If you’ve read my blog for at least five years or more, you know that my husband is a Lutheran pastor and I’m thus a pastor’s wife. A number of my online friends are clergy buddies or people who are married to clergy and I’ve seen bad things happen to people who aren’t judicious in what they put on their blogs or on Facebook. (It’s happened to me too though it was nothing I wrote but rather the fact that I had a blog.) So… in the interest of helping out any clergy hopefuls (and also giving a resource to certain synod staff who read my blog), here are my rules for blogging as clergy or a clergy spouse.
1.) Don’t use your whole name. My last name is pretty searchable and while this blog isn’t the first item that comes up, it does eventually come up on a Google search. Unless you *REALLY* want people (including parishioners) reading everything you write, don’t use your whole name.
2.) Pseudonyms are good. A good clergy blog friend of mine uses pseudonyms for her husband, sons, church, and town. It means that she’s a bit harder to find online if someone does a search for her. While I use my real name, I think creating your own pseudonym is a better idea. Nickname your church(es) and your town (if you live in a small one).
3.) Anything you say can and WILL be used against you so password the good stuff. Had a crappy council meeting? If you blog it, you need to password it. WordPress lets you do that and Livejournal even hides posts that are “friends-only” and will let you filter who sees what. If you go with a CMS like WordPress, title things in a way that doesn’t draw attention to what they might be. For example, “Stupidity at Church Council” probably isn’t a good title. “Frustration” might work better.
4.) Don’t “friend” parishioners or give out your password. If you have a Facebook, consider making a censored one for parishioners so they aren’t privy to your personal life, especially if ANY of your status updates involve church. If you have a blog, don’t give your password out to people in your real life. If those people get pissed at you, you’re opening yourself up for a whole lot of trouble as well as hours of work re-passwording everything.
5.) Don’t use your blog to air the dirty laundry in your parish. If you’re pissed about something and need to get it off your chest, do a private entry. (Both WordPress and Livejournal will let you do that.) This harkens back to rule #3 — your people will get royally irritated if they think that you’re using your blog as a platform to harp about them, so don’t give them a reason to think that you are.
6.) Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your worst enemy to see. We’ve all heard about people losing their jobs or being denied acceptance to Ivy League schools over a stupid picture on Facebook. Your blog functions similarly. People might not be able to access the actual entry but they *can* find it accidentally in a Google search. Don’t put something up there for them to find.
7.) If you’re a clergy spouse, remember that anything you say has the effect of your spouse saying it. I’m rather passionate about a lot of issues and I either have to password my rants or take a milder tone because anything I say will be co-opted as something that my husband said. It isn’t fair but it’s a reality. If you have a rant, password it or put it in a private entry. Better yet, have a separate passworded blog for your ranting — it’s what some of my friends do.
This isn’t a totally humorous entry but it’s one that I thought was important and timely, especially as I’m watching pastor friends venting openly on Facebook and thinking “you really need to protect that….”