CHURCH SOCIAL MEDIA GUIDELINES
Last Updated September of 2020
To be a living document to reflect current needs of St. Paul's United Methodist Church. To help facilitate safe spaces for conversation, community and dialogue within St. Paul's United Methodist Church on social media outlets, the following policy will be observed in the management of user-generated content submitted to St. Paul's United Methodist Church social media platforms. These include accounts or websites that are managed or moderated by staff. Such platforms include, but are not limited to:
Websites managed and moderated by St. Paul's United Methodist Church.
This policy provides guidelines for employees and/or volunteers to follow when they use social media tools on behalf of St. Paul's United Methodist Church, or when St. Paul's United Methodist Church becomes part of a social media dialogue.
Posts should contain family-friendly content only. No post can contain content unsuitable for viewing by children. This policy prohibits cursing, posting of adult acts or material, and/or any posts that include URLs linking to pages containing the aforementioned content.
Users should refrain from personal attacks and hate speech, including, but not limited to, attacking or calling into question the faith of an individual or group. These kinds of comments will not be allowed on any official social media or web Platform.
Similarly, no post should contain threats or descriptive acts of violence towards other users or individuals. In the case of such post, the site administrator will record the post, consult with organizational leaders, and contact appropriate authorities about the threatening behavior.
Posts or comments should not promote products or services from which that user, or another, would personally profit because St. Paul's United Methodist Church is a registered nonprofit organization.
Posts and comments that don’t adhere to the following guidelines are in conflict with the mission of St. Paul's United Methodist Church and are subject to removal.
Repeated violation of this policy may result in a user being blocked or removed from St. Paul's United Methodist Church platforms.
SAFE SANCTUARIES GUIDELINES
As an ever-increasing number of people use and prefer digital communication over other forms, it is essential that the church be present in this mission field. Social networking sites, on-the-spot communication devices and email can enhance communication, faith sharing and deepen relationships.
The following recommended practices and guidelines apply principles of healthy boundaries and safe church to the virtual world of digital networking and communication. They are intended to raise awareness of issues and open doors of conversations with ministry teams.
We encourage all ministry teams to discern together the following guidelines, considering the nature of your ministry and being mindful that our calling is to meet children and youth where they are; model healthy boundaries; and love and care for them safely.
Adults engaged in ministry to youth and children should consider their relationship with the youth or child when interacting with them using digital media, and should conduct themselves in a manner that would be acceptable on church grounds.
CONNECTING ON SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES
1. In addition to participating on the ministry pages, youth may wish to establish social media connections with church leaders and adult volunteers engaged in youth ministry. Adults who are willing to participate in these relationships should use the following guidelines when establishing these connections:
a. Adults should not submit ‘friend’ requests to children or youth. Minors may feel like they are not able to decline such requests due to the disparity of power between them and adults. Exceptions to this rule should only be made in situations when the adult’s privacy settings make it difficult or impossible for the youth to find the adult’s page on the site. In these circumstances, it is acceptable for an adult to request a youth as a friend, if the youth has requested that they do so.
b. Due to the greater potential for misinterpretation, inappropriate discussions, and inadvertent exposure of youth to inappropriate content; personal pages should be maintained appropriately. Church leaders and adult volunteers should avoid relationships with children/youth via Social Networking sites, unless an actual relationship (ministry, family friendship, etc.) already exists between them.
c. As additional social media sites gain popularity, the Safe Sanctuaries Committee reserves the right to apply this approach to the various methods of digital communication.
2. All church leaders and adult volunteers engaged in ministry with children and youth are strongly encouraged to set strict privacy settings on any personal social networking profile, making every effort to prevent youth and children from being introduced to objectionable content. Privacy settings on personal pages and information should be thoroughly scrutinized on a regular basis to prevent this information from being available to minors. In the event that a church leader or adult volunteer does not feel that they can set the proper privacy settings and/or regularly check their personal pages (2-3 times per day) for inappropriate material that might have been posted by others, they are asked to completely restrict child/youth access to their pages.
3. For the sake of their own privacy and the well-being of the child/youth participants, church leaders and adult volunteers should not add or invite children or youth to any groups, events, pages, chat rooms,
etc. that are not solely dedicated to activities directly related to the children or youth ministries or ministry activities.
4. Given the continuing evolution of privacy settings and capabilities on many social networking sites, church leaders and adult volunteers must be willing to continue to educate themselves on what settings are needed to support the above recommendations. Additionally, the child and youth ministry programs should establish education for adult volunteers who wish to use social media as part of their ministry efforts.
Social media is an excellent way to quickly share both good and sad moments in a person’s life with a large number of people. However, as with all forms of communication, users should be respectful of the privacy of others. This is particularly the case with youth and children’s ministry leaders. Leaders should be especially mindful of how information is presented in such a permanent medium, and should never share news about another person without their express prior consent.
5. Use prudent judgment in the time you contact youth and children through social media, e-mail or other forms of digital communication. The "home phone rule" is a basic rule of thumb to use – normally do not text or chat with youth at a time you would not normally call their home phone line, i.e. before 9:00 AM or after 9:00 PM.
Exceptions to this rule are as follows:
a. In emergency situations or when children or youth reach out to a church leader or adult volunteer with issues that they feel that they need to discuss immediately.
b. During weekends, vacation times, and other times when children or youth may have parental permission to stay up later than normal, adult leaders may respond to youth initiated communications outside of these hours, at their discretion.
In all of the exception situations, adults should use good judgment in deciding when discussions should continue or be picked up at a more appropriate time, in order to support and demonstrate good boundaries with their personal time.
6. All church leaders and adult volunteers engaged in ministry with children and youth should consider the content and nature of any posts that will be seen or read by others. Your voice is often considered the voice of the church.
7. ‘One on one’ video or chat room interaction is generally not appropriate between adults and minors. Such communications should only be engaged in where no face-to-face communication is possible, such as where the youth is away for the summer in a foreign country but regularly communicates with the adult in person.
8. When the content of received communications raises concerns or questions, it should be shared with a member of the Pastoral team, and law enforcement, where appropriate.
a. Email is not an appropriate communication method for matters that are pastorally sensitive, emotionally charged, or that require extensive conversation.
b. Email may be more appropriate where matters are deemed legally sensitive.
c. Humor and sarcasm can be easily misinterpreted, and should be used only where appropriate. All communication sent digitally (email, social networking sites, notes or posts, etc.) may be shared or reposted to others. Adults should be mindful that comments sent to a youth may be shared by that youth in a number of ways and that misinterpretation of those comments may occur.
9. Phone conversations and face-to-face meetings are the preferred mode of communication, when responding to emotionally driven communication or pastoral emergencies, and should be used when possible to provide the appropriate level of support.
We will seek to protect the privacy and identity of all minors in our use of social media. All church leaders and adults leaders in youth and children’s ministry should closely monitor the privacy settings of any posted youth images to ensure that they are not accessible to individuals who do not have permission to view them.
10. All church leaders and adult volunteers engaged in ministry with minors must not post photos or video that identify children or youth on any online site or printed publication without the written consent from a parent or legal guardian. This rule is in keeping with the Second UMC Safe Sanctuaries Policy, Section 18 (Photographs).
11. Even with the written consent from a parent or legal guardian, pictures should be posted to either the Youth closed group or on personal pages, where the privacy settings restrict viewing to only those associated with the youth ministry.
12. We strongly encourage the respect and dignity of every person depicted in an image. Only pictures depicting youth in an appropriate light should be posted. “Appropriate” pictures may include goofy pictures that the youth’s parents are comfortable being posted. If a picture would make the youth feel self-conscious, vulnerable, or would subject the youth to ridicule, the picture should not be posted.
13. When checking in with any location tagging social media, only check-in yourself. Never check-in minors. Be sensitive to tagging or revealing other participants’ locations.
ADMINISTRATION OF OFFICIAL ST. PAUL’S UNITED METHODIST CHURCH SOCIAL MEDIA GROUPS
14. Each church related social media site, group or page must have a minimum of two unrelated administrators, who are either church leaders or adult volunteers engaged in the ministry.
15. Sites must be monitored frequently to allow for quick responses in the event urgent or crisis concerns are posted.
16. Administrators should review the access to the St. Paul's United Methodist Church Youth ‘Closed’ group account to remove:
a. Adult leaders who no longer actively participate in the youth program
b. Former youth members, and their parents, who no longer actively participate in the youth program.
c. Active participation in the youth group may include:
i. For former youth:
1. Having a sibling who remains in the youth group
2. Having a number of younger friends who participate in the youth group
3. Regular attendance as a counselor or participant on summer mission trips, but not participating on a weekly or monthly basis
ii. For adults:
1. Regular attendance as a counselor or participant on summer mission trips, but not participating on a weekly or monthly basis
2. An established mentor/mentee role with an older youth
3. Family relationships that essentially establish the adult in an older sibling or parental role with an active youth
4. Youth leaders who, but for their geographic distance from Second, would remain involved in the lives of the youth, provided that the youngest age the adult worked with have not matriculated out of the youth group Any inappropriate material posted to a church related social media site, group or page must be deleted and addressed.
Refer to the Second UMC Safe Sanctuaries Policy ‘Reporting Allegations of Abuse’ section for further information and reporting guidelines.
Additional Resources, Guides and Information on Safe Sanctuaries can be found at:
We do not give legal advice or services by providing the above suggestions and model policies. As a ministry locally or regionally owned and operated, you are encouraged to consult with your own legal counsel and other professional advisors as part of the adoption of your specific policies and procedures for the prevention of abuse.
For additional information and resources please visit Safe Sanctuaries Media and Social Media Guidelines, Samples, and Links
The information contained herein is not legal advice and you should not rely upon it as such.
Please do not copy this policy.