Given the increased use of technology and social media in the life of the church and its individual members, churches and conferences have a responsibility to define social media policies that uphold the covenant to create safety for children, youth, and vulnerable adults.
Utilization of technology, the internet, and all social media tools will be used to promote Christian community and the building up of authentic relationships.
- Protection of the privacy and identity of all persons under 18 years of age and all vulnerable adults in online writings, postings, and discussions must be a top priority.
- Adult employees and staff must not post photos or videos that identify children, youth, or vulnerable adults on any online site or printed publication without written consent from a parent or legal guardian.
- All social media groups and associated with Preschools, Children’s or Youth Ministry areas will be designated as “closed” groups, requiring all those who wish to gain access to be approved by the page administrators. Groups will be reviewed annually, and inactive members will be removed.
- All church-related social media groups and pages must have at least two administrators. If an administrator is no longer associated with the ministry, that individual’s administrative status must be revoked.
- Photos of minors may only be published or posted after a photo release has been signed by their parent/guardian. Photos used in other mediums, such as church newsletters, websites, blogs, etc., must not include any identifying information about minors.
- Photos may only be posted to the social media page by page administrators. Adults (staff, volunteers, parents, etc.) should not identify minors in photographs posted online or in print. Individuals (including minors) are welcome to identify (i.e. “tag”) themselves.
- When checking in on any location tagging social media, only “check in” yourself. Never check in minors. Be sensitive to tagging or revealing other participants’ locations without their expressed permission.
- In the case of clergy and parishioner online connections, Friend Requests, Follow Requests, Circle Requests, etc. should be initiated by the parishioner, especially if the parishioner is a minor or vulnerable adult. Adults must maintain appropriate relational boundaries with minors.
- No adult shall initiate social media contact with or “friend” a minor or vulnerable adult.
- Prior to accepting “friend” requests of minors, adults should verify they are following the church’s social media policy, including confirming their actions with the pastor as required.
- Any conversations with minors or vulnerable adults shall occur in open channels.
- When emailing, texting, tweeting, or messaging a minor, adults should copy another adult (ideally a parent or guardian) on the message, or post it in a public venue (i.e. a Facebook wall as opposed to a private message). This will allow adults to maintain the “two adults present” standard when using social media.
- Social media, even though it offers convenient and private channels, is not an appropriate medium for discussing crises. Begin or transition a crisis conversation into a format that can be more personal, while still adhering to the need for two adults present, or an open door, or window, etc.
- Do not engage in, encourage or condone cyberbullying. Every children’s ministry and youth ministry group, and adult volunteer training session should include in its teaching and ministry Code of Conduct a session on the types and consequences of cyber-bullying, including how to identify it and how to report it.
- Adults must educate young people on the effective ways of using social media and technology to live out their Christian witness in what they write, post, share, and view.
- Adults must understand, and teach to minors and vulnerable adults, that once something is posted on the web, sent via email, or sent via text, it is impossible to fully recover or erase it. There should be no expectation of privacy or reasonable expectation that the information stops with the person for whom it was intended.
- A good rule of thumb: If you do not want it shared throughout the congregation and community, do not text it or post it via social media.
SAMPLE Local Church Social Media Policy
SAMPLE Local Church Social Media Covenant