There is significant power to be leveraged in social media and digital communication. We have seen trends and headlines make celebrities and break leaders. The difficulty in today’s media-saturated world is aligning your church’s culture and values with your digital communication while maintaining integrity. Never before has this been more challenging, especially for large and diverse church staffs.
While all church staffs have varying focuses, challenges, cultures, and demands, it is important to establish some baseline social media guidelines for two primary purposes: 1) to help set clear expectations and 2) to give practical examples to help your staff to see what is “in and out of bounds.”
Here are a few thoughts to consider as you establish your church staff’s social media and email guidelines or revise your current ones.
1. Always stay positive.
Never speak negatively about other people or other organizations either in person or on social media platforms. It goes without saying that you always want to reflect a positive image forward, and tearing down others is never the way to accomplish that. Consider the fact that sarcasm can also come across as negative so choose your message wisely before posting.
During the COVID-19 global pandemic, churches were forced to move online and create a digital presence if they hadn’t before. In times of crisis, churches learned it’s even more important to maintain a voice of positivity and hope. This doesn’t mean ignoring cultural events and issues. Rather, you should address them with your audience in a way that display’s God’s promises and peace.
WHEN IN DOUBT, DELETE.
2. Be mindful of confidential information.
Always be mindful of confidential or sensitive information. Churches are known to walk alongside individuals and families going through challenging and crisis situations where confidentiality is imperative. This includes guarding your phone conversations. Never have a phone conversation about confidential information in a public area or in your office with the door open. Remember, only those who need to know personal details or information should be kept in that loop.
Be sure anyone who is utilizing your online channels is aware of what topics are confidential, so they can be sure to protect sensitive information.
3. Exercise caution in emails.
Assume that any email conversation could be published at any time for public consumption. When crafting an email that has to do with someone that is not included in the email chain, always keep in mind how they would feel reading the email exchange and if they would endorse the accuracy of it. This includes internal, interoffice messaging platforms and texting as well.
4. Use discretion when posting photos.
A picture is worth a thousand words. That has never been more true than now in the smart phone age where everyone has a camera with them at all times. Use discretion and good judgment when posting any image but especially be mindful of those involving other people, alcohol, or questionable locations. Pictures can speak volumes and often if you have any questions about something it is probably best not to post it.
If you’re using real photos from people at your church or in the community, it’s always best practice to ask permission before posting their photo publicly.
5. Exercise caution with polarizing views.
Exercise caution when tempted to post opinions on polarizing views, theological stances, political views, or cultural hot topics. Churches and non-profits are often close to many of these issues so it is imperative to know where your organization stands or if there is a statement or written policy in order to maintain integrity.
The best stance to take is a stance of love. If you’re ever in doubt, ask if your messaging can be taken as unloving towards your audience. Test your ideas in prayer if you are feeling uncertain about a touchy subject.
One final thought to consider: try not to let your social media guidelines become a list of “don’ts” where everyone is afraid to tweet or post. In that case your silence speaks for you. Discern ways to empower your staff to promote a positive and impactful social media presence for themselves and your organization. Look at other groups who are similar to yours who do it well and make small changes to improve if necessary. Consider hiring a Communications Director as a staff resource who can add value and continuity to your online presence.
What other church staff guidelines do you consider imperative for social media engagement?
If you liked this, you’ll also enjoy Social Media Guide For Ministry.
This article was originally published on May 25, 2018 and was updated and republished on May 5, 2020.