August 12, 2010
Can Google Hurt a Church Leader's Job Search?
Weighing online realities about our reputations--and ourselves.
I keep my CV updated. People often need it to introduce me for conferences. The strange thing is, in this era of shared information, I often do not know where my work has been published. My mother recently let me know that I had an article in an Assemblies of God journal. I had no idea. The viral nature of our information is the magical part of the web. But there are difficult things about it too.
I have friends who make sure that they are on top of each time someone is talking about them on the Internet. I'm not so vigilant. I usually run into stuff by accident, and recently there has been some rather strange things popping up. A "heresy hunter" has been trolling my information. He finds it offensive that I am a woman minister, so he writes unflattering portrayals of my work, peppered with name-calling. The site looks legitimate, and the blogger maintains that he is the pastor of a church, but when you try to look up the congregation, it's actually a Chinese restaurant. As a writer, I shrug and think, Any publicity is good publicity. But as a pastor, I'm not so sure. As church leaders, what we do hinges on our reputation.
This experience has made me wonder: what happens if someone on a search committee Googles the name of a candidate who has been attacked by a vicious blogger? How much will that weigh on the committee's decision? We can usually control what sort of information we put on the Internet about ourselves, but we cannot control what people say about us. We also have very little legal recourse in these situations (to dig deeper, see Daniel Solove).
How do we lead religious institutions in the Google generation? There are a few possibilities: