Called to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? Then you're called to be in relationship with other people. User of social media? Then you're probably in relationship with people you don't know face-to-face.
One difficulty with ministry of any sort is understanding boundaries that allow us to be truly supportive of one another in the body of Christ.
Those of us who serve in congregations as pastors, ministers and priests, learn the importance of these boundaries for the spiritual health of both the people in our congregations and ourselves. We come to learn that there is powerful intimacy in shared prayer; huge trust given as stories of loss and hope are shared; huge possibilities for confusing our care as an invitation to romantic relationship.
Because social media is a mode of communication occurring at a distance, we lose our ability to "hear" the tone of words. Observing body language is impossible. We can miss subtleties others may believe they’re communicating clearly.
Boundaries we would never think of crossing in the physical world, like having a private meeting out of the sight of other community members, seem easier to cross in the virtual one, like chatting via DM (direct message) about someone's broken relationship.
As is the case in the physical world, we work much of this out by trial-and-error in the world of social media. Still, this is all very new and we need to help each other figure out the joys and pitfalls of boundaries; how to create and sustain boundaries.
Consider these questions: What boundaries are important for you to keep? Is there anyone who you know you should not connect with? How do you articulate your boundaries? What do you do if – or when – someone violates your established boundaries and doesn't respect, "No. Stop!" What do you do if you cross boundaries you know shouldn't be crossed?
Some Christian organizations are beginning to look at this. Marie Fortune at FaithTrust Institute is one. Unfortunately, many of the groups that are good at articulating boundary issues, haven't spent much time in the world of church social media or deployed the #chsocm hashtag to share their wisdom.
As people of Christ who minister in and through social media, we can come at these questions from the place of people who live these relationships every day.