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. Of particular note is the alarming increase of financial scamming that is happening through email and text messaging, where individuals are attempting to solicit funds from members, and/or do things like changing the direct deposit of individuals’ pay checks. Your practices will need to incorporate protecting your members from such unscrupulous acts.

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.)
  • 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).
  • 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 Social Media Management policy:

The UU community online and any others are welcome to engage directly with UUA content shared on any of our platforms, in alignment with settings available on each platform. Social media managers on the Communications staff team actively review comments out of a commitment to supporting an ongoing experience of Beloved Community. We moderate commenting to ensure that comments do not cause harm or use hateful speech, that irrelevant or spam content is not shared, and that the space is not misused or employed for something other than its intended purpose.

We reserve the right to make use of platform settings which allow review and removal of comments that we determine are in violation of our commenting policy. We also reserve the right to block individuals or accounts that are in violation of our policy or that we determine to be creating an unsafe environment for the community. We remove comments that are irrelevant, harmful, untrue, or represent a misuse of the commenting space.

When circumstances warrant the issuing of an important announcement or resource at a time when the organization is not staffed to monitor ensuing comments, UUA social media managers reserve the right to adjust post settings so that viewers cannot comment on the post. When commenting on a post appears to be creating ongoing harm, we reserve the right to turn off commenting as well. Understanding that the nature of social media platforms is conversational, we are committed to limiting comments only when necessary due to staffing or concerns about harm.

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. Failing this, we recommend that photos or recordings of young people only be from behind, without the ability to identify any of the young participants.
  • 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