One of the best sessions I went to at this weekends Christian New Media conference was about Pastoral Care in the church and how that links in with Social Media. To be honest I don’t think I’m a naturally pastoral person, in fact my kids will tell you I’m pretty unsympathetic, so it was a surprise to find myself in this seminar – perhaps God led me there, perhaps it was just me faffing and not deciding which one to go to until the last minute. Either way I’m so glad I went. Led by a passionate Will Van der Hart and the lovely Katherine Welby it was an interesting mix of ideas and a sessions that really got me thinking.
In the church we bear a great responsibility for Pastoral Care, perhaps too much sometimes (but that is another post entirely). Jesus is referred to as the ultimate pastor – the Good Shepherd caring for his flock. He told the parable of the shepherd who went after the one lost sheep. But often I think our reactions to the ‘lost ones’ are mostly in judgement and not compassion. I don’t mean just generally but, well, think about this:
I mentioned in yesterdays post that I am sure we can all think of people who use Facebook in pretty inappropriate ways, there are those who live out the intimate details of their lives in infinite detail, there are those who would do better to speak face to face with those they name in their status updates. Just think for a minute, if you are completely honest, what is your first reaction to those kinds of posts? Because I know my first reaction is not always a particularly Christian one. But the truth is, if someone is posting the minutiae of their life on a social media site, there is probably a reason for it…
Will talked on Saturday about the fact that people who are suffering with pain from past experiences possibly have wrong boundaries, possibly don’t even recognise there should be boundaries. People like that can become dependent on the attention they get online and the responses to those kind of posts.
So as a Christians do I not have a responsibility here? What would Jesus do? as the old saying goes… Well I’m really not sure and this is the thing – I’m left wondering how can we turn this around? How can we react in compassion, how can we use social media in our pastoral care? for our and others benefit? Katherine Welby talked about how communication can bring freedom for a sufferer, but that in turn the screen can keep one captive. The thing with social media is that it’s relatively easy to communicate or to get information out, but then it’s also easy to hide too. From my own experience I know that an admission of needing help or revealing a difficult situation can then be followed by an immediate withdrawal, a regret of sharing the information in the first place. That’s one of the dangers with social media, in the physical world one can go and knock on someones door (ok so they might not answer but the point is it’s much harder to hide in person).
We need ways of enabling, helping and encouraging people online rather than just the quick fire status reply ‘praying xx’ or ‘thinking of you’ or even just clicking ‘like’ – another thing I’m sure we are all guilty of as Will pointed out in his talk. What should be our default position here? Because just a quick fire reply might relieve some guilt from ourselves but it sure ain’t going to help that person…
I don’t have answers, these are just some thoughts that have been going through my head, something to ponder on I guess. But if you’ve been thinking about this too or have some thoughts do post in the comments section.