I have a column this week on Slant 33 about this very topic. Here’s some sound bytes.
Youth ministry is dangerous. It will bring you into temptation. It’ll bring you face to face with your deepest fears and greatest annoyances. It’ll cause you to create policies and break them at the same time. Chances are, as you engage with students online, you’ll see all of that and a whole lot more.
Invitation is the dividing line in my eyes. I think that, as we engage with our students through social media, it has to be about permission. I know many of them say things in Facebook messages or chat that aren’t honoring to God. I know many of them have secret Tumblr accounts and private circles on Twitter and/or Google Plus. But I don’t want to force myself there without permission. I don’t think my role as a youth worker should come with expectations that I’m an FBI agent, cracking into their private spaces to discover what they really think.
First, I think your church leadership should wrestle through this question together. I know it sounds lame to think about drafting a policy, but there are both philosophy of ministry and legitimate liability concerns to think through. Most school districts do not allow teachers to socialize with students on Facebook. There is good logic there that is worth wrestling through as a staff. Whatever the policy is, it’ll take the staff team policing one another to enforce it.
Second, I think that when you do engage your students, you should do it through a ministry account and not your personal account. For instance, it’d be a good idea to create a Facebook page for your ministry or church and then interact with your students by using Facebook as a page. It’s a nuanced difference but an important one. It puts you in a position where you are obviously an agent of the ministry instead of the individual person. Because, at the end of the day, that is your role. Just like you attend a Friday night football game as a representative from the high school ministry, you engage with students online as a representative of a ministry.
Read the rest (And Tash & Scott’s take on the same question!)
What say you?
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