Last week, I wrote that, as ministry wives, you and I have influence: on our own thought lives, our husbands, our children, and our churches. Most of us need a fresh reminder of this like we need most truth placed in front of us again and again: because we don't feel influential, and we don't often see any effects from our so-called influence, and so we doubt ourselves way more than we should. But I don't think influence is a feeling or a matter of results necessarily; I think it's about boldly filling the roles God's placed in front of us and trusting Him to do with our work what He wills.
So some of us need that fresh reminder in the face of fear and discouragement, but I think others of us need the reminder because we need to consider how to use our influence with discernment, especially in how we relate to the women in our churches online.
These are actually things I've thought quite a bit about, especially because I write about being a pastor's wife online while also living a very real and often messy life offline. The people in my real life, many of whom go to our church, don't talk to me much about what I write here, but I'm sure some of them read this, and they see what I write about being their pastor's wife, and that sometimes messes with my head. Mostly, it causes me to think, "Am I being honest and forthright online about who I really am offline?" If those ever don't match, I need to quit this thing entirely.
And that, I think, is the first thing we need to know about our influence online: if we aren't being honest and forthright, if we're trying to create an image of something we're not, the people in our offline lives will quickly see through all that, and we'll eventually lose our influence in their lives.
The second thing is that, like everything else in my life, I want to use my online presence for the benefit of others. This is both my goal and my guideline. For example, what I write here may be the way I process a tangle of thoughts and emotions, but I also want it to be helpful to others in some way. As applied to Facebook or Twitter, am I generally drawing attention to myself (which is often what sharing personal convictions does) or generally using those as platforms to encourage, to champion someone else, to say thank you, or to connect with women in the church?
Because the quickest way to close hearts and ears to any gospel-influence you want to have in the lives of women is to spout your personal convictions all over social media, post pictures or status updates that make women in your church feel excluded, make overly-political statements, or to write negative comments about ministry or the church.
Some may feel hindered, like these are shackles placed on you simply because you're the pastor's wife. On the contrary, I think we have an opportunity to love and we develop more influence as we're careful and discerning with our online presence. Our online influence can quickly open doors with others, or it can shut them in our face, likely without us even realizing it.
So I'd encourage you to think about your online life. How can you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or your blog in ways that benefit and encourage others? How might someone who's considering visiting your church actually view your church based on your social media stream? And most importantly, does the external of your life and how you present it online match what's happening internally?
Your turn: How would you answer the questions posed above by the blog reader and by me? What principles do you follow when you're considering what to post online?