We all know the old proverb that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me.” That proverb is wrong. Words can hurt, but words can also heal.

One of the new issues about our words is how to use our words in the realm of social media – e-mails, texts, Twitter, Facebook, etc. The Cabinet, Conference Directors and I have discussed this issue in many contexts recently, and now the group has worked collaboratively with Helene Foust, our new Associate Director for Student Ministry, and several other younger clergy and laity of our Conference to help us develop our own guidelines for our use of social media. Last week at our monthly meeting, the Cabinet and the Conference Directors adopted an excellent guideline piece entitled, “3 Simple Rules for Social Media.”Click here to go to that document on our Indiana Conference web site. 

I really like the document, and I want to lift up several aspects about it which are especially helpful:

  1.  It is based upon the Three Simple Rules first developed by John Wesley to guide the Methodist people and revised by Bishop Rueben Job in his book by that title. I really like that format.

  2. The guidelines are really a “covenant” among the Cabinet and Directors about our own use of the Social Media. If other groups, even the Clergy Session, want to consider adopting similar guidelines, that is great, but these Guidelines are just a witness how your conference leadership are pledging to use the social media.

  3. The guidelines do not focus upon “discipline” or upon what will happen if anyone breaks these guidelines. We felt that the HR policies for conference staff, the Social Principles for all clergy and laity, and the chargeable offenses in our Book of Discipline all cover how to deal with violations. Our “3 Simple Rules for Social Media” focus upon an affirmation of the positive use of such media.

So, I invite you to look at this document, to consider how it might be revised or applied to your own life, to your church staff, to the clergy of the Indiana Conference, and to all United Methodists in Indiana. It is certainly not a perfect document, but it helps everyone to know our hearts as we seek to use our words to help and heal, and not to hurt.