A Pastoral Presence Online

Posted on Posted in Student Culture, Trends & Issues, The Campus Minister

 

Campus — today — is not what it use to be.

Technology continues to advance at a staggering pace and social media is making personal and mass-communication (of a new kind) very accessible to whoever wants it… and our students are well-versed in most of it.

About a year ago I had the chance to step away from campus and spend some time with campus ministers from across the U.S. (and Canada!), thinking about our shared work with college students. On our final morning together I was asked to lead our group in a conversation about what is happening here at Faith ON Campus, but I quickly found us expanding the conversations to explore what it meant (and means) to be a pastor in this digital age.

It was a good time of thinking — out-loud — together.

And as you might imagine from a time like that, we were left with a lot more questions than answers.

This conference consisted primarily of campus pastors and ministers who work on Christian college and university campuses. They serve student populations who (for the most part) are highly interested in what they are there to offer (in terms of opportunities to grow in their faith). As a result, our conversation was somewhat limited — specifically because I don’t think ministries on these kinds of campuses have had to leverage technology and social media in some of the ways other ministries have.

Their programs and opportunities are well-populated and they typically  get lots and lots of face time with smaller and larger groups within the student body.

But I know that’s not the case for a lot of the readers of this blog.

We find pockets of interested students, but certainly not the majority of them. And so we’re challenged to find new, different and creative ways to reach out and connect with students — wherever they are.

And statistically we know that we can find them — quite regularly — online.

This got me wondering about our presence there — online.

Here are some of the questions I’m asking myself — and I now pose to you:

  • What kind of intentional online presence do I have?
  • Are there ways that our ministry efforts could be bolstered, or even multiplied, through the intentional use of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.?
  • What might it look like to train and equip a team (or even multiple teams) of students to have an intentional ministry online?
  • As we connect with students online, how do we move the relationships that begin online towards face-to-face human interaction?

Here I am, a year later, all the more convinced that we need to have a pastoral presence online. But I continue to wrestle with what exactly that means, or what it should look like.

I’ve got to believe that there are some of us (you) who are already doing some pretty creative ministry with the technology and social media mediums that our students make regular use of.

I’d love to hear about what this looks like for you! If you’ve already ventured out into intentional online ministry — what have you found that works and doesn’t work? What reservations and/or concerns hold you back?

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts, ideas, and questions!

 

  • Derek Roe

    Thanks for sharing this, Guy!  You make some great points here, especially about how so many ministers are not as intentional about their online pastoral presence as they are about their pastoral presence when meeting people face to face.  Given the permanent and public nature of digital media, I would like to suggest a rule of thumb to spark some conversation:

    Don’t post anything (words, pictures, “likes,” etc…) online that you would not share in your ministry context. 

    Sound fair?

    • Anonymous

      Hey Derek! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

      I agree 100% with your suggestions for a healthy approach to how we conduct ourselves online. And that’s a conversation that needs to be had right alongside this one (so thanks for bringing it up)! But what I’m trying to get at in this post is that we need to go “online” with a plan. We need to find ways to connect with students, hear the pain and struggle in some of the things that they share, and attempt to assist them in their place of need. 

      And we need to think about how we might equip a team of students to join us, and even instruct us, in online ministry as well. A team approach lends itself to the kind of accountability you are suggesting, but it also serves to cast the net farther across campus. Do you know what I mean?

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