Clergy in Transition – Part Three
What About FACEBOOK?
I use Facebook on a regular basis. This has been a great way for me to stay in touch with family and friends who live throughout the country. I also hear from professional contacts and a host of groups and organizations that share some of my personal and professional passions.
A few of my “Friends” are members of the congregation I departed in November of 2013. This leads to the question asked by Keith Anderson is his blog, “Should Pastors Remain Facebook Friends With Former Parishioners?” (June 19. 2012). This is an important question!
In retirement, I made the promise to not have any further pastoral or professional contact with former church members. This leaves me wondering about “Facebook Friends” who are former church members and the professional boundaries that still need to be maintained.
What about those times, as an ordained pastor, I want to comment about an issue or situation that pertains to the church in general terms? What if I want to make reference to an experience from my former church? What if I want to talk of things religious/spiritual? And what about those times a former member who posts a comment about an exciting church program or a personal need? In these situations, I can see myself responding by pushing the “like” button. I may say “Happy Birthday” or “Happy Anniversary”. This is not unlike running into somebody at the store or hearing some personal news.
Personally, while I struggle with this issue of maintaining professional boundaries with former members, I am inclined to endorse the guidelines set by Rev. Anderson in his blog:
- I will not provide pastoral care or comment on the transition, call process, new pastor, or any Redeemer issues.
- If you ask, I will remind you of this.
- I will be available to help the new pastor in whatever way he or she needs.
- I may be more passive in our connection, but the friendship and connection remain open.
- However, I reserve the right to laugh with you and point out how cute your kids are.
- I will keep sharing my life with you.
- I won’t be offended if you want to ‘unfriend’ me or want see fewer of my updates.
- I will pray for you.
See more at: http://pastorkeithanderson.net/item/should-pastors-remain-facebook-friends-with-former-parishioners#sthash.jD3BDpRz.dpuf
I assume that you are supposed to remain “distant” so that you don’t undermine the work of the new pastor coming to the church. But, how long does that have to be the case? Why wouldn’t you want to keep friends made in a congregation? We have many former students who are marvelous friends. Are you not allowed that? I don’t get it.
Thanks, Jan, for your question. Too often I have heard of clergy who go ahead and do weddings and funerals and baptisms for former members because they are “friends”. Unfortunately, too many pastor’s have a hard time letting go. I can be friends with former members but have to be clear about the boundaries. Only if invited by the new pastor can I be involved with pastoral activities. After a couple of years I can begin engaging again within the life of the church ie. like singing in the choir.
An example, a former pastor of a church who continued leading a bible study in his home after leaving as pastor. No big deal? This turned into a gripe session about how things were going or not going with the new pastor. Too many examples like this.