What is a Social Media Policy & Does My Church Need One?
Social media plays a significant role in our culture and society today, and has become a major form of communication used by churches to share information with their members and communities. Many churches and dioceses have taken advantage of social media to expand their audiences and reach mass amounts of people that they could not reach as easily before. Social media and blogs allow for virtually anyone to post his or her thoughts and share information for the entire Internet world to see.
Now that your church has a website, you’re thinking of expanding by creating a blog and sharing information via social media. That’s great, isn’t it? Yes, but with the use of social media comes great responsibility. And with responsibility comes social media policy.
“Social media policy? All we wanted was a website to share church information and worship times, post pictures and sermons, and maybe even start a blog. What does policy have to do with it?”
A lot actually. But first, let’s define what social media is.
Social media involves the websites and applications used for social networking and blogging purposes (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, Flickr, etc.).
So what is a social media policy?
A social media policy is a set of guidelines that outline the expected behaviors of employees posting on a website or other form of social media. It lists both the appropriate and inappropriate uses of social media, and explains the repercussions for those who do not abide by them. It also lays out rules as to what information should be shared.
One of its main purposes is to protect the company (in this case the church) from any legal issues or embarrassment.
The same is true when it comes to social media and the church. Having a social media policy identifies when an individual or employee should speak on behalf of the organization and when they should indicate that it is their own personal opinion. That way, if an individual or employee posts something that is either not appropriate or does not coincide with the beliefs of the church as whole, the church in its entirety cannot be held responsible.
The question is, does your church need a social media policy?
Yes. Although it is not necessarily required, it is highly encouraged that churches involved in the social media world create and maintain a social media policy. The reality is that social media is almost unavoidable and sooner or later your church is going to use some form of social media. Having a social media policy allows for anyone who plans on posting on your website, Facebook page, Twitter, etc. to be on the same page in regards to policies, appropriate behaviors and expectations.
Due to the vastness of the audience that your church has the potential of reaching through its social media use, it is important to keep in mind that your website, blogs and social networking pages are representing your congregation.
Members should also be made aware of the social media policy that you create because they are ultimately the ones who will have the power to share posts from the website and Facebook page with their friends and families. It is extremely difficult to control everyone’s actions, and that is why it is important to have a social media policy for protection purposes.
There are many ways to be in service via social media, such as:
- virtual Bible study
- theological discussions
- prayer requests
- volunteer and service opportunities
Social media allows for increased engagement among people of all religions, denominations, and affiliations. With that being said, we can easily get caught up in our own opinions. What was once a personal opinion can be seen as an opinion of an entire congregation or church body.
Cordial and respectful conversations can get out of hand and be counterproductive to the purpose a church website is trying to serve. When using these forms of social media, we need to be cautious of what we say and how we say it, while keeping in mind our audience and whom our posts are representing.
The future of the Church is a hot topic & controversial debate, and one important aspect that raises a lot of questions and some anxiety is what role social media plays in that future.
There is nothing wrong with being in service to the Gospel through social media and social networking. However, the issue concerning the future of the Church arises when social media, websites and blogs serve as substitutes to the Church. Regardless, social media will continue to be a part of churches and will grow, shape and develop as social media forms progress and advance.
By having a social media policy, it eliminates the confusion as to what is deemed appropriate, and clearly states the expectations of the church. It serves as legal documentation in order to provide protection for the church, its employees, its members and its witness and service to the Gospel.
In our next post, we will explain & give you resources on how to write a social media policy.