I’m always amazed, but seldom surprised, by the content of status updates I see church leaders, especially pastors, making these days. One pastor was apparently having a bad day (or week, month, year, or ministry… I wasn’t sure which) and he let the world know that life pretty much sucked for him. I wondered what his parishioners were thinking: “Is it something we did?”

Then there are the political posts. I’ve yet to find a church that was 100% Republican, Democrat, Tea Party, Independent, or anything else. So when I see pastors and church leaders posting their ire at one party’s actions or another, I wonder what the rest of their congregation is thinking (let alone potential guests).

Interestingly, I saw a related tidbit in the July/August 2012 issue of Inc. magazine. According to a study, 34 percent of employers have rejected a job candidate because of the applicant’s social-media activity. The top reasons for rejection included: (1) They posted inappropriate photos or information; (2) There was evidence of drinking or drug use; (3) They had poor communication skills; (4) They badmouthed a previous employer.

Think your posts are personal, private, and protected? Think again. Pastor, you may one day need a new calling … and savvy churches know to check out your social-media accounts. Most churches aren’t so big that they can afford to alienate members and potential members because a pastor lambasted politics, couldn’t maintain clear boundaries, or was inept at living in a glass house. Perhaps the best rule of thumb for church leaders’ social media status updates is the old adage your grandmother used to pester you with: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Or perhaps the words of Paul, updated for today’s culture, might carry more weight: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths or find its way onto Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Question: How have you seen a pastor’s social media presence make a bad impression? How have you seen it make a positive difference? Share your experiences in the Comments section below.