Having just finished seminary and preparing to seek my first ordained called I am left in a state of limbo. It is not like I have moved to new ministries before, but things are different now. With the rise of social networking in facebook, myspace, linkedin, and twitter it adds a new dimension to leaving a place of ministry. I was reading a blog by our PCUSA moderator that started me thinking. When a pastor leaves a church usually there is little, if any communication with the previous congregation. While that is easy to do when one leaves the area it is quite another when you stay relatively close (i.e. Los Angeles area). In order for the congregation to move to a new era of leadership and growth the previous pastor needs to distance themselves. But how does that work in todays day in age.
1. Does one simply delete, unfollow, or “unfriend” everyone associated with the previous church?
This sounds a bit harsh since we do create lifelong bonds with people in our congregation. Is it their and our tough luck? Whether you believe it or not, being a pastoral presence brings a bond between members and their pastor. Can that be easily dismissed. I would argue that it cannot be. In the world of social networking it makes it hard to simply shun them.
2. Do we ignore conversation with previous congregation members?
Social networking is a two way street and that is what is so unique about it. If I was to put a status update then inevitably there will be a comment to respond. Or in reverse something is going on in previous members life, is it crossing the line to simply say that you are praying for them? Where is the line in two way conversations involving social networking? Of course there is the big line that is encouraging them to start a coup d’état in a previous church.
3. What is the statute of limitations?
Do we blackball people for 5-7 years? Social networking is great with reconnecting with old classmates or even students that were in your youth group. What about members that use to be in your congregation? How long do we hold off “friending” them?
Social networking a pastoral transitions are in a new age. For the most part we need to use common sense, but there is always that person that does not have it; therefore, rules must be created. Unfortunately we are in a new day where COM’s and Presbyteries are still working through these rules. Too bad the rules will most likely come after something bad happens.