This guide will help the Christian athlete to leverage their social media accounts for the glory of God. As Christian athletes, we can easily fall into the trap of thinking the content that spills out of our social media accounts should be all about us. One of the buzz-words gaining steam over the last few years is the idea of “branding yourself.”
Simply put, this means making sure people see us in a certain light that benefits our long-term prospects and personal brand identity.
But, for the Christian athlete, promoting yourself should always be a secondary concern. Don’t be fooled by the hype: Whatever platform you currently have to influence others is a stewardship granted to you by God. He wants you to learn to use it for His purposes and not merely for your own.
This guide will help you think about how to do that more effectively and offers some tracks to run down you may never have considered.
Get Better Simply By Avoiding Stupidity
Most social media resources for athletes center around a common theme: Don’t be a moron. It makes sense. For Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, social media plays a big part in who he recruits. "He's got to have a GPA that I can relate to, an ACT or SAT score or a pre-ACT score, and the third box is for social media," Bielema says.
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He is not the only coach who is paying attention to athletes via social media:
Came across an awful Twitter account today. Shame the kid was a really good player...On to the next one...get a clue!— Coach Justin Stepp (@coachjstepp) January 8, 2016
Dropped another prospect this AM due to his social media presence...Actually glad I got to see the 'real' person before we offered him.— Herb Hand (@CoachHand) July 30, 2014
JJ Watt, star defensive end for the Houston Texans has said “Every single time I post something on social media I read it over and over again, from everybody’s perspective—my grandma’s, my 5th grade teacher’s, my parents’ my teammates’, my coaches’. Just reading it over can make you re-think everything.”
Coaches and players alike are learning that social media is a reflection of an athlete’s character. Because this is true, most suggestions for how to use social media fall under the banner over helping you not be stupid. That is not a bad thing.
Like fire, social media has potential to do great harm if we are not careful. There is wisdom in exercising caution with it.
Don’t Be Offensive—But Stay on Offense!
But it also is loaded with positive potential if we know how to use it correctly. Athletes have a platform so it is beneficial to talk through how to use it well, not merely how to avoid using it in ways that hurt you.
We need a higher standard, especially as followers of Christ, for how to leverage our social media accounts for the glory of God.
I have been on Twitter for almost a year and have 70 people following me. Nobody cares what I have to say. How many people are following you? These people have chosen to pay attention to what you have to say on a daily basis. What are you feeding them?
Before we dive into the 5 habits you should be actively doing on your social media accounts, let me make you aware of two things.
- Social media is different than any other media outlet. If you get interviewed after a game and talk about Jesus, people watching/listening/reading are, in a sense, forced to pay attention to you. It is why most people who are not Christians get annoyed when we talk about our faith. But in the world of social media, people CHOOSE to listen to you.
- Whatever “brand identity” you are going for, if you identify as a follower of Christ, making Him known better play a big part in that.
Because people are choosing to paying attention to what you have to say, here are 5 things you should be doing:
Share edifying content
You have an incredible opportunity to impact your audience by simply sharing good content with them. This assumes you know where to find it.
What do you regularly read or pay attention to that draws you closer to God? If you cannot think of any online source where you are consistently drawing from, here are a few recommendations: desiringgod.org, relevantmagazine.com, athletesinaction.org, compete4christ.co.
How you share this matters as well. Whatever you do, do not just copy and paste the link for your audience to click on. Give it your stamp of approval while at the same time understanding that the majority of non Christians consider Christians to be preachy and hypocritical.
What you share with your audience matters. The tone in which you share it matters just as much. Here are a few creative ways to evangelize someone else’s content in a way that is humble and thought provoking.
“This piece by __ was super challenging to me. Check it out!”
“I was so convicted after reading this, y’all need to read it and let me know what you think.”
“Reading this really changed my perspective on __. I think you will be challenged too!”
Encourage your followers to follow pastors, ministry leaders, and sports ministries
Introduce your followers to people/ministries whose purpose is to give consistently great content to their followers. Remember those ministry websites I listed above? Here a couple of their online mission statements:
DesiringGod.org exists to help people everywhere understand and embrace the truth that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.
Athletesinaction.org exists to help sports-minded people live and think biblically at the intersection of sports and Christianity.
There are ministries and people out there whose sole mission is to provide consistent, biblical content for people to digest. Is your mission to do something similar?
Probably not. And that is ok.
God has gifted you with a talent that makes other people pay attention to you. Every once in awhile tell them to pay attention to someone else. Here are a couple ways to do that:
Twitter: “If you’re not following __ already, I would highly encourage you too. He/she/they have helped me grow so much in my faith!”
Facebook: “If you haven’t liked the fan page of ___ do so now. With all of the junk that comes across our news feeds, what he/she/they produce will be a refreshing change for you!”
Instagram: “If you are not following __ you need to start now! Check him/her/them out, you won’t regret it!”
Athlete, you are probably really good at playing whatever sport God has gifted you to play. Pastors, writers, and other ministry leaders are good at connecting with people about spiritual issues because God has gifted them as well. Introduce your audience to people/ministries who specialize in delivering consistently edifying digital content.
Repent publicly and privately
Your followers need to know that what separates Christians from everyone else is not moral perfection, but forgiveness. If you end up cussing out an official, get on social media and apologize to your fans who look to you to be a model of Jesus. If your sport is not televised, get on social media and tell your audience what happened. Don’t make excuses. Apologize.
I believe for some of us, we also need to repent privately concerning the area of social media. Most of us have been made aware of the dangers of making sports an idol in our lives. Countless articles, blogs, sermons, chapels have been created around this idea that we should not derive our identity from what we do on the playing field.
But how many of us check our followers on a daily basis and gather a sense of satisfaction from the increasing numbers? How many of us feel a sense of pride as our fan base becomes more enamored with us?
Conversely, how many of us feel inadequate in this area? How many of us wish we had thousands of people paying attention to what we have to say?
If you find yourself in this category, I would encourage you to repent privately to God. Social media may have become an idol in your life.
Be a real human
Post images and share about what you do on an everyday basis. Athlete, people put you on a pedestal. Your sport gives you an elevated position in our culture. A 2013 study showed that athletes have more influence in our society than pastors. People are listening to you because you are good at sports. If you want to actually influence them, however, you need to “come down” to their level and show that you are like them.
Your followers need to know that you are normal too. When they see that you are normal and then you offer a tweet like “Check out this article from __, it was super helpful for me in my walk with Christ,” they are more likely to engage with it.
Ask for prayer
If you have thousands of people who CHOOSE to pay attention to what you have to say, why wouldn't you ask for them to pray for you? Most fans put athletes on a pedestal. We need to be careful not to believe the hype. When you ask for prayer, you are humbling yourself and saying “I need help” which is the essence of the gospel.
Encourage people to pray either for you or for things that are important to you: a cultural event, things happening on campus (if you’re in college) or in the city where you play, something happening at church, a Tweet or piece of social media or news story that caught your attention. Why not lead people to stop talking about or to you and instead encourage them to talk to God alongside you?
You Can Do This!
Seventy-eight percent of Americans are on social media and a handful of them are paying attention to you. Keep learning how to be a good steward of the talent God has given you and the people He has put in place who listen to what you say!