Social Media and Safer Communications

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:

The UUA has the right to delete any inappropriate content from this page, including but not limited to: irrelevant content, hateful content, attacks against an individual, financial solicitations, endorsements of a political candidate or party, and content that violates Facebook’s terms of use, code of conduct, or other policies. Content that violates Facebook’s policies may also be reported.

  • 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

Social Media Resources and Sample Policies

About the Author

Kim Sweeney

Kim Sweeney is a UUA-Credentialed Religious Educator and independent consultant who worked for seven years as the Lead for Faith Formation and Safe Congregations on the UUA’s New England Regional staff team. She is the author of Courageous Faith Consulting and is a sought-after presenter and...

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