As pastors who are involved in the web and social media, we point our churches (and wider networks) towards pieces of information on the web we think is important. We can be agreeing or disagreeing with the writers position or the information, but essentially we are placing content in the eyes of folks that might not see it. These intentional moves are Pastoral Curation.
Josh Sternberg wrote a great piece on Mashable about called Why Curation is Important to the Future of Journalism. Curation cobbles together information or objects and shares them in a direct way with an intended audience. Museums have curators, and their decisions with individual pieces are always directed towards the entire exhibit. Art shows are curated for much the same reason.
With social media, when you decide to share a blog post, article or any other bit of information you are contributing to the wider idea of some way you either define yourself, your brand or business. There are folks I follow on twitter solely because I know the content they spread is unique and high quality. I can easily pigeonhole what I get from them. What we link others to contributes to the wider sense of our ministry.
Here are a few notes regarding the intentionality that should take place if we want to be good (and responsible) curators for the folks that we lead in relationship to God.
1. Understand Curation for Growth.
We point people to information that we think will be good for them. Sternberg notes that we should build trust. This is not something that is automatically given. Our congregations need to know that we have read and thought over this. Two things jump out to me first.
This isn't just information. There is a specific reason that we have pointed others towards it. Hopefully, the piece easily fits into the makeup of the community already and people won't be blindsided by it. Folks can easily see what should be gained from it.
Don't indoctrinate. Remember by linking to something, we are telling our congregations we approve of it. This is for growth, not control. We can't try to use other peoples information to try to control our congregations. We pass along what we consider to be relevant. Some of it we might agree with and some of it we won't.
2. Know what informs the needs of your congregation.
Don't use Twitter or Facebook as a soapbox. The role of pastoral curation is simple; intentional and relevant. People should never say "Why is she/he pointing me to this link ? ". Don't be passive aggressive either. It isn't ethical to constantly use the internet to point fingers or proclaim how unhappy you might be with your situation. I see this more and more with the church leaders I follow.
If it doesn't relate to the fabric of life and social situation of your church, it might not be worth the click.
3, Curate at the level of your congregation.
Perhaps this might be the most important. If you are serving in a small town in West Texas, pointing towards hip congregations in New York City might not be the best idea. But if you get wind of another church in a similar situation, it could be a great idea. If your congregation has only a few members under 60, consistently retweeting information for young adults wouldn't make sense. If you are aspiring to a higher level of academic training, linking to scholastic arguments makes no sense to a local congregation with hardly any higher education. We have to know our environment and actually have a plan regarding how we use these tools in relation to our congregation. Know who is online and how they use the internet. Encourage them to interact with you.
More and more church leaders are communicating around the internet in extremely apostolic ways. Your congregations are following/friending you, and that means you pastor them online as well as offline. We can't just pass this off as a social space where we don't have responsibilities. We want to give people resources so they can have deeper faith in God.