One of the very first things when I started my new job I knew I could own was social media for our ministry. Trying to do my due diligence when I was applying for my now job in youth ministry I would do research on the church and what I might be stepping into. For many people like me this was looking at their website, searching through Facebook pages, instagram, twitter, google searching for what others were saying about them online. I discovered a great website and an okay social media presence. The more I looked the more I noticed it was mainly an issue of consistency. When I was hired and I talked more about what little I know about social media marketing and ministry through an online presence I discovered it was also an issue of social media theology. There’s not a lot of people who think social media and theology connect other than the promoting of something else that is theological on social media. Yet what I know to be true is that we are called to be like Jesus. What this means is that the word became flesh and dwelt among us. This incarnation ministry applies to wherever people are. This means we can’t do ministry like Jesus without going to people, we can’t be like Jesus if we never interact with anyone. For all the monks in the world that don’t interact with anyone but pray for the world, thank you. I need your prayers and your service. Some are called to be that way. But if we are going to be incarnational people we have go to where they are. It’s no secrete that people are online. This is made true by the mere fact that you are reading this on a blog of some random dude in youth ministry at a United Methodist Church in Georgia.
There is audacity in the incarnation. There is great joy and hope. But most of all to me there is an example that we should follow. The God of the universe gave up His throne in heaven to be a baby. A baby that was nourished by a woman’s womb, who’s life depended on a woman for sustenance, which can get me on a whole other tangent about the role of woman in ministry and how gender really shouldn’t matter when it comes to leadership or a ton of other things, it’s really about who the Holy Spirit has appointed. But in regards to social media it’s easy to see that Jesus went to people and where they were at. The broken and poor in spirit weren’t in heaven they were on earth, so He came to us. Once we realize this, I think we need to consider who we are online and how we can be an incarnational presence. I believe if Jesus were walking this earth right now He would have a twitter account.
When I started posting for the ministry it had a completely different feel than when I would post something from my personal account. I tried to lay out an overall plan for the type of postings I wanted to do. Through this process of analyzing the things I would be posting for our student ministries it made me take a greater look at if I was being an incarnational presence through my personal account. There is a big part of me that wishes to be famous. One of my proudest moments was when I saw that the embassy of Rwanda to the United States had mentioned me and linked to a video of a poem I wrote about the amazing country. Part of me wants every blog post I write to go viral. But the truth is I’m not writing this to be famous (I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that hoped I would) but I’m writing this to try and be a fairly young Christian voice online because I believe part of how God made me to act is to write random blog posts for friends and strangers.
I still have questions and very few answers. How does someone be an incarnational presence on social media? How do I represent who I am through my pictures, my captions, my blogs? Is this post I’m writing actually something that I should do? There are a few guidelines I’ve made for myself as a person in youth ministry I adhere to and I would love to hear some of yours. What are some questions you ask yourself before posting? For me I struggle a lot with the gratification that comes with a large number of likes. Some of it doesn’t even have to do with how many people actually like my post but the fact that Facebook has a crazy algorithm that ensures only a certain number of people see it so there is a finite number of likes I can actually get in the first place. Yet I still rack my brain and have to remind myself that my self worth will never be represented by how many people click on a button to tell me that they liked what I posted. I almost feel like I’m trying to play to a cheering section. And each time they double tap my picture it’s like they patted me on the back. But is that what should be going through my head?
I believe that part of how I am called to live is different than most people. If I am supposed to live different, think different, my social media should be different. How I represent myself to the public should be different because I am called to be my authentic self. The worts and all. I would love to encourage you on this social media journey. If you believe in Christ and He has made a difference in your life, is it evident by how you live and what you post? Part of what I have to do daily is look at what I’m putting out there for the world and does it represent that difference that the Lord has made.
This of course doesn’t mean that I can’t continue to try and make things look perfect. Better pictures, better captions, witty banter. I think God has a great sense of humor, I mean have you seen the platypus? But it does mean that I have to have an extra filter. To be an incarnational presence takes time, thought, and incite into the world. It’s this calling that I would love to be on together with you. Good luck, and happy posting.