In today’s technological environment, and perhaps especially as tech-savvy bivocationals ministering to an internet connected world, there is a big temptation to use social media tools as a replacement for face-to-face visitation. Is this a satisfactory way to minister? Should we use texting and messaging as our main way to contact people?
In my own church I maintain a website, a Google calendar and a Facebook page. In addition we use texting and messaging. But, as my in-laws keep stressing to me (80 years of ministry between the two of them!), you need to get out and meet people. There are some very practical reasons for this:
- People find you easier to ignore when you are not standing in front of them.
- Sadly, people also find it easier to tell you an ‘un-truth’ when you are not looking in their face.
- People are more likely to have an in-depth conversation when face-to-face.
- You can ‘read’ a person’s body language and expressions in a way no emoji will ever communicate. Some one can tell you they are “doing alright” and the look in their eyes can tell you that they are in all actuality hurting. You’d never get that from a text.
- People appreciate the effort of you visiting with them more than a text, tweet or Facebook message. It makes more of a positive impression on them.
- There are many people who do not know how, or who don’t otherwise have the ability to receive social media messages. This is especially true with our senior citizens.
Social media and other technological communications methods are important, don’t get me wrong. They can be fast, easy and very accessible. But they simply cannot substitute for talking with people face-to-face. Technology is best for imparting information rather than having a “heart to heart” conversation. You can take this as a good thing or a bad thing…bivocational ministers generally operate on tight schedules, so sending a text is easier…but we also have an ability to be flexible and intentional, especially with workplace ministry.
The take away lesson from this is, use social media ministry as a ‘rifle’, not a ‘shotgun’, to target specific purposes and audiences. But don’t neglect the more traditional ministry of visitation.
“…as they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.” Luke 24:15 (NIV)