Networking is an important aspect of ministry. Connecting with other ministers can is beneficial to your ministry, and more importantly, your walk with Christ. Since we live in a digital world, social media has provided us with the ability to connect with each other in ways we couldn’t have twenty years ago.

In my opinion, one of the best places to connect is through Facebook because of the many groups it provides. I’m a part of three different youth minister groups and each one provides a different perspective on ministry, but all three have given me an online community to help me become a better minister. Now, if you haven’t joined a group and want to, you need to understand there is a social etiquette to follow when you participate. I asked all three groups what they believe are the do’s and do not’s when it comes to group participation, and here’s what I gathered:

Do:

  • Introduce yourself. This is a perfect opportunity to let others know you are new to the group. Let them know where you’re from, church you work at, how long you’ve been in ministry, if you’re full-time, part-time, or volunteer, and why you love working in your ministry field.
  • Participate in discussions. If you see a post that interests you, don’t be afraid to join in on the conversation. The only way people are going to get to know you is if they see you participating on a regular basis.
  • Share resources. There are plenty of free resources out there, and when you see one you believe is worthy of using, share it. If you have developed your own resource and believe it can benefit someone, post it. This is how our ministries benefit each other, so don’t be afraid to share!
  • Keep it Christ-like. Let’s face it, there are going to be some topics that will be posted which will cause some heated discussion. There’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t forget you follow Christ. So no matter how much you may disagree with someone, always take the higher road and respond in love.

Do Not:

  • Promote your blog. Let’s be honest, there’s plenty of bloggers out there who all want to be heard, and posting your blog on the group site isn’t the place to do that. However, there are exceptions to this rule that make it okay to do this, i.e. when you introduce yourself to the group, when you’ve written a post that pertains to a discussion, if you have a free resource to give away, or if you run a website that created the group. Some may argue this last point, but I don’t have an issues with it because (1) they created the group and have the right to post stuff from their blogs, and (2) it saves me from having to go check out their blog to see if they’ve posted anything new.
  • Advertise your product. Many of us may have extra jobs on the side that can provide a service for other ministers, graphic designs, t-shirt maker, speaker, band, which is great, but don’t try to sell your side job. Like blogging, there is an exception to the rule which makes it okay, i.e. when you introduce yourself to the group, when someone is looking for the service you provide, or a onetime post about the service you provide. But make sure you get permission from the group administrator first.
  • Assume what you write is private. Many of these groups provide us with a place to vent or share an issue we’re having trouble with. But you need to remember, not every group is private, which means the issue you’re venting about or having trouble with could be seen by your pastor, co-workers, or person you’re having trouble with. If you’re having a problem, but don’t want to go into detail, just make a general statement and ask for someone to message you, if they’ve gone through the same issue.
  • Go off topic. When you participate in a discussion, do the best you can to stay on topic. It’s really easy to let the topic you’re discussing take you down a different path. If this happens, create a new thread for the new topic, so others can continue to discuss the previous one.
  • Preach. Every one of us believes we have the latest word from God that will start the next great awakening. That’s great, but save it for your pulpit. And don’t post a blanket statement saying we need to do a better job, teenagers are leaving the church, or something to that nature, because (1) we already know and (2) we’re doing the best we can.

In the end, if you can keep these do’s and do not’s in mind, you’ll have a great time in your group, make new friends, and will be encouraged from all the discussions. While at the same time, you won’t cause everyone to be annoyed with you, wish you weren’t in the group, or be booted from the group. What other etiquette rules do you believe should be added to the list and what other websites do you believe are great places for social networking?