As your church delves further into social media, the question of policies will inevitably surface. If your church does not yet have a social media policy, now is the time to write one! So why do you need one, how do you start, and how do you use it prudently?
Why Your Church Needs a Social Media Policy
- Social media policies protect your church. As social media evolves, it can be difficult to keep up. However, it’s possible to create basic guidelines rooted in Christian values, common sense, and general tech functionality. A church social media policy offers boundaries to your staff and ensures consistent, values-driven messaging across social media platforms.
- Social media policies protect your parishioners. With increasing numbers of minors on social media, young people — as well as other vulnerable persons — can connect in a manner not supervised by traditional means. By having firm guidelines in place, you ensure that digital communications are in compliance with safe environment standards.
- Social media policies protect your Gospel vision. Social media is a place of self-expression, but what happens when a key church leader publicly posts something not in line with your values? Prudent social media policies will cover how parish staff, ministry leaders, and volunteers use the platforms.
With social media, once-private opinions are private no longer. Before someone signs up as a volunteer or is hired on as a staff member, having them sign a social media policy is important. Here are some things to consider when constructing your parish policy.
- Inappropriate interactions. Harassment, bullying, and retaliation are universally forbidden. Consider policies for friend requests and private messaging, especially with minors and vulnerable adults.
- Views or public lifestyle decisions that are contrary to Church teaching. For volunteers and staff members, their discipleship is on display. No one is perfect, and everyone wrestles with some tenets of the faith. However, publicly giving witness to something gravely contrary to Church teachings could be counterproductive to your parish mission.
- Privacy. Privacy settings can be altered. For groups involving minors, you can set the privacy setting to “secret,” rather than merely “closed,” to ensure that the group does not show up in any search engines. You may also want to limit location sharing and the tagging of particular persons to protect your parishioners’ privacy.
- Policies already in place. Your diocese may already have a social media policy in place. It’s still your responsibility to communicate this clearly and effectively to your staff and volunteers. Here are samples from Milwaukee, Cincinnati , and Galveston-Houston. There may also be laws that pertain to your parish’s public face (political campaigning, for example). Social media counts!
Platforms Are Unique
Your church may want to use a number of different social media platforms. However, there are differences between what you can share and how communication works.
- Use of church-provided email. Do you want to limit the content that passes through your parish server to professional matters?
- Facebook. While your parish may have a general Facebook page, many churches have ministry-specific pages with certain demographics, like youth or young adult ministry, which could require additional guidelines. Here are some great Facebook pages to inspire you.
- Twitter. For this platform to function to its full potential, it requires lots of engagement. Determine who is posting and how frequently, and set guidelines for engagement. For Twitter-specific tips, see here.
- Snapchat. This platform’s expiring posts present a unique challenge, especially for engaging with minors. Here are some ideas for using it well.
The world of social media is continually evolving. Innovating without oversight can lead to problems. The solution isn’t to avoid social media but to use it with prudential judgment. How do you use social media at your church?