In the years leading up to seminary and the acceptance of my first call, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I would do if – and when – I was called to serve a local church. One of the things I wanted to do was to model what an integrated life looked like.
Why was that a big deal for me?
I came of age at a time in the late 80’s and 90’s when many religious leaders were publicly presenting themselves in one way – and then living lives that looked very different (Jim and Tammy Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and some Catholic priests, cough cough).
So when I stepped into the pulpit of the first church I was called to serve back 2002, I was determined to bring all facets of myself into my ministry. Shortly thereafter, social media began to take off – and I was forced to confront decisions about what sort of presence I would have on social media platforms.
The first decision I faced when I went on Facebook back somewhere in 2007 or 2008 was whether I would have one Facebook account (integrating both my personal and professional lives) or two (one for my personal life and one for my professional life).
I began by deciding to have two accounts. It seemed like the right decision at the time. As time passed, however, I began to feel a little hypocritical. I felt like having two accounts created the impression that I was two different people. That’s why I eventually decided to ditch the second account and have one – where “friends” from all of my worlds would come together and see the REAL Craig.
That approach worked for several years. It was fun to see “friends” from my childhood interact with “friends” from my college years and the churches I served. I felt like I was being 100% authentic and integrated.
Over the past couple of years, however, I began to realize there were aspects of having just one account that I didn’t anticipate. Having one account meant that I could never fully separate myself from my vocational life. I would hop on Facebook with the purpose of connecting with a “friend” from high school – and get bombarded with information that added to my vocational to-do lists.
I lived with this frustration for a couple years. As I dealt with the increased challenges of the re-entry period following the COVID lock downs, I realized that I can no longer try to integrate all of my worlds. I needed to create space that is just mine – so today I made a radical decision: I decided to “unfriend” all those individuals I know from the church I serve (including their family and friends).
When I decided to take this radical step, I felt a little guilty at first. Would those who had been “unfriended” feel slighted? Would it create the impression that I was somehow living different lives and being inauthentic?
I caught myself mid-third question and realized just how codependent I was being. I was feeling bad for doing the self-care I desperately needed to do because I was worried about what others think.
Of course, I know in this technological age, I’m swimming against the tide. Most church growth experts say that pastors of growing faith communities need to have a presence on Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok … you name it. We need to be posting and putting ourselves out there in as many forums as possible to grow our churches!
I can’t help but thinking about a provocative question that Jesus posed for his followers over two millennia ago: “For what shall it profit a [person], if [the person] gain the whole world, and lose [the person’s] soul” (Mark 8:36 – KJV).
So as of today, I’m going off social media as an extension of my ministry. I’ve got my Sunday morning ministry. I’ve got my Sunday night and Tuesday morning teaching and worship ministries. I have my weekly church newsletter. And I’ve got my blog. And for now, that is enough.
I need to worry less about the number of hits I receive on social media outlets, and more about the condition of my soul.