Five Reasons Why Pastors Are Getting Fired Because of Their Social Media Posts

March 6, 2017

“It’s not fair I lost my job,” the pastor told me.

“My church members post a lot worse things than I do on social media. It’s a double standard.”

He’s right. It is a double standard. But it’s reality. And, with greater frequency, more pastors and church staff are losing their jobs because of what they post, particularly on Facebook and Twitter and, to some extent, their blogs.

By the way, churches will not always tell the pastor the specific reason for the firing. But, once we begin to infuriate our church members with our posts, many will find a myriad of reasons to give us the boot.

I recently recommended a pastor to another church. I think very highly of him. Indeed, the search committee chairman seemed genuinely enthused when I recommended him. He contacted me a couple of weeks later with this comment: “We can’t consider him. He’s just too snarky and sarcastic on social media.”

Of course, this pastor was not fired. But he never had a chance to be considered by another church.

So what are pastors posting on social media that is raising the ire of church members? It typically falls into one or more of these five categories:

  1. Generally combative and sarcastic comments. Do you know someone that seems always to be in debate on social media? They always want to prove their points, and they will take you on personally if you disagree with them. There are now a number of former pastors in this category.
  2. Political comments. If you make a political comment in today’s incendiary environment, you will offend someone. The persons you offend may just be the ones who push you out the church.
  3. Taking on church members. I cringe when I see church members posting critical comments against a pastor or church staff member. I cringe even more when the pastor decides to take them on in a public forum. Most readers have no idea the context of the conflict. They just see their pastor acting like a jerk.
  4. Criticizing other people. I have a friend who served as pastor of four churches. He loved criticizing well-known pastors, celebrities, Christian leaders, and others on social media. He was fired from his last church without a stated cause. I believe I know why. And he has gone three years without finding another place in ministry.
  5. Unsavory comments. A pastor or church staff member making lewd or suggestive comments on social media gains nothing, even if it’s a quote from a movie or someone else. The consequences are always negative.

This post is not about pastors losing their prophetic voices. It’s about pastors and church staff losing their ministries because of their failure to control their digital tongues.

“If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself . . . (The tongue) pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell.” (James 1:26, 3:6)

Social media is not the place to vent or to wage petty battles.

The consequences are simply too great.

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  • It’s not a double standard for pastors – it’s a higher standard! A pastor should be held to a higher standard, just as a parent or teacher should be held to a higher standard than a child. Yes, we should never expect perfection, and we need to understand human nature, but higher authority always demands higher standards and expectations.

  • There are different levels of communication. We need to be careful about confusing two of them:

    1) OUTSIDE COMMUNICATION – what we want the world to know
    2) INSIDE COMMUNICATION – what we communicate to other believers, but that we should not communicate to the world.

    Things that are appropriate for Inside Communication are not always right for Outside Communication. Social Media is always Outside Communication.

    Things that are not appropriate for Outside Communication are things that we should not be communicating to the world of unbelievers. These things would include theological debates (Calvinism, KJV-only, tongues, etc.), criticism of other Christians and moral failures of Christian leaders, etc. These are not the messages we need to be conveying to the world.

    Outside Communication would be things like the Gospel, apologetic themes, outstanding Christians in the news, etc. And, of course, we should tell of the good things God is doing in our lives and ministries.

    Personally, I don’t make posts on abortion or homosexuality. I am strongly pro-life and pro-marriage, but I don’t want to drive people away from hearing the Gospel because they want to kill their babies or support same-sex marriage. If I could convince them to straighten out their views without winning them to Christ they will still go to Hell. They need Jesus first. He will change their lives. That’s the power of the Gospel.

    Our social media posts should be the things that would attract people to Christ and promote the benefits of knowing Him. Leave the Inside Communication topics to personal messages and emails.

    Christians have the reputation of being the people who are against many of the things that unsaved people embrace. We need to use our Outside Communication to communicate the wonderful benefits of knowing Jesus.

  • Thank God for the good people with the good advises,sometimes pride mean nothing at all hopefully people must follow an understand,not comfroting lies cause God will never give us more,we have elders they pass trough all the stages,all ears are opened….we are not judges at all there is truth on i’ve readed really thanks on this an thanking God for everythings an i Love all

  • Joji Koroibanuve says on

    A very thought provoking issue….Thank You Rainer. A Pastor must remember that even on Social Media he is still a Pastor as he is walking into a shopping mall. His words and actions are scrutinized and people’s faith depends on it to some extent.
    As a loving Pastor in church so he must be on social media.

  • Jordan Mims says on

    A couple years ago I was convicted about my use of social media and realized my responsibility to do all to the glory of God, even concerning my social media presence. I now ask myself before posting, does this bring glory to God or glory to self? If I can’t answer that it can/will bring glory to God, I simply don’t post. I want my digital life just like my real life to bring glory to God in all that I say and do.

  • Allen Calkins says on

    Thom, THIS is important enough of a subject to be a podcast….Questions like: 1) How wise is it to have Fb friends of the opposite sex 2) What discretion should be used in posting pics of children on your Fb page or your church Fb page? 3) Effective use of Fb for church advertising as well as your list of 5 would be great to hear a discussion about.

  • Allen Calkins says on

    I understand what you are saying and totally agree that Social Media CAN get you in trouble with your congregation…It did me. Even though I have modified my posts and reduced my usage and snarkiness for some it is not enough. ONE THING that can get a pastor in trouble is not looking at the names of sources of funny memes you might want to repost. Frequently they have a curse word in the name. That is easy to miss…but your church members will not!
    I only post the most benign of funny posts, scripture or church promotion stuff. But I still post pro-life stuff. If they do not like that , too bad!
    But for those under 40 Fb is their preferred communication medium, more than email, phone or visits. I can send a Fb message asking how somebody is doing or where they have been without being considered pushy. So I refuse to abandon social media because it is too valuable of a tool for staying in touch with people, especially people on the fringe of church life. It is also valuable to finding out sudden struggles people face. They tell Fb long before they pick up the phone and call their pastor.

  • Social media is a good tool to reach more people than we normally can in a lifetime. But we must remember one major inherit danger of posting on social media. You cannot adequately convey the context of emotion very easily. This is the same danger found in texting as a primary means of communication. This often leads to arguments, offending people with statements that were not meant to be offensive etc. I would not suggest leaving social media. I would suggest that we use the same care and thought in posting that we should be using in crafting and proclaiming a sermon on Sunday morning.

  • Dr Rainer, Your article is very good! The reality is that pastors…even on their personal FB pages do NOT have freedom of speech! Another caution: be sure to read every word of any article you post from another source! Sometimes the very last comment they make will burn you! It happened to me! And I didn’t know it. Even AFTER apologies and retractions some folks will never forget and hold it against you!
    I have left social media completely. I have had several people try to talk me out of it because they enjoy the articles I pass on…but regardless…for me, it is simply not worth it. The terrible fake news and often suggestive ads on FB are also a reason to give it up, in my opinion. I am thinking about starting a blog….but social media is out for me….at least until I retire. 🙂

    • I think these are really good thoughts. We have a new pastor that I don’t know well yet. What he “likes” and posts on FB has been concerning to me (especially since I don’t know his heart or theology yet).

  • I understand the Gospel can offend and that our beliefs and our adherence to Scripture can offend, and the time comes when we must make a stand. Perhaps my experience isn’t common but i believe those discussions are best had one on one or in small groups. If i choose on social media to offend because the message I adhere to is sometimes offensive then to me that is offensive. the truth isn’t any less the truth because my Twitter or Facebook feed doesn’t slap people around with my defense of it.

  • How is it that we, as pastors, and Christians, forget that our words are being recorded? Matthew 12:36 But, I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak (or post on social media) they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
    I am not as concerned with what pulpit committee might think, as I am about what my heavenly Father will think.

  • Thanks for this very insightful post.

    A couple of years back, the leadership team of my former church was faced with the increasingly erratic and abusive behavior of the senior pastor. There was much turmoil and pain and very little support in navigating the issues in part due to the way the church government was structured (virtually no accountability for the senior pastor who was also the founder of the church). In the midst of this turmoil and trying to privately address his sin, the senior pastor posted a vitriolic rant on the church’s public Facebook group that included–among other things–exposure of intimate details from counseling sessions held with some of the leadership with this pastor, though he didn’t use any names. It was horrific. What’s worse is that church members who were unaware of the leadership conflict were now brought into it by his post. Sadly, some people actually “liked” his rant. But others saw this post and decided (I believe, wisely) that this was not the type of pastor who’s leadership they wanted to follow. And…he never deleted the post.

    Although I post very sparingly to social media, even as a non-pastor, his social media behavior was a lesson to me and many others.

    Thanks again for your wisdom and for this reminder.