Social media, ranging from web sites to Facebook, from text messaging to Instagram and Twitter, is a common part of everyday life for many people and can be a useful part of the life of the congregation. Still, it must be used with care and sensitivity, reflecting the values of Memorial UCC and protecting children, members, friends and our staff.
In using social media, staff members and volunteer leaders need to keep in mind the same principles that guide our Safe Sanctuary policy – “to provide a safe environment for the children and youth who are entrusted to our care as they participate in our programs and use our facilities.
We want our congregation to be a haven, free of sexual misconduct, harassment or inappropriate interaction.”
Among the specific guidelines in our Safe Sanctuary policy, these carry over to the use of social media:
- The ideal is for there always to be two adults in any situation involving young people. When that is not possible, it is vital to notify another adult of the circumstances and when possible, to notify the parents.
- Never put yourself in a situation where you are alone with a child out of sight from anyone else.
- If anyone feels a child has been abused in any way in a church-related setting, the concern will be treated seriously, respectfully and promptly. If potential illegal activity is involved, the police will be called immediately.
Our policies for social media are an outgrowth of those guidelines.
It is also important to remember that social media is not confidential space. Even in “closed” groups or private communications, it’s possible for information to be copied and shared in other spaces. Even with that in mind, church staff ought to treat communications from members and friends with the same respect and confidentiality that they would in-person communication. They should also use care in responses or postings on social media so they reflect the ethic of respect and caring that is part of who we strive to be at Memorial UCC.
Youth and Social Media
The area of social media that needs the most caution is that involving our young people. Just as our Safe Sanctuary policy says that “no teacher, advisor, aide or anyone else working with our children or youth should place themselves in a compromising situation by being alone with a child or with children out of sight of other teachers, advisors, aides or parents” so too with social media.
While there may be times when emailing, texting or messaging a young person for scheduling purposes is necessary, it is always best to copy a parent or co-worker on those contacts. If a young person initiates a deeper conversation, that staff member or volunteer should invite them into a face-to-face setting where more than one adult will be present.
Adults, including authorized ministers, should not submit “friend” requests to youth. Youth may request friendships with adults, and adults should discern the level of contact they should maintain with youth prior to responding to these requests. It is advisable to contact the young person’s parents or guardians before accepting a friend request and staff members should maintain a list of the youth they have connections with on social media that is shared with at least one other staff member.
We will not identify any children by name in photos on any web page or social media site associated with Memorial UCC. The registration forms for youth events like Sunday school and for Vacation Bible School will contain this section: Can we use your child’s picture (we won’t use last names): On our photo boards in the church? In printed publications? On social media sites? We will not use photos of any children for whom we do not have that permission. Adults who do not want their photos to be used in social media or church publications should notify the pastor who will make sure the congregation honors their request.
Digital space should be regulated in similar ways to other church space: there must be more than one adult who administrates church-related sites, closed groups, list serves, etc.; adults should not be in private, one-on-one conversations with youth; the congregation should periodically monitor the social media interactions of the adult leaders (authorized ministers, employed or volunteer youth workers, etc.).
The office manager will maintain a current list of pages, groups and accounts associated with the church or ministry setting, along with any relevant passwords and the names of all administrators. This list should always be accessible to another member of the ministry setting staff or governing board.
The work emails for staff members will be readily accessible on the site. We also will list the names and emails of the members of the council.
No church-related digital information should be deleted.
We will not include prayer requests from the worship service in any audio on the site. We will not include prayer requests from the weekly email on our web site. If we create a “prayer chapel” for people to post prayer requests, those requests must be approved before being posted. We will strive to honor the privacy of members and of their friends and relatives in how these requests are posted.