New commandments: Thou shalt Tweet…

twitter commandmentsCourtesy of the BBC, I ran across a new social media policy from the Church of England’s Diocese of Bath and Wells. In the article, the diocesan spokesperson demonstrates that they have earned their way onto the clue train:

A spokesman for Bath and Wells diocese told the BBC that publishing the resource was what “any good organisation” would do. “The Church of England is in every community in the UK, so it seems right that we should be in online communities too,” he said. “We’re not the first diocese to provide guidelines, but our clergy increasingly use social media. A vicar might engage in conversation online in the same way that they do in the street, post office or pub.” (emphasis added)

Couldn’t have said it better. The church needs to be communicating in this space, because it’s where people are communicating.

In order to avoid confusion with the somewhat more famous Ten Commandments, they have cleverly come up with “Nine Commandments” for social media. Go read the policy for the full version, but here’s the abridged version:

  • Don’t rush in
  • Remember tweets are transient yet permanent
  • Be a good ambassador for the Church
  • Don’t hide behind anonymity
  • Be aware of public/private life boundaries
  • Maintain a professional distance
  • Stay within the law
  • Respect confidentiality
  • Be mindful of your own security

I agree with all of these. But these seem to come primarily from a place of caution, if not fear. While we should be careful, I think we should also proceed with joyful zeal and moderately reckless abandon. I would add:

  • Be joyful
  • Proclaim God’s love fearlessly
  • Be yourself
  • Smile, and encourage others to do the same
  • Invite people along for the journey
  • Ask great questions
  • Get people thinking
  • Apologize when you mess up
  • Again: be your true self

Too often congregations or church leaders hold back on social media out of fear. We think of all the reasons not have a presence or reasons why our presence should be bland to the point of deadly boredom.

I applaud Bath & Wells for having a solid and well thought out social media policy. More dioceses in ECUSA should think this through. Even more important, more dioceses, more clergy, more congregations, more lay leaders, and more Christians generally should find a way to bring our faith the a world in desperate search for meaning and hope.

Here three greatest commandments for social media. On these commandments hang all the rest.

  1. Love God
  2. Love your neighbor
  3. Be not afraid

I’m sure there are other lesser or greater commandments. What “commandments” would you add or take away?

Image from Global Grind.

3 Comments so far

  1. relling on January 23rd, 2014

    One of the most accomplished Richmond women of the 19th & 20th century, Maggie L. Walker did not grow up in any church. It wasn’t until a local Baptist minister invited her to join his church that she became a church member. I mention this because I think those of us who are churched forget that we need to invite people. Social media can reach a place that individuals cannot. I often don’t know who goes to church and who doesn’t. People don’t share that. However, if we develop thoughtful and encouraging invitations to join the church, we might accomplish a lot. By thoughtful invitations, I do mean an invitation that does not create false hopes and promise an immediate and joyful reception. St. Thomas welcomes people, but we often do not know who is new. A thoughtful invitation would help an outsider navigate an actual church successfully.

  2. Thinking Anglicans on January 25th, 2014

    opinion

    Miranda Threlfall-Holmes has been Rethinking Advent to Candlemas. Thom Shultz writes about The Church’s Frightful Kodak Moment. The Diocese of Bath and Wells has issued a set of Social media guidelines. Scott Gunn suggests some additions: New commandme…

  3. Pam Smith (@revpamsmith) on January 25th, 2014

    Good stuff, especially the advice not to come from a place of fear.

    However, it does slightly exasperate me that the C of E corporately continues to perpetuate the idea that clergy are stuck in some kind of Trollopian time warp without the benefit of access to the social media! I know loads of clergy who tweet, blog, facebook etc already and are very good examples of how to use new media. The best suggestion I could give to anyone who wants to know how to do it is to look around and find people whose style you find attractive and do likewise!