It really is an honour to be exploring one’s vocation – career – with an organisation (such as The United Church of Canada) that recognises the need to note the importance of social media in our culture. And – in turn – also realise that those in church leadership have a responsibility to understand boundaries in this context. Perhaps – more importantly – such discussions remind us that we need to know our stuff, our stories, and our triggers if we are going to engage in this varied medium
I’ve blogged several times about social media, but I think it is worth sharing some very larger and – albeit – over-arching realities that confront may NGOs, non-profits and (more specifically) faith-based institutions:
So let me briefly share that I have been online a long, long, long time … I think before special effects were digitised 😉 I was doing research in my undergrad when everything was simply links of text and Bulletin Board threads bled downward forever! I have and do manage online communities (the longest relationship is now entering its second decade!). In the time I have been online, I have seen the anonymity of the internet bring out the most generous nature of people that humbles. As well, I have seen that such anonymity also can lead to bullying. In general, I have experienced the internet, online communities and social media as the closest manifestation of true democracy in which those who are in relationship navigate self-organisation, which more often than naught leads to respectful, civil and compassionate communities.
Why this brief sharing is important is that for many in the church this is a completely new environment. As a result, though we may have had the experience of exploring leadership in respect to boundaries and self-knowing, the lines are quickly blurred and – in some cases – even lost in the digital realm. As I have said during leadership training opportunities in which I have had the honour to facilitate: “If you don’t know your stuff (I admit I may use another word), you’re (at the very least) going to hurt someone and there’s the distinct possibility that hurt could be fatal.” And – though I can hear the challenge of ‘melodrama’ – all I can ask is that you trust me: it has, does and will happen.
I also hope this brief blog exploration is not too ‘preachy’ and ‘know-it-all-ish.’ But (I do often avoid this conjunction) if we do not do this inner-work of knowing about boundaries, what’s appropriate in an environment filled with ambiguity stuff can get very bad, very quickly: for instance, whether that’s of our own doing or missing cues such as bullying, harassment or abuse in others.. And (a conjunction I much prefer) if we do that self-knowing exploration well, social media presents opportunities for relationships that inspire and humble. I have had deep theological conversations, provided profound pastoral care and laughed aloud in ways – which I do not mean to imply are more or less real than face-face – that have led to embodied relationships with people around the world whom I otherwise would never know.
To use church-speak as a way to wrap this musing up: if we are called to model discipleship in a world that is much changed, is longing for relationship, and significantly different than when our denomination formed almost 90 years ago, it would be worthwhile reminding and remembering that Jesus’ commission was to go into people’s lives and not to wait for them to come to us. It really is amazing when you walk into the Stranger’s home: for in such places of humility, we may very well find all of us are changed in the sharing of what propels us into the unknown: the Good News ….