The Ten Commandments for Christians on FaceBook and Twitter

December 10, 2008 by  
Filed under Just for fun

In a very short period of time, social media websites like MySpace, FaceBook and Twitter have begun to change the way the world connects and socializes, and for Christians, the way we fellowship and even minister to others.

Tens of millions of users log into these networks daily. According to Wikipedia, FaceBook has over 132 million users and MySpace over 117 million. Twitter, one of my favorites, is only about two years old and already has well over three million users and it’s growing exponentially.

So how are Christians responding? In FaceBook, many groups have been created to reach and help Christians network. There are way too many to mention, but a few examples are;

  • 100,000,000 Christians Worship God (over 700,000 members)
  • Christian Bloggers Network
  • 1,000,000 Christian Parents Raising Disciples For Christ
  • FaceBook For Pastors
  • Pastors and Ministry Leaders
  • Culture Shapers on Digg

The number of Pastors who are now connecting with their congregations and communities through FaceBook and Twitter is growing rapidly. Whole congregations and groups within them are using these sites to increase communication, extend ministry efforts and even to plan events. Social networking has become a valuable social tool that is being used by ministries, churches, Christian authors and bloggers and individual Christians around the globe.

The purpose of this blog isn’t to challenge the validity of Christians using social networking sites. I believe that anyone who’s used them can instantly see how these tools can be tremendously beneficial. Nor am I here to decry the abuses of these tools. No matter how beneficial something is, some people will misuse it. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. What I’d like to do is sound a different alarm.

This is a blog to all Christians everywhere who are using social networking or who are looking into it and my message is simple; please look at your social networking strategies and methods through the lens of scripture and Christian character before you implement them.

Let me explain, when you approach a stranger on the street or a newcomer at your church, there are certain things that you do to make sure that you are perceived as a polite, considerate, nonthreatening individual. Most of us know how to do this because we’ve practiced face to face conversation in our homes and in public for years. Unfortunately, many Christians who dive into social networking don’t know how to do that same thing online. Why? Because although common sense, kindness and good manners are always necessary, the rules for approach and interaction are different in the online world and also different on each social networking site. Without this understanding, we can end up unknowingly offending others and making some or all of our efforts ineffectual.

I have observed and learned a few things through trial and error and by watching others more experienced than myself, and I would like to pass them on. Hopefully, my efforts will help more Christians be more effective and less abrasive while using social networking sites to reach and connect with others. Once you’ve read my tips and ideas, feel free to comment and add things that you’ve learned. When we’re Kingdom building, we can all work together and help each other.

The Ten Commandments For Social Networking Christians

1. Thou shalt not worship and/or social network on too many sites.

When I first started social networking (SN) I went and joined every SN site I heard of and/or read about, Amazon Connect, Xing, Linkedin, FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon and others. I would have joined even more but I ran out of room in my life.

Here’s what I learned, in order to do well on a SN site, you need to actually jump in, learn about the site, play by their rules and become part of the community. If you don’t, then to the people who are regulars on these sites, you’re like a complete stranger who’s walking through their neighborhood expecting attention without investing anything of yourself. At first you’ll be watched, as everyone politely waits for you to learn and get involved, but if you keep it up, you will be ignored and perhaps even resented. That does not reflect well on you as a Christian.

Here’s a suggestion. Google information about the different SN sites. There are a ton of blogs out there that will tell you what each site does, who uses it, how it’s good for networking, and what the best ways are to get involved and see results. Once you’ve done your homework, pick two or three that will work for you and start getting involved, learning and investing yourself in them.

I decided to focus on FaceBook and Twitter. I find them enjoyable and a great way to network with other Christians and to get exposure to my blogs. I’m also still involved in StumbleUpon, Amazon and Linkedin but only as supports for my FaceBook and Twitter efforts. Your plan and choices will probably be different than mine because what you do, what you want to accomplish, and what you will enjoy may all be different.

2. Thou shalt not make your mission an idol.

God has called us to make disciples and that’s about people. For God so loved the world that he gave… so that… Ever notice that John 3:16 puts ‘people’ first, ‘giving’ second, and ‘purpose’ third?

I’ve caught myself running into my social networks with one thing on my mind, get traffic to my blog, find parents to minister to etc etc, running headlong, ignoring people to supposedly accomplish God’s purpose. When I find myself doing that, I stop and get off my computer and pray. Not only should our hearts be right, but social networking is not nearly as effective if you don’t stop to connect with others, listen to them, talk to them, check out what they’re doing and show genuine interest in them. If you don’t demonstrate that you care, you will be seen by many as just another spammer and/or narcissist and your witness and efforts will be ineffective.

Here’s a suggestion, on a sticky note write, ‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care’ and stick it where you can see it while you’re on your computer. You don’t have to be everyone’s best friend, that’s impossible, but it doesn’t take much to stop, care and be interested. People first, giving second and purpose last.

3. Thou shalt not misuse the social networking sites (it gives God a bad rap).

This one is simple, play nice and play by the rules. Each SN site has rules about what you can and cannot do. Read the rules and stay within them. Others who follow the rules will think less of you for trying to bend them. Each site also has many unwritten rules or courtesies that have been developed over a period of time by it’s regular users. For example on Digg, you can Digg your own content but the regulars of Digg frown on it and may work to bury your content if you keep it up. Take it slowly at first and learn the rules. If you’re not sure about something ask, and when you’re told, do your best to fit in.

Having said that, SN sites are changing all the time because people change how they use them. Once you’ve been on a site for awhile and understand how it works, you may get creative ideas that work within the system and maximize your results. There’s nothing wrong with that, just be careful that others see it as a clever idea and not a way around the rules.

4. Thou shalt remember to relax and enjoy.

Remember, and this is important, social networking online is much the same as it is face to face and many of the same rules apply. For example, ‘All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy!’ When someone looks at your contributions, status updates, tweets, posts, notes etc and see that they are all (or mostly all) about business or ministry or whatever your purpose is, you become dull and uninteresting. You’re also unwittingly telling everyone that you’re only here for self promotion. Not good. Relax, let your hair down and have fun on these sites as well. I have so much fun on Twitter, sometimes my wife has to remind me that I should be writing. Be real, relax, have fun, be social, when people get to know you a little better they’ll be more likely to be interested in what you do.

A word of caution. One of my twitter friends (@jplosier) wondered if I was going to talk about being vulnerable and sharing personal things on SN sites, so I will. You should never pretend to be someone that you’re not and you should always be honest and transparent. There’s nothing wrong with saying you’re having a grumpy day and asking others to pray. However, as a minister of the Gospel, if you are having serious struggles, you should have mentors or peers who you go to for help. Turn your computer off and go and talk with someone face to face.

5. Honor your Father & Mother by remembering that they taught you to be humble.

My friend and Marketing teacher, David G. Johnson once told me that the most powerful word in marketing is the word ‘YOU.’ The Bible teaches that we should not be boastful and that we should not be focused on ourselves. So the most important word in ministry is also ‘YOU.’

There is nothing that will turn others away quicker (in real life and online) than someone who is, or appears to be, stuck on themselves. I don’t believe that I’m stuck on me, but I believe I’ve come across that way online at times and it’s somewhat understandable. When you’re networking, you want people to know who you are and what you’ve accomplished. So you put it out there thinking that it’s innocent enough because your motivation is to build trust and therefore be able to help more people. Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t work and you come off as a braggart. (I know, I learned the hard way.)

Here’s a suggestion, put your bio on your website and/or on linkedin and let others find out what mighty things you’ve done when they’re interested and go looking. The quickest way to get people interested in you, is to be interested and focused on them, do that and eventually they’ll wonder who you are.

Also, if you just signed a book deal or a million dollar business contract and you simply must share the news, craft your announcement humbly. There’s a difference between these two tweets or updates: “My agent just signed a HUGE deal with Harper Collins for my new book!” or “Wow, I’m blown away by God’s grace, he’s letting me write another book.’ Take the humble road and if other’s are interested, they’ll press you for more details.

Oh, also remember that it’s not just your words that show others your humility. Any action you take online that gives people the impression that you think that you’re more important then they are may result in them thinking that you are stuck on yourself. For example, if you use Twitter and someone follows you, follow them back. Having a lot of people following you while you’re only following a few doesn’t make you look important, it makes you look stuck on yourself. Jesus was the greatest person who ever lived. God in the flesh, and our example. He never once turned anyone away who honestly sought him out.

Unless someone is obviously a spammer, or is trying to peddle pornography or something like that, follow them, befriend them, connect with them, return their messages, say hi. It doesn’t take much but it tells everyone that you care and that you believe that we’re all equal in God’s eyes. (And yes, I know that Jesus kept twelve close, seventy not as close and then the larger group of disciples a little less connected. However for the most part, SN is not about your closest group of friends, they’re the ones you see off-line.)

An exception to this is if you’re setting up a network for the purpose of communicating with your church or ministry group only. If this is the case and if the SN site allows it, ‘close’ the group (or spell it out in the bio line if you’re on Twitter) so others understand that it’s for a limited group and don’t think that you have an ego problem.

6. Thou shalt not try to murder trolls.

According to my son (who has to catch me up with the lingo from time to time) the word ‘troll’ used in an online context refers to someone who enters websites, forums or SN conversations with the sole intent of stirring up trouble, being belligerent and turning polite conversations into arguments.

Many times Christians get drawn into conversations with these people thinking that they can reach out to them and change their minds. Unfortunately, the more you enter into the conversation, the ruder and more opinionated the person gets. Finally, the Christian gets so agitated that they often become rude and/or condescending themselves. I’ve witnessed this many times and the testimony of it is not good.

Thus the saying, ‘Don’t feed the trolls’ was popularized. Which means don’t let them draw you in to the argument because they feed off controversy and their goal is to start a fight. Peter said that we are to be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us, but I think Peter was talking about sincere questions, not the rhetorical and adversarial ones that are posed by trolls.

If someone is sincere and interested, and even argues with an openness, and you have a Bible based answer, then engage. However, if you detect a belligerent person seeking a fight, be polite but disengage. One more point here, if you’re not ready and prepared (studied) to answer a question, just say so. Too many online Christians engage the trolls and they don’t even know how to answer the question or defend their Faith. The troll scores another point.

7. Thou shalt not commit social guffaws.

This one is simple, remember you’re an online representative for Jesus. Be mannerly, be polite, be thoughtful and be appropriate. Do not engage in any conversation with anyone that your Pastor couldn’t listen to and approve of. If a conversation with someone from the opposite sex starts to go the wrong way, politely end it.

8. Thou shalt not steal the ideas and/or content of others.

Another simple one, we who preach ‘though shalt not steal’ should not be stealing online. If you use someone else’s content, do it with permission and if necessary, with payment and always with proper credit. Let me push it a little further. An online friend of mine, Deb Burton (@debburton on twitter), did an awesome blog where she turned the 10 commandments on their head and wrote them in a positive way, ‘Thou shalt…’ instead of ‘Thou shalt not…’ So I’ll borrow her inspiration (with proper credit) and say, ‘Thou shalt respect the property, ideas and content of others and treat them in a way that you would like your stuff to be treated and also give honor where honor’s due.

9. Thou shalt not attempt to mislead others, even by omission.

Honesty is the best policy. Please, please be upfront about your mission and purpose with everyone. Whatever you’re doing, for whatever purpose, admit it right up front. If your purpose is to sell something, say so. If you’re looking for clients, say so. If you want people to read your blog, ask them to. You can still have fun and connect with people, but if you’ve been upfront about your purpose from the beginning, then when people get to know you and they need the service you supply, they’ll consider using you. So relax and have fun, truly care and be social but be completely upfront about your purpose.

10. Thou shalt not covet the sites, talents and traffic of others.

If when you read someone else’s material, or you look at their website idea, you start to feel like you wish you had come up with it yourself, stop. Or if look at their success and wish…, again stop yourself. Be glad for what God has given them.

If you want people to share your material with others, spend the time doing the same for them. If you have a share button on your site, I hope that you know how to use it on the sites of others. When someone else posts or Twitters a link to their post, go take a look and if you like it, comment and share it and Stumble it. If you’re not on StumbleUpon, I highly recommend it. It’s a great way to share content and drive traffic to your site and the sites of others. Unlike Digg, they have Christian categories.

Promoting someone else’s material can be hard if that ‘someone else’ is doing the same thing that you’re doing. The competition factor in our market driven society leads us all to hope that we’re the only ones doing our particular thing online for God, or that we’re somehow doing it better than everyone else. Ask yourself though, do you really want that pressure? I believe God has called me to help Christian parents pass their Faith on to their kids. If I was the only one God called to do that in my generation then I should expect God to hold me, and me alone, accountable for whether it gets done or not, worldwide. Ouch!

God has called many people to the same task and I want to work with them, help them, and promote their work and ideas. We aren’t supposed to be building our little kingdoms. We’re called to work together to build His.

Thank you for reading and considering my musings. If you’d like to connect with me on any of the following networks, I’d count it a privilege.

Also, if you’d like to join the FaceBook groups I’m involved with, I’d love to see you there.

If you’d like to network with other Christians, please leave a comment on this blog and add your urls (please cut and paste from your address bar so that the link is live) for each of the SN sites that you’re on and I’ll post them for others who want to network as well.

Please follow these four simple steps:

Step 1 If you’d like to Network with me, add me to the networks we have in common.

Step 2 Look at the previous comments to this post and add the others (who have requested to network) to your social networking sites (that way everyone will end up following everyone else).

Step 3 Cut and paste the urls from the address bars of your SN bios or home pages and list them in a comment to this blog for others to follow.

Step 4 Follow the 10 Commandments for SN Christian.

Comments

30 Comments on "The Ten Commandments for Christians on FaceBook and Twitter"

  1. Dionna on Thu, 11th Dec 2008 6:25 pm 

    Phenomenal post, Rick.

  2. Laura Christianson on Thu, 11th Dec 2008 6:42 pm 

    Rick, Thought-provoking ideas. May I have your permission to reprint your post on our blog? We’ll link back to you, of course.

    Laura Christianson
    co-founder, http://www.HeBlogsSheBlogs.com
    Business & Corporate Blogging Services

  3. Laura Christianson on Thu, 11th Dec 2008 6:57 pm 

    Oops, I already disobeyed one of your commandments and forgot to include my Twitter URL with my previous comment:

    https://twitter.com/HeBlogsSheBlogs

    Like what you said about running out of room in your life to join social networks. I am amazed by how many people seem to spend their entire day on various social networks. It’s exhausting just to think about it.

    We are members of quite a few, but are active mostly on our blog and on Twitter.

  4. Patricia Kaehler on Thu, 11th Dec 2008 7:15 pm 

    I’m so glad I saw this article link in a post on Twitter…

    Great article…

    ~Patricia Kaehler (DomainBELL)

    .

  5. Cynthia on Thu, 11th Dec 2008 7:47 pm 

    Me, too. So glad I found this through twitter. Great job, Rick.

  6. Joanne on Thu, 11th Dec 2008 8:18 pm 

    One of the best blog posts I have ever read on social networking. I’ve posted it on my facebook page and will add it to twitter.

    Thank you and great to meet you!

  7. Kaylea on Thu, 11th Dec 2008 8:27 pm 

    I like this article. It’s very thought provoking…

    Here’s an additional couple of “commandments” I’ve found working with my church and other ministry communications…

    Thou shall not overwhelm your “friends” with forwards, generic e-mails, chain e-mails, really anything totally frivolous.
    (Basically, don’t spam your friends with TONS of messages/e-mails/private messages on Facebook, etc.)

    Thou shall limit your event requests/group requests/in general your requests on Facebook.
    If you want people to pay attention to the important stuff, don’t overwhelm them with things like “talk with a fake British accent” or “stop the new fb” requests. See above rule. Let’s face it, some of these groups are “chain” groups and are just “fluff.” But if you want me to pay attention to the important things, don’t be like the little boy who cried wolf – because eventually, I’ll just quit paying attention to anything you send me.

    Thou shall be nice to your friends when it comes to Facebook “silly things.” (Like the snowball games, growing gifts, flair, global plant thing, etc.).
    It’s the basic web rule here – Respect your friend’s time on FB, and hopefully they will respect yours….

    Piggy backing on Commandment 7 – 2 things I tell the youth I work with…
    1) Don’t post anything you grandma/mom/dad would be embarrassed to see…(Remember your SN is not a diary, it’s an open book).
    2) Remember that SN is an Open book. Remember transparency is one thing, stupidity is another. Be careful in what your reveal, because evil does exist in this world.

    Ok some random thoughts….
    Ok, here’s some rambling from my world, take it or leave it.

    http://kaytebug2002.blogspot.com (blog)
    http://twitter.com/kaytebug (twitter)

  8. Steve on Fri, 12th Dec 2008 5:28 am 

    useful suggestions Rick, paralleling the UK Evangelical Alliance’s Ten Commandments for Christian Bloggers (was at the event where this was first mooted – and re-written a few times).

    You can see the Ten Commandments for Christian Bloggers at http://snipurl.com/7t7p3

  9. Caddiechaplain on Fri, 12th Dec 2008 7:05 am 

    RO,
    May I suggest a 11th Commandment or maybe an Amendment? “Thou Shalt not POST or TWEET while in Worship or Small Group or Support Group or Counseling!”

    Just thought I would add this little reminder cause we are all tempted to do so.

    Caddiechaplain (Twitter)
    Ron Harvey (Facebook)

  10. DuongBeautySecrets on Fri, 12th Dec 2008 7:49 am 

    This is such a great post….Who you are is more important than who you appear to be (not sure where I heard this) but it so important to be true who we are on screen off screen. There are a lot of principles here that are good reminders….and that social networking is not just about getting out our agenda, but build relationships. Thanks for the important reminder!

  11. IndyChristian on Fri, 12th Dec 2008 8:16 am 

    Extremely well said. Thank you, Rick.

    [I've long said that if I found a 'Christian Charm School', I'd try to get enrolled. LOL. Your post did a great job toward that sort of biblical wisdom.]

  12. Donalyn on Fri, 12th Dec 2008 9:47 am 

    Great things to remember here – thanks for writing a thought provoking article!

  13. David G. Johnson on Sat, 13th Dec 2008 4:48 am 

    Excellent stuff, Rick! I appreciate your efforts to help those of us with a lot of enthusiasm — but perhaps a bit less knowledge — avoid making idiots out of ourselves unintentionally!

    I would just add that the different types of networks can have very different purposes and, consequently, we might employ different strategies. For example, Facebook is a place where my wife and I connect with good friends and so we’ve posted a fair amount of personal information there. Consequently, my strategy for Facebook is that I don’t “friend” people on Facebook unless I know them personally (with a couple of minor exceptions). So… I’m really not working at trying to build a big list of connections on that particular network.

    On the other hand, Twitter is a bit of a different animal. And, thanks to the excellent information you provided me about how that particular community works, my personal strategy there is quite different. I’m following more people regularly and always follow people back who have chosen to follow me. A large circle of people with whom I am connected is desirable and, quite frankly, a lot of fun on Twitter.

    The bottom line? Let the unique characteristics of each network help you determine what strategy you want to employ in that particular community.

    Thanks for letting me sound off and thanks also for journeying alongside us in this brave new world!

    Blessings,

    David G. Johnson
    Follow me on Twitter: TheDavidJohnson

  14. Alan Melton on Sat, 13th Dec 2008 7:48 am 

    Great post here Rick! These are good reminders to keep first things first; God and man.

    Blessings, Alan

  15. Sovann on Mon, 15th Dec 2008 9:24 pm 

    Thanks for this article.
    I like the additional commandments by kaylea and caddiechaplain too!

  16. ryan perdue on Sat, 27th Dec 2008 8:36 am 

    I really appreciate this post.
    I’ve thought about quite a few of these things especially sense getting on twitter
    twitter name
    ryanrain

  17. Judy Rey Wasserman on Wed, 7th Jan 2009 9:12 am 

    Social media gives mature followers a wonderful way to fo out into the world and be an example.
    They will know you by your fruits.
    Be tolerant and kind to all.
    People need to want to get to know you.

    Too often Christians (and other faiths too) like to huddle together. There’s a place for that, for sure. However, social media lets you share your gifts. Do that. Give credit to the Lord, but not in every post.

    It can be fun and very rewarding. Let the spirit lead you.

    Judy Rey Wasserman
    UnGraven Image
    Art of Seeing The Divine
    On Twitter: @judyrey
    Also on FB

  18. Diane L. Harris on Wed, 7th Jan 2009 9:27 pm 

    Really excellent advice for everyone, even though it’s directed at Christians. I stumbled, dugg, and posted this on facebook.

  19. Steve Orris on Tue, 20th Jan 2009 2:36 pm 

    The quality of people I have found online is staggering. You are one of the best. This post so gently reminds us to bear the light well. Thanks for your insight.

  20. Mark Elliott on Wed, 11th Feb 2009 8:44 pm 

    Great thoughts and recommendations for the newbie and the experienced one. Thanks Rick for the contribution.

    Mark Elliott, Pastor and Author
    “Confessions of an Insignificant Pastor: What Pastors Wish They Could Tell You? April 2009

  21. Lowell on Fri, 20th Mar 2009 7:35 am 

    Rick,

    Awesome article. Have searched for something like this. Lot’s of articles & blogs about social NW (even other versions of 10 Comandments), however, your’s was the only one I found from a Christian perspective. Would like to share this in my newsletter (with your permission of course)?
    Lowell Churchill
    Sr. Pastor
    Henryetta Church of the Nazarene

  22. Diane (SaveBabyHumans) on Thu, 16th Apr 2009 8:15 pm 

    Thanks for this article. I skimmed it but need to read it more thoroughly.

  23. Anthony Coppedge on Thu, 16th Apr 2009 8:35 pm 

    #11 – Adding Social Media for Your Church Doesn’t Suddenly Make Thee Hip or Relevant.

    #12 – Thou Shalt Use Common Sense

    #13 – Thou Shalt Set Forth Policies for Online Interaction with Minors

    Good stuff you’ve got here, Rick.

    Anthony Coppedge
    http://twitterforchurches.com/blog

  24. Beloved Disciple on Fri, 15th May 2009 9:27 pm 

    Thanks for the tips, I’ll share them on my gospel sites. These are many things I have said to myself when I first brainstormed before I got started online. I know they will help others.

    The gospel is offensive, we should know that moderators cant stop us from sharing because its our 1st amendment right. If we remind them of that, then they can not ban us. They know we can report them.

    We are to share the gospel with love and with compassion, but ultimately because their eternity depends on it. We can’t water it down, but we dont need to preach hell fire. We just need to do it the way Jesus did (www.WayoftheMaster.com).

  25. whitesand magazine on Tue, 18th Aug 2009 12:03 am 

    This is great.I really enjoyed it.

  26. Bridget Willard on Fri, 11th Sep 2009 11:19 pm 

    Well written and informative post. I agree.

  27. joshuaongys on Mon, 9th Nov 2009 11:25 pm 

    VERY very interesting i must say. Very true as well. Good Job!

  28. Neil Quadros on Mon, 5th Jul 2010 12:12 am 

    This post for me has answered that dilemma I had on Personal Branding. Should we post to better our image or not?
    I found the answer in this statement ‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care’
    that was superb.

  29. Janet Harllee as Mitsy Lou on Sat, 16th Oct 2010 1:31 pm 

    Thank you Rick! Your blog has come at the right time for me.

  30. Bob Marlowe on Sun, 3rd Apr 2011 4:17 pm 

    Slight improvement – I think that you meant “gaffe” instead of “guffaw”.

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