The internet and search engines have changed the possibilities for spreading rumors at the same time they opens up the possibility of finding information relevant to clergy search committees. Carol Howard Merritt, author of "Tribal Church" (Alban), offers some thoughts:
How do we lead religious institutions in the Google generation? There are a few possibilities.
First, religious leaders can severely limit their web interactions. Some people have decided that it is too dangerous for one’s reputation to get in the mud of social media. If they do interact, then it’s all business. I respect this decision, but I also think that social media presents incredible opportunities for us to connect with people in authentic and creative ways. I would hate to miss out on that because I’m a pastor. In fact, it seems that I should be involved because I’m a pastor.
Second, we can encourage no-Google policies in our job searches. This is something that Daniel Solove condones, but I’m afraid it is not possible. When an employer is trying to gain as much information about a candidate’s character as possible, then I’m not sure that they can ignore such an important research tool. And even if the search committee did maintain a no-Google policy, the people in the institution or pew will be looking up the name on search engines.
Third, we can fully engage, realizing that every word we say could be public information. There are things about me on the Internet that I wish were not there, but when something arises that could taint my reputation, then I hope that more Internet usage will drown out the negative information.
It's all here at Faith & Leadership.
What do you think? Should a clergy search committee have a no googling policy?