By Jonathan Howe
I am unapologetic about my stance that churches need to have a social media presence. Included in that is a Facebook page for the church that stays updated with current information. Unfortunately, these pages can be targeted by those who have a less than favorable view of your church, pastor, denomination, or members.
I’m frequently asked for my advice on how to deal with this type of criticism. My response often depends on the nature of the criticism. Sometimes the critics have a valid point, other times they are either misinformed or just trolling the church. Regardless of the nature of the initial criticism, your response should always show Christ’s love.
With that said, here are some quick guidelines on how to respond to social media criticism.
- Apologize. Even if the criticism is unfounded or misinformed, your response should be apologetic. When the criticism is based in truth, an apology is even more in order. A posture of humility represents our Savior well and can often diffuse a tense online exchange.
- Address the problem with the critic. If the criticism or complaint is valid, address it in your response and pledge to correct it. When the complaint is unfounded, do your best to explain why, and inform the critic the best you can without adding fuel to the fire.
- Take corrective action if needed. A valid complaint or criticism requires correction. If something needs correcting at your church or in your policies, then do so.
- Ask for another chance. They may not take you up on the offer, but at least you have tried to reconcile (Romans 12:18). Sometimes all you can do is try and then leave the ball in the critic’s court.
- Keep a record of complaints. This is not to be vindictive or to hold as ammunition against the critic. Keeping a record of the criticisms you receive allows you to track patterns to eliminate the criticism before it comes. If you continue to get complaints or criticism about a certain aspect of ministry, maybe there is an execution problem or communication problem that is the root of the criticism. If you notice a pattern, be preemptive and address the issue before the negativity is directed your way.
- Never compromise biblical fidelity. You may receive complaints and criticism about a host of issues. But if they are about core biblical doctrine, there’s not a lot of room for appeasement. Always hold your ground when it comes to standing on the Word of God. Compromise is not acceptable in these instances.
Have you experienced social media criticism or online complaints? How did you handle them? What would you add to this list?
Sometimes the church’s leaders are the cause of criticism in social media. Some church leaders do not ever search for their names or the name of their congregation. Most don’t monitor the bulletin boards. Some leaders don’t think they are doing anything wrongly. I think that if a “vote of confidence” were taken on some leaders, they would have trouble winning.
What I have seen happen is that some number of people in leadership don’t represent or seem to care about everyone. Oftentimes, church leaders get their appointment for life. To the younger people and those of the wrong gender, parental status, marital status, etc. it appears that they are not wanted in most churches. That feel of being unwanted frequently winds up in social media as a question at the beginning to see if others feel that way.
Good comments. There are lots of arrogant leaders who are more interested in their “empire” than their congregations or the fidelity of Scripture.
On what planet do church leaders get their appointment for life?
The churches of Christ typically selected elders and their appointment was for life. This has recently caused a massive split between conservative churches holding to the life appointments and moderate ones holding a reaffirmation vote every 5-10 years.
Good points, and in many cases these are not church issues, but personal sin issues that should be addressed. My point in this post was more about complaints about something that went on at a church.
Before handling complaints you have to find them. They don’t always jump out on facebook but are sometimes buried in obscure bulletin boards.
We were in the process of church discipline with a man who was having an affair. When the woman’s husband found out this guy went to our church, he wrote a very nasty review of our church on our Facebook ratings for allowing this guy to be part of us. Consequently, we made the decision to remove the ratings feature from our Facebook page entirely.
I think that’s the best move for churches. So many people will try to find anything they can to leave negative reviews. Facebook isn’t Yelp or Travel Advisor.
It needs to be pointed out that there are situations where number 1 and number 6 will not mesh. When you are criticized for not allowing a gay man to teach Sunday School you don’t apologize. I realize that number six says to stand firm on Biblical principles so that would indicate that you don’t always apologize.
Totally agree with you on that. Just keep the response humble.
i agree with mark and T. Chil. but let’s pray for the leaders for humility they are not perfect as we are not perfect either only Jesus fits the standard for perfection but i can relate how you feel about the leaders not caring. we have one of our pastors on social media on twitter and facebook and he does speak to us not ignore us which i think all pastors should do and not block their social media but only for their families. people the sheep are going to think they dont care for us. there was something that was done to me 2 yrs ago in the church my husband had to call and the pastors did not want to talk to my husband about the situation what happened to me. but talk to the head of the church who works there and this man was very polite and nice as was my husband. he was suprised how educated my husband was talking to him. he said they would have done nothing had my husband not called about it. he said he make changes in the church because what happened to me and they did but i found out later not from the man who spoke to my husband but from a few of the pastors were upset that i even made a complain about what happened to me. it turns out a week later one of the pastors made a sermon about what happened to me. he did not mention my name and it happen to be that day i did not attend church but saw it online. i was informed from a woman who worked there at church and attented the church said they will make a sermon out of what happen to you and she was right! i was upset and cried out to God and ask for forgiveness because i was upset what they did to me God took care of the situation for me later on the pastor who was making fun of situation started to get humble and even say sorry but not to me just said it in church for the things he says i know God humble him. the other pastor wanted to make fun of it too but he stop i was suprised that he do that too but he stop right away. one thing they have to know is that God is not just for them but for us too the SHEEP! but i have forgiven the people who lied about me and i been praying for my pastors. I know the person who started this who is very jealous and insecure about women in the church my husband reminds me pray for her and thats what we do. i love my church and no one is going to stop me from going unless they tell me not to come anymore but i know they wont. but i learn so much going to church the Holy Spirit speaks to me through the messages i am learning and growing in the things of God.
Personally, I would inform the critic that there are legitimate venues through which he can file grievances, and that the church’s Facebook page is not one of them. If the critic persisted, then I would not hesitate to block him.
Honestly, I would take a critic on FB about as seriously as I’d take a paranoid schizoid crying, “The sky is falling!”