Guest Editorial: Pastors, politics, and Twitter
By: Art Rainer
Author, blogger, administrative pastor at West Palm Beach, Fla., First.
Most of us have some opinion on our country’s (United States) politics. Some are Bible issues, but many are not. Here are some suggestions for pastors who use Twitter during this election season:
Remember, you are a pastor.
You have a calling. You are the shepherd of your local congregation. Within each congregation is an array of political stances. Be sensitive to the people whom you are guiding. Do not let a different opinion on fiscal policy destroy your ability to lead an individual in your church. Make sure your tweets do not cause an unnecessary divide.
Remember, you are a pastor of a church that someone hasn’t attended yet.
Someone is trying to determine whether they want to visit your church. They are checking out your website, listening to a few minutes of your teachings, and reading your comments on Twitter. If they align with your political beliefs, it is possible that they might be further drawn to the church. If they feel that you care more about politics than Jesus or do not share your same stances, a barrier may be constructed out of fiscal policy preference.
Stick to issues, not people.
You can reduce potentially hazardous tweeting tension by sticking to the issues instead of attacking a candidate. There already appears to be a public distaste for the personal attacks by candidates on both sides of the ticket. A negative comment regarding a particular candidate probably will not increase your ability to lead your church.
Be for, not against
Being against certain opinions automatically makes you for an alternative opinion. Tweet what you are for. This always comes across better.
Do not suggest to your church members that they vote for a particular candidate
According to the IRS, a church is exempt under section 501(c)(3). In order to maintain this status, the church cannot promote a candidate for political office. I am not sure how the IRS would handle a pastor campaigning for a candidate via Twitter, but I recommend not volunteering to be the test subject.
Avoid arguments amongst other Twitter users
Rarely is getting into an argument on open feed with another Twitter user a win. No matter how good your 140 character argument may be, the perception of you takes a hit. Manage perception.
Stay away from harsh language
Like other social medias, Twitter has no rules, just consequences. A lapse of judgment often falls on those who use social media. Individuals feel free to vomit out whatever is on their mind. The sensitivity of politics can cause one to be harsh. Scrutinize the 140 characters before pressing “Tweet.”
Make Jesus famous
Always maintain perspective. We are chasing after something far more important, far more lasting than America’s financial stability. It trumps all politics. When one reads your Twitter feed, the main takeaway should not be that you are a diehard Republican or hardcore Democrat. This would be a failure of social media stewardship. Woven amongst each Tweet, there should be an obvious effort to make Jesus famous. This is Twitter success.
[This column was reprinted with permission of Art Rainer.]