One Reason We Didn’t Choose Your Church

Let me tell you about the time a local pastor’s Twitter feed, helped me decide to not attend their church.

I had an interesting conversation, a few months ago, about some of the factors that played into how our family chose to attend our current church. More specifically, it was about how we ruled out other ones.

If you work at a church, you’ve heard a lot of talk about the “front door” of the church. This refers to the first exposure people have to a particular church. Hint: It’s no longer a literal front door.

When someone wants to learn about a church, generally, it happens online.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The real front door of your church is happening away from the church.

This is one reason churches are investing in their websites. They want them to be clear and easy to navigate. They want them to present an accurate view of what their church is all about and who they are for.

It makes sense that they should invest resources there, but some churches are missing another really important online presence: the social media accounts of their leaders.

(image via pexels)

It doesn’t tell you everything, but it does tell you some important things.

When Nathan and I came to Tennessee to interview for his current job, we decided to look for a church to visit while we were there for the weekend. We looked up a few churches and clicked over to the twitter account of one of the pastors.

We immediately ruled out that church based on the way the pastor was interacting. It wasn’t that he was not “cool”. The problem wasn’t with how often the pastor posted. It was that his online communications showed a pattern of arrogance.

Late last summer, when we found ourselves looking for a new church, I had one church in mind as one we would probably check out. Again, there were things my husband and I noticed that concerned us.

Here are some things I’ve seen online (I’m changing a few details to protect the identity of the churches/pastors, but the message is the same):

  • *Making fun of the way patrons at a local establishment dressed.
  • *Berating people who voted for a different political candidate.
  • *Only responding to the “cool” people.
  • *Presenting a message that indicated that they were more about numbers than they were about discipling people and caring for their community.

I should point out that the things that gave me pause were comments that indicated a certain attitude: arrogance, cool-guy persona, unkind. It wasn’t little points of theology that I differed with or was nitpicking about. It was what I saw that seemed to show the character of that person.

Their personal interactions online trumped whatever message they were attempting to send with their professionally branded website and church FB page.

It set off more alarm bells to see these sorts of interactions than to see nothing at all. In fact, I don’t remember seeing anything at all from the public social  media accounts of the pastors of our current church.

In that conversation regarding our experience with ruling out churches based on what we saw online, someone questioned why we would do that without having a conversation with the pastor. At first, I thought the question was odd, but I’ve come to believe it’s a good question because the answer reveals something about the potential pitfalls of social media for local church leaders.

I explained that we didn’t have a relationship with that pastor. It wouldn’t make sense for us to schedule an appointment with him ask about his comments.

If you’re a pastor and your public posts on social media can only be understood within the context of being in a relationship with you, or an “insider” to your community, you might be sending a message to new people that you don’t intend to send.

There is so much more to this, but this is a great place to start the discussion. I would love to hear your experience with this.

Other articles you might be interested in:

What you need to know about recovering from church PTSD

The art of good goodbyes

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