By Jonathan Howe
When churches have Facebook pages, negative comments will come your way. Whether it’s a former church member, someone from the community, or an online troll, it’s likely that at some point someone will comment negatively about your church on Facebook.
So what do you do? Do you defend the church? Do you just delete the comment and move on?
How you respond depends on three things, mainly.
- Is this a legitimate concern? If the concern is legitimate, respond courteously to the commenter and ask to follow up with them via email, on the phone, or in person. Most likely, they want to know they’ve been heard. By taking the conversation offline, you can have an informative conversation in the right context. Because of the lack of context online, discussions can unintentionally become inflammatory in nature. By going offline, cooler heads often prevail and the concern can be adequately addressed. It also allows you to gather appropriate information to provide a fully informed answer.
- Is the commenter uninformed or inappropriate? This is a judgment call you have to make. Your response depends on the situation. However, whatever your response, it should not be to engage in a public argument with the commenter. If you decide to respond, remember that your explanation should be done professionally and courteously. If more discussion is needed after your first response, offer to move the discussion offline to a phone call, email, or meeting.
- Is the commenter an online troll? If the commenter is just trolling you or making a baseless comment, then simply delete the comment, ban the person, and move on. Nothing positive comes from fighting online with a troll.
Have you had to deal with this type of issue? Do you have a plan for when it happens to you?
Jonathan Howe serves as Director of Strategic Initiatives at LifeWay Christian Resources as well as the host and producer of Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week. Jonathan writes weekly at ThomRainer.com on topics ranging from social media to websites and church communications. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Howe.
I’ve banned and deleted a troll but the baseless comment was still for all to see because it was done in the ratings section. It could still be seen by any who visited the page. Any suggestions? I got rid of ratings all together, but is there any other suggestion?
Unfortunately not. I’m not a fan of having the ratings active for a church page for this specific reason. So I would leave them turned off.
I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family, not as a soapbox for political or religious subjects. I do not respond to negative comments or comments of opposing ideas. I rarely share others comments.
A very wise Pastor gave a very useful quote…”Just because you are invited to an event, you need not attend”! Has served me well.
Bingo. You don’t have to show up for every fight you’re invited to.
While occasionally you will have to delete a comment and/or ban someone, consider what is being said. In today’s world, sometimes even church members have to take a comment public to get it heard. Please don’t immediately discredit the author but offer to hear the person offline or by email. If you know the author, then talk to the person but do a lot of listening. They might have something useful to say and no one prior has wanted to hear it. If the comment is critical of the church leadership, then don’t rush to defend the leader(ship) until you get more evidence. It may be that one or more of your leaders needs to be reminded that he is (perceived as) not representing everyone, which seems to be quite common. I know there can be a knee-jerk response to circle the wagons, but this can result in a lot of problems later.
I appreciate you posting this. I recently became my church’s communications coordinator (a position that was not in existence 3 months ago, even though we are a large church with a presence on social media platforms). Knowing how to protect the integrity of the church, while still maintaining a good standing in the online community is something we are working on. We have protocol in place to handle the different types of comments we might receive. There is a fine balance, and your article helps find that balance! Thank you!
What do you do when your pastor stays on FaceBook continuously and starts many controversial issues on FaceBook and will not stop. He likes to stir up controversy which reflects badly on our church. He defriends anyone that disagrees with him thus causing people not to follow him.
I wish he could use Facebook positively but he doesn’t interact with others except by email and Facebook ?
He believes friction causes motion!
Negative comments have been with us since the dawn of man. It’s become more prevalent, thus more problematic in the modern world because of the digital age which gave birth to the social media craze that dominates men’s hearts.
Criticism at the speed of light flashes across many digital spectrums everyday across this fallen sphere. People with evil hearts and an axe to grind can be found at the daily altar of discourse sowing discord amongst the brethren.
Unfortunately due to the wickedness of the human heart we will have to contend with this issue until that great and glorious day of our Lord’s return. In the meantime, how then do we live?
If there be any truth wrapped in the negativity expressed, let us leaders learn from it. Our attitude should be, ”Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm139:23-24
On the other hand, if there is no truth to be found anywhere in the negative comments coming our way, then ignore the comment, offer a prayer on behalf of the person complaining and get on down the road. Life is far too precious and time way too short for us to get sidetracked from our mission of making disciples of all nations.
I remember a day an individual wrote something about my church on facebook. To be honest, it seems the ground should open for me to jump in
I handle Internet critics like I do any others. The first rule is, consider the source. If it’s from someone I trust, I pay attention to it. If it’s from someone who had a bad experience at our church, I’ll at least give it a fair hearing. If it’s from a troll who hates churches in general, I delete and ignore it.
Above all, be careful what you say and how you say it. Even if you’re talking to a hateful troll, you don’t want to lower yourself to his / her level. As Vance Havner used to say, “A bulldog can always whip a skunk, but it’s just not worth it!”
These are some great guidelines for social media. Usually when a person put a negative comment on Facebook about my church, I always consider the source. Most of the time, its a church critic that floats from church to church just to find something wrong. However, if it is from a credible source, I always offer a coffee visit and dig deeper as to the cause of the negative experience. Most of the time, the negativity comes from miscommunication, rumor, or just assumptions – all of which I can bring some clarity to but I usually let the dust settle and the truth reveals itself naturally.