Sep 14, 2015
7 Habits of Highly Annoying Clergy on Social Media
Clergy and social media. They go together like, well, selfie sticks and tourists. They might look ridiculous but that's not going to stop them. And occasionally they produce something breathtaking.
My Facebook timeline and Twitter feed are littered with posts by clergy. This makes sense since a) Duh and b) Some of my best friends are women and men of the cloth.
Nonetheless, there are some things clergy post on a regular basis that are highly annoying. Mind you I've been guilty of all of these at various points. So, yes, this blog post is written from the friendly confines of my glass rectory (Biblical reference - ding, ding, ding!)
As I hold up the collective mirror, please know that you're in my thoughts and prayers (religious cliche -- ding, ding, ding!).
1. Posting prayers and/or sympathetic comments after Every. Single. Tragedy.
We know you care. It's what makes you an excellent pastoral presence in your congregation. But there are some clergy who feel obligated to post banal religious platitudes anytime something bad happens in the news (which is, like, every hour!). We won't think any less of you if you keep some of these thoughts in your daily prayers. Really.
2. Complaining about all the work you have to do during Holy Week.
Yes, you're busy the week before Easter. We're all busy slaving over hot altars with 12 services in four days or whatever. We all have too many sermons to crank out. But you know what? Holy Week is the greatest week of the year -- it's our Super Bowl! If you can't get jazzed about preparing for the Resurrection, despite all it entails, maybe it's time to hang up the vestments.
3. Posting your sermons.
When polled, nearly 90% of drivers believe they are good to excellent at navigating the highways and byways. If you've ever pulled out into traffic, you know this is a ridiculous. The same is true for preachers. Have you ever known a cleric to say, "You know, I'm terrific at running budget meetings but I can't preach my way out of a paper cathedral." No. No, you haven't. And yet when we go on vacation, we here plenty of sermons in the "fair to meh" range, if not worse. Your sermon isn't God's gift to the internet. Sorry. (And, yes, I do have a sermon blog -- though I only share them on the parish Facebook page and Twitter account, where people know the context and my voice).
4. Humble bragging about how many people showed up on Sunday.
Yes, that's fabulous that you had 682 people show up on Christmas Eve and that you performed eight baptisms on a random Sunday in August. I'm sure Jesus is thrilled as he is depending exclusively on you to usher in his Kingdom. However until you, like the Pope, can sell out of 10,000 tickets to his upcoming mass in Philadelphia in 8 minutes, keep your numbers to yourself.
5. Discussing theological and/or liturgical minutia.
You may well get your theological jollies by parsing the use/non use of the maniple. But ask yourself, is this doing anything to help make you/the church more relevant and inviting to the world? Unless you were completely insufferable as a seminarian, you presumably have a group of friends you can message about such matters. Use them. For the love of God.
A few years ago, several of us got tired of the social media posts of church leaders who had a hierarchical platform but no clue. Thus the #tweetlikeabishop hashtag was born. Any post that proclaims "What a blessing to be with the good people of St. Leo by the Lake this morning" falls under this category. It's a way of trying too hard to be a person of the people; one which has the reverse effect of setting someone apart from rather than within the community. And, no, you don't have to be a bishop to Tweet like one. Believe me. (There are a some bishops who rock social media, by the way. I just wish there were more).
6A. Selfies with the congregation.
Please stop. It's not about you.
7. Confusing personal and parish accounts.
Maybe your parish doesn't have it's own Facebook page? I don't know (get one, please). But I do know that posting multiple pictures of your church's recent Tuna Fish Casserole Cook-Off is irritating to me and most of your other Facebook friends. I'm not suggesting there be a solid line -- that's the thing about parish clergy, our identities are blurred -- but not everyone on your timeline needs to hear about everything going on in your parish.
Ultimately, this is all about the over-used word "authenticity." Just be yourself. Don't post things because you think they are things clergy should be posting. Post things you're passionate about, things that others might want to hear, things that communicate who you are.
Of course number eight on this list would be over-posting. If you're posting more than about three things a day on Facebook, um, join Twitter and have at it.
See you online!