Facebook and church discipline

Facebook provides an interesting look for pastors into the lives of their congregation.

Sometimes very interesting.

But should information gleaned from Facebook or social media be used by pastors as spiritual tools, or even reason for church discipline?

Father Gary LaMoine of Assumption Church in Barnesville, MN says a post from a 17-year-old parishioner Lennon Cihak on Facebook showing that he was helping defeat a marriage amendment in Minnesota that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

Father LaMoine prevented Cihak from taking communion.

So… what do YOU think?

Chances are, you’ve already seen some things on some of your church attender’s Facebook and Twitter feeds that made you uncomfortable.

What do you do when this happens?

Do you confront?

What if this person is one of your leaders?

QUESTION:  Should social networking posts and profiles have any impact on what you do as a pastor or church leader?

How do you approach this?

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Please leave a comment…



  • Shawn P. Stapleton November 19, 2012 Reply

    I handled this badly when I was a young pastor. I was too heavy handed. Through the years, I have learned that “private” and “gentle” are the best ways to handle such situations.

  • Tommy O'Keefe November 19, 2012 Reply

    Facebook aside, how someone voted on a marriage amendment seems like a ridiculous criteria for whether or not someone should be permitted to participate in communion.

    As far as social networks and relationships with church members go, I think issues of concern should be dealt with in a humble and loving way. This can be done via a in-person conversation, a private message, an email or phone call. Sometimes things aren’t exactly what they appear.

  • Dave Telling November 19, 2012 Reply

    I think that many pastors would be surprised at some of the “private” opinions of their membership, and I also think that too many people don’t think before they post. Personally, I’m not a pastor (and I haven’t played on on TV) but I find that posts from others that are opposed to what I would consider Biblical Christian viewpoints are good starting places for discussions. What troubles me the most is that, too often, the responses to Biblical comments are essentially, “I don’t care what the Bible says, we should be able to make up our own minds!”

    • BB November 20, 2012 Reply

      Totally agree.

  • @drewmahan November 19, 2012 Reply

    I was burdened during the election. On the Sunday following the election, I preached a message in which I addressed Facebook/twitter from the stage. I agonized and prayed over it more than I have any other message. I’d be honored if anyone would take the time to see how it went. The impact of this day is continuing to ripple through our church. Thx Todd for the interesting topic! https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-dangerous-assumption/id497623772?i=123832749

  • donjones November 20, 2012 Reply

    So how should one respond to a teacher of children at church who ranted on Facebook using the F*** Bomb? Many people saw it, so not a private thing. Individual claims to have over 600 “friends”

    • Tommy O'Keefe November 20, 2012 Reply

      I’d have a face to face conversation with the person. I would go into it looking for ways to redeem the situation… possibly having the offender apologize in a follow up post if they were willing.

      • Don Jones November 20, 2012 Reply

        And if they are not willing?

        • Tommy O'Keefe November 20, 2012 Reply

          Well, that could be problematic… I would start with a commitment to hear them out. Why did they choose that language? Did they consider the offense it might cause? If there was a persistent unwillingness to deal with the issue on their part I would make it clear that by not addressing it they were choosing to jeopardize their position as a children’s ministry volunteer. At that point they are effectively removing themselves and you are continuing to comunicate that your desire is reconciliation. That’s my two cents.

  • Peter D. November 20, 2012 Reply

    Any medium can be used for good or for evil, and as leaders and pastors, we are not the ultimate judges. Pointing the finger accomplishes nothing and gives way to destruction of the ministry.

    Our senior pastor just two weeks ago said in a ‘rant’ that facebook is of the devil. BUT, his wife is on facebook. Figure that one out. But this is more than about facebook, or twitter, netlog, Google plus, formspring, myspace, this is about holiness, which none of us are.

    Ultimately, the priest is wrong in denying communion to anyone. God looks upon the heart, and this young mans actions and posts may have well came from good intentions, misdirected(?) perhaps, and good intentions are not always scriptural.

    The church has one main directive. Preach the gospel to make disciples. When we step outside of that box, we are stepping away from the message. Let the Holy Spirit do the convicting, that’s His job, not ours.

  • Matt November 20, 2012 Reply

    I’m a college pastor, and our ministry deals with this issue nearly every week. If a student leader posts something inappropriate or inconsistent with Scripture, we approach the individual privately and talk through the issue. Each situation is different — in most cases, students have simply failed to remember that Facebook is a public website (hence the name “world wide web”). Their actions and words affect those whom they are leading, just like standing in front of one’s small group and spouting off obscenities would have a negative effect on those present.

    We look at these incidents as teaching opportunities. We discuss the higher responsibility of leadership and help the student consider how his or her words impact the church and their testimony for Christ. In nearly every case, we’ve found that people respond with grace and humility when they are approached with that sort of attitude. Most of our students willingly remove offensive posts, and apologize for them.

    Those who are defiant, defensive, or obstinate usually have other issues going on, and in one or two cases we’ve had to remove people from leadership. But the Facebook post alone is rarely the cause of that action. In some cases, posts like this reveal deeper issues. In some cases, they simply express immaturity, and that provides an open door for further discipleship.

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