Efforts to create safer congregations extend beyond the walls of the building and into the realm of online community as well. Visitors are more likely to have “met” your congregation online long before venturing through your doors. A congregation’s online presence and communication strategies should be incorporated in your safer congregation planning.
Social media and online platforms are constantly evolving tools providing opportunities for communication as well as challenges for maintaining safety. Due to this fast-paced evolution of technology, the following best practices are suggested and can be applied to current and future platforms your congregation utilizes.
Consider Safety and Confidentiality
Use a tone in your text, audio, and video content that reflects the values of your congregation. Establish clear expectations for behavior by both content creators, (i.e., the people writing blog posts, wall posts, Tweets, etc.) and commenters, (i.e., the people who are commenting on a blog, responding to a wall post, responding to Tweets, etc.)
Content moderation policies are a good way to clarify what kinds of comments and feedback are allowed on your site. This is the UUA’s Facebook page policy:
Define what type of content will be considered inappropriate on your congregation’s page. Define the type of content that the ministry will not tolerate on its page. Obscene, embarrassing, or abusive material; advertising; and spam will likely fall into this category. Also, outline the content that must be reported to law enforcement if discovered.
Discuss the responsibilities of staff and volunteers who serve as moderators, including expectations around how often they should monitor the platform. At least once a day is best. Train team members on how to respond if someone posts about a serious immediate crisis (such as thoughts of self-harm or threatening harm to others or the congregation’s property).
Recommendations for Publishing/Posting Content Online
Congregations must inform participants when they are being recorded on video because church buildings are not considered public space.
Congregations that share videos of worship services or activities, on the web or via other broadcast media, must post signs that indicate the service will be broadcast and whether they will be archived online.
Do not post videos of a public performance of music, (e.g., worship or intro songs) unless you have obtained copyright and other permissions for broadcasting (live-streaming) and archiving such performances, if you also archive.
Congregations should obtain signed Media Release forms from adults and guardians of minor children who will, or may, participate in activities that may be photographed or videoed for distribution or archival purposes.
Photos that are published on church-sponsored sites should not include names or contact information for persons under 18.
Communication and Social Media with Youth
- UUA.org guidance on Youth (ages 14-18) and Social Media Policies
Social Media Resources and Sample Policies
- The Ultimate List of Social Media Policies for Churches & Ministries
- Social Media Policy (pdf 4 pages): St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
- Social Media - 6 questions every church social media policy should answer-United Methodist Resource