and updating), and eventually the people will come.

  4. Darryl Schoeman Oct 18, 2013 at 3:46 am

    Hey Kevin

    Great post.

    I volunteer manage my church's social media including their Twitter and was in fact having a very similar conversation with my pastor just yesterday, saying that I am all for the church being on Twitter, but not necessarily for the church (institution) to be engaging on it. And the key reason is your point 4 above – whoever speaks on Twitter on the church's account is effectively speaking on behalf of the church, and I'm not comfortable with just anyone doing that. Yes, it is fine for me to speak as I am the only one doing the tweeting, but my strategy is to build a team of volunteers and I want duplicatability. Having (other) volunteer people engage on behalf of the church is not duplicatable. This does not say I don't trust them, but trust is built up over time.

    That said, I am ALL for the church (congregation) engaging on what the church posts. THAT is social community. I have even addressed this with a seminar I ran entitled Sociavangelism (I broke up the talk into four articles posted here – http://purposefullysocial.com/blog/category/my-st….

    God bless
    Darryl

    • Thanks for the comment, Darryl! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      There was a tiny typo in the link you posted, so let me re-post that for anyone else who would like to read your articles:
      http://purposefullysocial.com/blog/category/my-st

      (I'm not sure if these comments accept HTML code or not. I guess we'll see!)

      Like you, I consider point #4 to be the strongest. Time, security, heckling, miscommunication…those all can be addressed (relatively) easily. But the reality is your church's Twitter account speaks for your church. And if MULTIPLE people are handling your church's Twitter…

      Well, it can get a tad complicated if you let it. :-)

      I look forward to reading your articles when I have time later today. Thanks again for the comment, Darryl!

  5. Darryl Schoeman Oct 18, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Thanks for the reply Kevin

    I took a trip over to your website and had a look at your most recent projects. Very nice.

    It seems that even your link above has been abbreviated. However, if you hover your mouse over the link, it seems to still point to the correct place.

    God bless
    D

    • Thanks, Darryl. I'm glad you liked my site!

      As for your link: I didn't mean the abbreviation was the problem. I meant that, if you click your hyperlink, it was taking you to a URL that had a close parentheses at the end of it (resulting in a "page not found" error).

      I just didn't want anyone clicking your link, getting a page not found, and then leaving your site (because they didn't look up at the address bar and notice the close parentheses like I did) prematurely. :-)

  6. Darryl Schoeman Oct 19, 2013 at 2:51 am

    Aha. Thanks for your effort Kevin. Didn't notice the bracket at the end. God bless. D.

  7. As head of Christian Education at our church I also maintain the web site. I opened a facebook page and twitter account for the church about 3 years ago. Our church is small and mostly over 50. Many of our parishioners use facebook, so that has been well received and a great way to announce events, however 3 years later, there are only 3 twitter followers, and one of them is me! lol

    • Haha. I can empathize, Sally! My church is small, too. And while most everyone in the church is on Facebook, it seems very, very, VERY few are on Twitter.

  8. Charles Saylor Oct 22, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    Iam not on twitter, facebook and donot text and most of the people I know are same way and we wont be changing oh by the way I would say we are about 70% of the church budget I fins that social media is adding to the disconnect and gives rise to the question why not just stay home and watch tv and twit and and record and watch after the late show

    • Thanks for the comment, Charles.

      Saying social media adds to disconnect between people is something I can see in relationships (although I've never thought about it in a church perspective…not sure it applies). But I'd be careful with the "and we won't be changing" vows. Half the people I know on Twitter and Facebook vowed, once upon a time, they would "never" get on them. :-)