Facebook Ministry 101: How to Create & Use Friends Lists in Facebook

One of my Facebook friends asked me for this information, and I said I'd write it up as a note, so I decided to write it up as a note here so that others could learn, if interested.

This can be useful information for anyone, but I think for ministers who friend congregants it's a particular must-know.  The basic concept is that in Facebook you can create "lists" for your friends, and then you can do various things with these lists, including blocking access to certain information.  This is somewhat different from "Groups" which I'll talk about another time, if it seems like people need to know.

Step One: Create a Friends List

Under the account link on the top left on your blue bar in Facebook there is an option called "Edit Friends."  Click on that.  Then there should be a button on the top that's labeled "+ Create a List."  If it's not there, look on the left-hand column.  Sometimes my menus look different because I've already done this than someone new's look.  Click on the Create a List button.  Enter a name at the top of the box that pops up, say "Congregants" and then click on the pictures of everybody who would belong in that group.  Then hit the button on the bottom to create, and you're done.  Congratulations!  You've created your first friends group!  Make as many more as you want -- I suggest starting with Congregants, Colleagues, Family, High School Friends, and College Friends.  If you're anything like me, that will cover a whole lot of people.  Oh, and then I have Girl Scout Parents, Jackson Residents, Family Friends, and so on...

Step Two: Sort Your Friends

After you've created a few lists like this, come back into the whole list of friends by clicking "Friends" at the top of the left column.  You're now seeing everybody again.  Scroll down the list systematically and make sure you've put everybody into the lists that are appropriate.  It doesn't hurt to have dozens of lists, or to put people in more than one list, or to have someone who is in no lists.  Think about two things as you're doing this.  First, if you want to bar access to certain information to a certain group, for example minors, who needs to be in that list?  Second, if you want to specifically grant access to a certain piece of information to a list, for example pictures of your child, who needs to be in that list?

Step Three: Viewing Friends Lists 

When you've got 500 friends, as I do, one nice feature of the Friends Lists is that you can sort your status updates by lists.  On the Home page, up at the top by the words "Most Recent" there is a little triangle.  If you click on that, you can select a list, and you'll be seeing only the posts from that list.  This can be helpful to use Facebook to check on how members of your congregation are doing -- spend a little time designated for pastoral care just perusing this list for issues going on.  People may be using their status updates to let you know they're having a hard time.  You can also sort it to see only your colleagues now, so that you can see who is posting about the latest big issue, or who else is doing sermon writing who you can procrastinate with.  You can sort it by your family, so you don't lose their posts in the hundreds that fly by.  It's helpful if you play a Facebook game, and you want to look for status updates from game players, too.   Sometimes it's helpful to sort by only status updates, so that you can just see what people are writing about themselves and not all the videos and articles they're linking to.

Step Four: Barring Access

Now you're ready to start limiting permissions.  Back up at that Account menu on the top left of the blue bar, click on privacy settings.  If you haven't familiarized yourself with your privacy settings, you really should take some time to do so.  But, for now, click on "Custom" on the left, and then on the center near the bottom, click on the little link that says, "Customize Settings."  This is where all the action happens.  This takes you to a list of different kinds of content everybody is setting.  To the right of each item is a box where you can pick who sees it.  Start by setting them all to "Friends Only" if they're set on "Everyone."  "Everyone" means everyone -- whether they even have a Facebook account or not.  You're open to Google.  "Friends Only" will be those people who you've accepted as friends.  Once you've done that, you're ready to get more in-depth.  If you click on "Custom Edit" a dialog box will pop up.  Here you can choose to limit a specific item to only a specific group, or you can bar a specific group.  Under "Make Visible to" you pick "specific group" and then say that you want only family to see pictures, if that is the case, or you can enter a group under "hide this from" to keep congregants from seeing your pictures.

I suggest focusing on specifically "Photos and videos I'm tagged in."  I limit access to this a lot, because anybody can tag you in any video or picture they want, even if it's not you.  If there might be a photo of you somewhere that you don't want everybody to see, and you don't 100% trust everybody involved, then absolutely right now set your permissions on this item.  I've lived a pretty tame life, but I don't trust everybody's sense of humor or sense of what's appropriate.  And if you've friended any minors, this is where somebody might just think it's funny to tag you on an obscene photo, and then it pops up in that minor's newsfeed.  Limit access to this in the way described above.

After that one, you can do the same to any other item.  Right now, members of my congregation are limited from everything, because I want to protect my sabbatical space.  I didn't have to de-friend them, just block them from commenting and block them from my posts, and then after sabbatical I can open things up again. 

Just as a note, you can also list individuals as well as friend lists in all these settings.

Step Five: Individual Posts & Pictures

Once you've mastered this, you're ready for the advanced level.  What you've just done on global settings can be done individually.  Each and every status update, note, video, or link you post has a little box next to the "Share" button that has a picture of a lock on it.  Click on that lock box and change the settings the same way you did in the security menus.  You can choose with each status update who you want to see it and who you don't.   You can even do this with those annoying pop-up posts for any games you play.  So if you're complaining about work, you can block that individual status update from work people.  Makes sense, yes?  Be careful, though, that you don't accidentally type in the wrong group!

What can be done for individual posts can also be done for photo albums.  Click on the album and then on "Edit Album" on the lower left.  Once you're there, you'll see a privacy menu that works using the same concepts as the other. 

That's it & good luck.


Alex said…
Thanks for this posting. I put it up on the Grosse Pointe Unitarian Church facebook page.
Cynthia Landrum said…
Thanks, Alex! I look forward to meeting you when I preach there as a guest on the 20th.

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