Although the “Online Community Pastor” position, generally speaking, is still relatively new, I’ve seen enough job descriptions and have hired, managed, and been a ‘Community Manager’ long enough to know what’s worked and what’s been needed for success.
Here are 10 character traits that I believe are essential for an Online Community Pastor and that can help you decide on who you should hire when it comes to filling in that position:
1. Expressive in their Passion for Jesus Christ
This pretty much goes without saying, but there are those that are passionate about Jesus Christ but not necessarily expressive with it, especially in the context of online. In an ever-increasing social web, one needs to be able to present their interest in Christ as well as express it explicitly. I think doing this well through digital mediums is fairly significant. Being “silent” here is really not an option, and “lifestyle” evangelism isn’t going to necessarily work.
2. Loves their Parent Ministry
Ultimately the Pastor needs to be in line with the Mission and Vision of the parent ministry and organization because it’s through that lens the community will grow and be fostered. You simply cannot have someone who fundamentally disagrees with the Mission and Vision of the Ministry and expect them to be an adequate extension into the virtual space.
3. Promoter and Listener
This person has to at least be halfway decent in terms of their ability to “promote” in the digital space. Publishing, pushing, sharing content is one thing, but being able to promote it well is another. Does this person know how to promote the programs, initiatives, and ministry to the world in a digital landscape and culture? In addition, being a good promoter in the online space means being a good listener first. How does one know what to promote if they don’t know what is needed by their community?
4. A Creator of Value
Surely sharing your current ministry resources and organizational stuff is good but creating relevant value to the community that isn’t necessarily institutional-bound is head-and-shoulders above (and what is needed in today’s social economy). Can this person create unique and powerful value, through whatever forms and mediums he/she is communicating through? Are they just “listening” or are they “engaging” and answering needs?
An online community manager is one that empowers the community to think and to act for themselves, to “own” the experience and to be move it forward. A successful online community pastor does the exact same thing, providing an opportunity for the community to feel like they are a part of something much greater than the actual experience. It’s really a lot like how we grow in our faith, as we may take our faith initially from our parents but then must one day own it ourselves. Can your pastor provide the necessary means and encouragement for this to happen?
6. Creator of Culture
Whether you like it or not you create culture when a community begins to develop. Does your Online Community Pastor rise to this occasion and opportunity or shrink from it? Do they help drive the creation of culture or become subject to it? There is certainly a give-and-take associated with this process as the community will help inform and provide points of need and desires, but the Pastor must be a catalyst for it.
7. Transparent and Engaging
This is absolutely necessary in the online world and without it you’re already sunk. People can smell and spot a fake online faster than bad theology so this person needs to be ready to be as engaging as they are transparent. That may mean a number of different things at the micro-level, but this person can’t be a clamshell.
8. Brave and Discerning
We are pioneers and the person you hire is going to be one. Are they ready to tackle the challenges of a position that has pretty much zero historical context? Are they ready to be innovators in a world that needs it badly? Are they willing to try new things and be hit hard from all camps of theological/philosophical/methodological thought? I pray for brave new Online Pastors to stand firm in their belief that the Gospel must be preached online. In addition, I think this person needs to be as discerning as they are brave. Being brave sometimes means saying “no” to a new web technology, knowing that although it may be “cool” it may not be effectual.
9. Independent in the Context of a Team
The Online Community Pastor needs to be able to respond and react to the needs of the community quickly with the ability to make decisions in real-time. But, they also need to be a part of a team, knowing that they can’t do it by themselves, and not go “rogue” on the larger more established organization. Alienation can happen so fast it’ll make your head spin. A healthy balance is needed here to successfully navigate the murky waters of online.
10. A Web Technology Mindset and Language
I don’t believe that an Online Community Pastor needs to be a savvy developer or one who has developed apps in a previous life. I think they need to be able to speak the language of the culture and have an attitude and mindset about the environment that they’re going to find themselves in daily. Deep knowledge of APIs, Frameworks, Microformats, and Extension aren’t necessary, but having the know-how on how to find out is pretty important as well.
This is a lesson I learned in Seminary: It’s not that you necessarily have to know everything (and remember everything) that you’re taught in Seminary, it’s about knowing where to find what you need when needed. I think the same thing can be applied to the Online Community Pastor role.
These are just some of the characteristics which I think will provide a firm base and foundation when you go looking for your new hire. Latitude is certainly afforded in each but I believe they are elements that can give you a good idea of what’s what and who’s who.
What would you add to the list?