A Question for readers

April 12, 2008 by
Filed under: Religion 

This question is prompted by a meeting with my pastor this morning, related to the past few posts here and the events that they speak of.  I’d appreciate comments from my regular readers and new readers.  Please chime in.

Is it harmful for a church member to post their thoughts and feelings about a church program, even if they are negative?

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Please comment.


7 Comments on A Question for readers

  1. Steve on Sat, 12th Apr 2008 6:09 pm
  2. Mark – From my perspective, whether saying negative things on a blog is right or wrong depends on at least a couple of things: The spirit in which it is done and the nature of what is said. The theme that has been going around recently has been the church in the Web 2.0 world. If any of us are serious about being the covenant community in the virtual world than we must be ready to share our joys and concerns in this electronic format, and be ready to hear and pray for the joys and concerns from others.

    The last few posts of yours with “negative” comments have struck me as a frustrated cry, not a hyper-critical rant. You are offering them in a spirit of Christian accountability and I think many others besides myself have received them as coming from a fellow Christian of integrity who is looking for support of the community through our listening and lifting you up in prayer as you try to live a life faithful to Jesus Christ.

    I do believe that we need to recognize that there are categories of things that do not belong on the blog. These would naturally include private or sensitive information that we don’t have permission to share, gossip, and the critical rants that are more heat than light.

    All of this blogging and web stuff is taking some getting used to. I don’t know yet if this is the best way to do things since we are opening ourselves up to the whole electronic world, not just our small group of a few other people. For those who are not thinking “electronic covenant community” negative comments could, and probably will, be taken as a broadcast condemnation of your church or some program. But if we have the mindset of being fellow travelers on the journey of faith then we take the comments as one person’s experience on the journey.

  3. Dave on Sat, 12th Apr 2008 6:59 pm
  4. Mark,

    You are a great guy and I don’t think your words were out of line until the last paragraph of your post about the capital campaign. Your frustrations are valid and working outside your gift set is probably doing more harm than good in this case. That being said, I do not think that a blog is a great place to say for the first time that you might want to leave the church because of this campaign and probably other issues. You need to learn to say ‘no’ and work in areas which intersect with your gifts and passions. I know that the youth of this church have been blessed by your dedication and presence. One of the frustrations of being part of any Christian community is that we are ‘simul justus et peccator’ (both justified and sinful), people will continually let us down, but God will surprise us through what he is able to do with our efforts.

  5. Shawn Coons on Sat, 12th Apr 2008 11:43 pm
  6. I don’t think a blog should necessarily be the first or only place that negative thoughts about a church or a program is expressed. I’ve seen too many people use venting on blogs as an excuse not to try and address or change what makes them unhappy.

    I also don’t think that it is a fair choice between complaining on a blog or whispering in private. There are a spectrum of other options, including complaining through the appropriate channels.

    That being said, I don’t think negative comments about a church should be kept off a blog. A healthy church can take public criticism whether it is justly deserved or not. But then again, I really don’t think blogs are a good forum for addressing or discussing church programs or decisions – it’s too messy and prone to misunderstandings.

    So I guess you need to ask yourself why you would complain on your blog. If it’s just to say how your feeling then fine, but if you are hoping that someone from your church reads it and will respond to it or address it, then I think you are not using the appropriate and healthy channels.

  7. jodie on Sun, 13th Apr 2008 4:21 pm
  8. Mark,

    I’ll chime in only a little. It is a commonly experienced thing that talking about money in church makes people cranky. Don’t really know why. I know people who raise serious money for large non-profits, and somehow that is different. When you donate money for the Opera it is in exchange for networking with the pillars of society, having your name published along side other famous people, feeling cultured, enjoying good music, being remembered when you are gone, all the while getting a tax break. Being known as a patron for the arts is a good thing.

    In church the rules are different. I think it has something to do with the stress of trying to support something while not appearing to get credit for it, but finding ways to get the credit anyway, or not supporting something while not loosing face for not supporting it, or even getting fake credit where none is due.

    I go back and forth, but at the end of the day, I know that while honoring the code of confidentiality is essential, keeping secrets is not good. The fake anonymity associated with church giving can create more problems than it solves. Also, we put our money where our hearts lie. So if people don’t want to give to their church it is either because their heart is not in it (so they may feel guilty) or because they can’t afford it (so they may feel ashamed). But if my heart is not in the opera or I can’t afford sitting in the founders section I don’t feel guilty or ashamed. I can still be objective about it.

    I guess my point is that finances in church is a delicate subject. The Blog-sphere is a hostile and untested media in which to try to learn how to deal with it. I would not blog about my congregation’s own unprocessed financial issues in real time, or my own experiences dealing with it. Just too touchy a subject.

    The other issues, they too can be touchy. But nothing like talking about finances, so maybe the blog-sphere would be more forgiving. Still, unprocessed and undigested experiences need to be treated as such. As you and I have learned, you can really spin people up with a blog. That is not always a good thing. All in all, your real life friends here are giving you good suggestions, I think.

  9. Mark on Sun, 13th Apr 2008 6:35 pm
  10. A few folks have questioned/skirted around the question of whether or not I blog something that I have not mentioned to appropriate authority/chain of command.

    I always take serious issues to the proper chain of command. In the case of the issues mentioned here recently, I did so immediately (within 30 minutes). I’m not responsible for what they do or don’t do with the information.

    Less serious issues (such as opinions of how a service went or minor disagreements with policy) are sometimes blogged first and only.

  11. Aintnorock on Mon, 14th Apr 2008 8:29 am
  12. Mark-

    I feel your pain. A long time ago, I was asked to do something similar, only all I had to do was call, not visit. I had 10 numbers to call. A few hung up on me as soon as I mentioned the church, a couple people had no idea why I was calling as they “never” attended the church (well they had to have attended at least once otherwise we wouldn’t have their name and address), and the others were disturbed that they had gotten called and weren’t going to give. It was probably my worst experience ever at trying to do church work.

    As for your question, is it all right to post your feelings? If you’re not paid staff, and if you don’t identify other persons or reveal confidentialities, I think you’re perfectly within your rights to post negative comments as well as positive ones. It’s your BLOG, it’s your life, you’re entitled to your opinion. Is it the right thing to do? Well, probably not, but I still think it’s better than gossipping behind others backs. Church politics is a funny thing, as you well know. I have a reputation as a “trouble maker”, because of saying things like what you did, speaking the truth, but as a volunteer, I challenge anyone with a better idea to bring it, and I’ll listen. What that person did was just rude.


  13. stcasserole on Mon, 14th Apr 2008 9:06 am
  14. All I know is that blogs are public, even the blogs we think are private.
    Only write those things that your worst enemy can’t use against you.
    It’s not about being paranoid rather, it’s about knowing that what we say today may come back to bite us in the butt-age later. And, we don’t want to hurt other people. Or, ourselves.

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