How To Write a Social Media Policy For Your Church
In an earlier post, we explained what a social media policy is and why your church needs one.
So now that you know your church needs a social media policy, how do you go about creating one? Here are some steps to help you create a social media policy.
1. Form a committee with the guidance of your pastor(s), congregation president, council members and other members of the congregation to begin crafting your social media policy.
2. Make a list of goals and brainstorm ideas of things to be included in your social media policy. List what social networks you are currently a part of and talk about any plans or ideas for future involvement in other types of social media.
3. Check if your diocese, denomination, etc. have any specific guidelines or bylaws already set that you need to follow. Staying within the ramifications of these is important. From there, you can create your own policies.
4. Give a definition of social media at the beginning of your policy. Not all congregation members and employees are familiar with social media, so defining it at the beginning of your policy will help those people understand why having a policy is important and what exactly is involved.
5. Use simple, easy to understand language. Trying to make your policy sound overly sophisticated just makes it more confusing. Be clear and concise. It is much easier to adhere to the rules when you can actually understand them.
6. Provide specific examples of what is considered acceptable or not acceptable behavior for the use of social media. By giving specific examples, employees and church members will better understand what is expected of them.
7. Differentiate between the policies for someone using social media for church purposes and using social media for personal matters. What employees post on their own social media networks is just as important as what is posted on the church website, and can still stir up trouble if not used properly. Some organizations create two separate social media policies—one for working purposes and the other for personal matters. The committee can decide whether or not this is necessary in regards the needs of your church, but be sure to differentiate at the very least.
8. Clearly state the consequences and repercussions for those that do not adhere to the policy. Once employees are hired, give them a hard copy of the policy, ask them to review it and sign it. Signing the policy is not necessary for church members, but be sure to have easy access to the policy.
9. Present the policy to your congregation either by mail or email to be sure that everyone is made aware of the rules and regulations of social media at your church. Keep copies in your church office or post it on a bulletin board or kiosk where people are going to see it. You can even put it on your church’s website in order for all users to have access to it.
10. Update your policy as technology changes. We all know that by the time we get used to one form of technology, the latest and greatest comes along to further complicate things. Revisiting your policy allows you to expand upon rules and regulations that may not have been relevant when it was first created. A social media policy that is way out of date will not be of as much use and allows for ambiguity when someone is interpreting it. With the committee, set a specific timeline for reviewing the policy. Every 6 months is an adequate amount of time for policy review, allowing for any changes in social media use to be made. If you create a new blog or join a new social networking website, add these to the policy as soon as possible.
Having your policy reviewed by a lawyer is not a bad idea, but at the very least, all people using social media and creating this policy should understand it and agree to it. Once the policy is finished, have the committee members that assisted in creating it sign multiple copies of the document.
Here’s a quick recap:
- Protect your church. Your social media policy is a legal document. It is important to have for the protection of your church and its members.
- Simple, clear, easy to understand language. Always.
- Watch what you say. The point of social media is not to constantly advocate an individual’s beliefs, or put down the beliefs of others. That is what personal blogs are for. Your website should communicate to congregation members and the larger community while still serving as witnesses to the Gospel. Facilitate healthy conversation and discussion, not hostile and derogatory arguments. These expectations should be clearly stated in your policy.
- Stay up to date. Social media advances constantly. Be sure that your social media policy reflects this.
Having a social media policy allows for your church and its members to blog, Facebook, Tweet and post pictures to Instagram while following some basic guidelines that will serve as legal protection if a problem should arise. Having a social media policy also eliminates the confusion as to what is expected of church employees and members. When used correctly, social media can be a great way to connect your church to the community, and to further serve the members of your congregation.