We know Pastors and church leaders should live above reproach, but does that include social media?
In today’s show, Justin Dean schools us on what your church needs to know about implementing a social media policy.
About Our Guest: Justin Dean
Justin Dean is an author, church communications coach, and entrepreneur based out of Atlanta, GA.
He has served in senior advising roles at organizations of various sizes, in multiple industries, and has been an entrepreneur since birth. He sold his first company at age 18 which launched him into the tech startup scene for many years before entering ministry. Today, his desire and focus is to equip church communications leaders with the right tools to reach more people.
Justin is also one of the creators and co-founder of That Church Conference, a growing community of church practitioners dedicated to helping the church communicate well and reach more people digitally.
Learn more about Justin at JustinJDean.com
What Is A Church Social Media Policy?
Your church social media policy is not a list of things you should and should not to post on your church page. It is not your church social media guidelines.
A church social media policy guides how someone in your church should represent themselves on social media. This is something that can easily go into your employee handbook for staff to follow, but it isn’t just limited to them.
So you can think of a church social media policy as similar to a morality clause in a contract, except it’s a guideline for digital representation.
There is room for churches to abuse some power with a social media policy. But Justin lays out in his book, PR Matters, that this is a set of guidelines that take a more pastoral approach.
What To Do When Your Staff Doesn’t Care To Follow Your Church’s Social Media Policy?
First, if you implement a church social media policy as part of the employee handbook, then a staff member needs to be introduced to this in onboarding or even in the hiring process.
As you implement a church social media policy for your staff already in place, then a refusal becomes a pastoral issue.
Again, this is not a set of rigid policies. So if a staff member refuses to follow, a pastoral approach is needed to gauge the situation. This should be handled on a one-to-one basis to assess the individual’s concerns.
Setting The Culture Vs. Adapting To The Culture
Your social media policy is not a reaction to where social media is heading. Instead, think of the policy as a way to assist in guiding its followers to set the culture of social media.
Your policy is much more than a list of don’ts. It can also help guide staff and leaders on what and how to post on social media that edifies your congregation and community.
Everything in our lives needs to point to the Gospel, including what we post on social media. And having a social media policy in place only strengthens this idea for your church and church staff.
Who Should Follow Your Church’s Social Media Policy
When you think about it, this policy would be really useful for your entire congregation. Imagine having everyone in your church using social media to point to the Gospel instead of bickering and dividing.
But that’s an ideal situation, so how far should the policy stretch? Paid staff? Volunteers? Even the sound team?
To start, Justin Dean recommends the church social media policy for staff. Throw it in the handbook, introduce it during onboarding, and if you have unpaid staff, introduce it to them too.
But that doesn’t mean your other leaders and volunteers can’t benefit from having discussions about representing yourselves online.
So instead of approaching it as, “You have to follow these rules, now do it.” Use your church social media policy to guide conversations and show your church how to represent Jesus online.
Security Through Your Church’s Social Media Policy
Technology grants us many conveniences today. But a lot of that convenience comes at the expense of security.
For instance, one of the items in Justin’s social media policy is to turn off GPS data storage on your phone (which is “on” by default). This piece of tech gives you the convenience of finding pictures in your phone archive by location. But it also gives strangers the ability to see where you’re taking pictures and your previous locations.
The sad truth is that there are kids hiding from an abusive father, women who have stalkers, and men who need to avoid harassment. Your church should not be the one who lets their information slip out to the public and get into the wrong hands.
- Be discerning when posting photos. Any picture you upload could have GPS data on it; people could figure out where you live (that is the default iPhone setting but you can turn it off for your whole phone or just the camera: on the iPhone: Privacy > Location Services > Off).
- Use discernment when “checking in” on Facebook. Avoid posting pictures that could identify a pastor’s home, street, children’s school, etc.
- Get the legal permission of everyone you take a photo of. This means a signed photo consent form for any close-up photos of any individuals.
When you read through these lesser-known items in the social media policy, it can be kind of daunting and scary to think about what could go wrong.
As a little “bonus ministry” for your church, you can take this policy and teach it’s guidelines to your town. As churches, we preach the Bible first, but there’s no reason we can’t also teach something like this. It’ll help your community and connect them to your church in a unique and meaningful way.
Your church social media policy is not a rigid code of conduct. It’s guideline on how your staff and other leaders should represent Jesus and the church online.
We’re not saying you should leave social media in the dust. Think of it like protecting your house. You lock your deadbolt, pay for an alarm system, or install window break sensors. To protect yourself doesn’t mean giving up on a platform. You simply take precautions to make sure you are safe and represent yourself well.
And if you want your own done-for-you social media policy to get started faster, you can get one inside of Justin’s book, PR Matters (which we’ve reviewed before and highly recommend).
Does your church have a social media policy in place? What did we miss? Leave a comment down below!
Want to know more about using social media and other platforms for your church communications? Get your free ticket to That Church Summit on May 23-25. It’s a free online conference where you can learn the latest and greatest ways to grow your church through social media and digital marketing. And…Dave and Justin will also be there presenting!
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