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Follow You Follow Me: Read An Excerpt
Here are some things to consider:
You may want to set up a time when you plan on checking your Social Networking platforms and limit yourself to that time. I do this in many areas of ministry. I only counsel on Wednesdays. I only allow myself to run one satellite group at a time. I don't answer my phone after 5:00 p.m. I don't talk church business with staff once I am home. Some limit their Social Networking to certain days or to only so many minutes a day.
If you have an addictive personality, take drastic measures to set boundaries. If you have decided to get started with Social Networking and you are easily distracted and addicted, or if you are currently swimming in a Social Networking whirlpool that sucks all your time, you might need some disciplinary tactics:
- Leave your computer at the office at night.
- Turn off your smartphone.
- Set your preferences in Twitter to only notify you during certain hours.
- Don't allow your tweets to go to your SMS on your phone like all your other text messages.
- Don't allow Social Networks to alert you through e-mails when you receive new messages.
You may want to create proprietary spaces. These are the spaces dedicated to engaging in certain activities and only those activities. When I was growing up, I could not bring my toys into Grandpa's den. That was the spot where he unwound, smoked a pipe, and watched TV. It was dedicated. Pick an area (a desk in the lobby, a coffee shop, and so on) as the place where you engage in Social Networking. Sometimes when we limit ourselves to spaces, it enables us to create other sacred spaces that become an important part of our ability to disconnect, meditate, rest, breathe easy, remove distractions, study, pray, and so forth. If you sit at your office desk and have a hard time knowing whether to do the schedule, make the call, read the book, do the follow-up, or check your Facebook, you may need to create proprietary spaces.
Communicate with your church and let them know your boundaries. Get good at telling people you only answer your phone until 5:00 p.m. Post messages on your Facebook status letting people know that you are having quality family time. Tell people you don't do Social Networking while on vacation. Whatever your particular boundaries are, communicate them and stick to them.
It isn't always urgent, and it isn't always your emergency. Don't get caught in the trap of thinking you have to answer everyone's theological query. Don't believe for a second that God wants you to answer every need or drop what you are doing to respond to everyone. The nature of Social Networking is such that at any given time there is something that begs for someone to address it. That doesn't mean it's you.
Set your Facebook chat status to "offline." At the bottom of your Facebook page, there is a chat box that allows people to see when you are online. This means they can interrupt you at any time. It may not be a pressing need. Most of the time it isn't.
Sometimes Social Networking is like going to a missions conference where presenters talk about the particular horrific situations and needs of their country and how you can help. I sometimes leave those conferences feeling like, if I am going to be a good Christian, I have to buy all my fair-trade coffee from this vendor, buy my shoes from that vendor, support this child in Uganda, buy this freshwater drinking straw, and purchase this whole video series that funnels profits into an organization to combat the sex trade.
But if I left those conferences responding to every need, I would soon be out of a job for lack of time and focus; I would lose my home from spending too much money; and I would eventually lose my family because I was a bleeding heart who couldn't take care of needs at home while I tried to save the world.
Yes, we have a responsibility to one other. This is why we got into ministry in the first place—to love the unlovely; to spread hope; to tell people there is good news; to make room for the stranger. Managing our involvement in Social Networking does not negate these things.
When we set up Social Networking safeguards and boundaries, we aren't ignoring people or abandoning them. We aren't saying they don't matter. We are being proactive and smart so that we have the energy to focus on the specific things God has called us to do with the time, energy, and resources that we do have.
This article is an excerpt from Follow You, Follow Me: Why Social Networking is Essential for Ministry by John Voelz
To join a twitter Q&A with author John Voelz about social media and ministry, visit the Patheos Book Club here.