Friday, March 26, 2010

Facebook for Religious Educators

Just like the Joni Mitchell song, we go "round and round and round in the circle game." Things change and change and change. It's interesting to me to read the posts from Christine Robinson over at iMinister and Lizard Eater over at The Journey about Facebook and spiritual practice. They both make good points, LE is all about the personal contact we all need, and Christine is, as ever, touching on how it makes a person a better minister and how to have good boundaries. She even demonstrates how to hide pesky facebook game notifications.

I love facebook, really, love it. It is my office. It's how my mom keeps up with my kids. It's how I found out that my nephew just got engaged. It's how I see what's going on in my friends' lives and it's a great place to dawdle while I contemplate big decisions from how many pizzas to order for the OWL class to whether or not to run COA next year.

There are specific challenges for Religious Educators that are slightly different from the challenges for ministers. Often people, especially in smaller congregations, view us as the "Super Member" as in, "oh, we just think of you as a member, but a SUPER member!" So, being facebookfriends (Christine's word) with everyone in your congregation can give some folks a window into how much work it is to manage all that Religious Educators manage, if you update your status with details about your job. It helps establish your professionalism. But it makes it completely impossible to ever, ever complain about your job. You may never complain about your job on public parts facebook. Never. have a dual identity. Lots of people have two accounts. One for the official face to the public and your church. And one for friends family and a few close colleagues. This makes things easier. But it's still not good to complain about things that happen in your church publicly. Write a private email to a colleague, pick up the phone. By all means share! You don't have to be a monk. But you do have a professional role to maintain. Call me, I'll listen, call your Good Officer but keep good boundaries in your real life, especially on facebook.

Facebook is also a funny beast in that it can be kind of private and not so much at the same time. You choose settings when you post things, then they are either visible to your friends only, your friends and their friends, the public or.....groups. If you categorize your friends into groups, you can choose to publish things to only those groups. I often post things to just a few groups, my friends and families, but maybe not my church folks. Or colleagues and church, but not family. My nephews don't really want to know what's coming up at LREDA professional day, I don't think so anyway! But Christine is right, that hearing about your little dog or your upcoming play or your house remodel can give the people you serve in your congregation a stronger connection to you, and at the same time, you to them.

Facebook is also a fabulous way to keep people up to date with activities and with opportunities to help. Just the other day I saw a friend's status update about "baking cupcakes"--I had completely forgotten the bake sale to benefit musical theater at our little homeschool school! But I was reminded and baked like a mad woman and all was well. I've gotten soup lunch volunteers, set up crews and help at our homeless teen feed just from putting out a call on facebook.

Our carousel spins so fast these days, it only makes sense to tell people things as many different ways and times as possible. And facebook is an easy fun way to keep it all spinning.

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