First Congregational UCC Social Media Policy & Guidelines
First Congregational UCC (FCUCC) values the potential good that comes from personal web pages, social networking pages, blogs, texting, instant messaging, e-mail and other forms of electronic social networking/communication. Simultaneously we recognize that misunderstanding, personal offense, hurt, legal exposure and damage to our church community can potentially accompany use of these mediums. The Apostle Paul instructs that “Everything is permissible but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” With the principles of 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 in mind, all church employees, leaders and members are asked to abide by these guidelines.
Ensure Integrity: Your electronic communications should be consistent with the teaching of scripture and the values of FCUCC. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say in-person as a representative of the church (Proverbs 10:9). If a public dialog gets heated, stop using a public forum and make the conversation private (Matthew 18:15-17). Leaders are expected to have the foresight to anticipate, within reason, how their words and/or actions may be perceived by their audience and to those under their care.
Offer a Disclaimer: When you are in a position of church leadership, people don’t easily distinguish between your personal and professional behaviors. Your name and the church are always linked in people’s minds. As such, all personal web pages, social networking pages and blogs (in which you are personally identifiable) should feature the following disclaimer: “Please know that these are my personal views and not necessarily those of FCUCC.”
Promote Credibility: Make sure your facts are correct, in proper context and that your positions are justifiable (1 Corinthians 13:5-7). Respond to those who disagree in a spirit of love and grace (Luke 6:28-30). Avoid using a “stream of consciousness” writing style (as it can easily be misinterpreted or taken out of context). Do not use electronic communications to resolve interpersonal conflicts that are best handled face-to-face.
Keep Confidences and Avoid Libel: Be extra careful that your communications do not inadvertently share confidential information (we sometimes deal with a lot of confidences in church work). Know that with any public postings you are legally liable for what you say. Laws governing slander, libel, defamation and copyright apply. Outside parties actually can pursue legal action against you for your postings.
Respect the Church and its Staff: Since electronic communications are public (or easily made public), we ask you to be respectful to the church and our leaders, staff, volunteers and members. In this vein, we ask that questions that are the responsibility of a certain board or team involving church business be sent directly to that team rather than posted for public discussion.
Electronic Communications are Teachings: For pastors and teachers, and other church leaders, electronic communications can also be seen as church teachings. All who teach and lead in the church should be very mindful of any public posts that may be taken as teachings of the church.
Limited Expression in Written Words: Remember that written words can easily convey the wrong message. Written words do not have the “non-verbal” channels that accompany face-to-face communication. Missing are body language, facial expressions and tone of voice that can help ensure proper context. As such, re-read everything prior to sending. See if there is any possibility of misunderstanding. Every year the church deals with many relational problems brought on by poor word choices or communications sent in anger/haste. Think before you press “send!”
Communicate as if Your Words are to Be Published in the Local Newspaper: A good tool for determining what is correct communication is to behave as if the local newspaper were printing your electronic communication for all to see. If you wouldn’t want your actions/words to be seen on the front page, you may not be handling the situation properly.
Facebook Members Group Guidelines: The private group page should be used for general discussion about spiritual topics, general church suggestions or questions, discussion about church plans and activities, personal spiritual needs that members wish to convey to other members, sharing of interesting articles or events, and general light discussion among members. The group page should not be used for questions of church business, finances, or personnel matters, except for the posting of meeting times for such matters to be discussed. We wish this to be a place of positivity and fellowship among members and leave church business to those designated meetings. Postings on this group page should be considered for this page only and never shared with the public without permission of the original poster.
Moderation: Moderators may be removed or added by vote of the council. Moderators will have the authority to add or remove Facebook group members. Members should be current members of the church or church staff as well as members of the church who have moved away but still wish to maintain a relationship with FCUCC and members of other UCC congregations or the association that have built a relationship with FCUCC. Moderators encourage lively discussion and will only remove a post with serious thought and using the Social Media Policy & Guidelines document as its guide. If a post is removed, the original poster will be notified with a suggestion on the proper route to get their question answered or with the reason their post was removed.
Youth: Youth are especially at risk of harm through social media. FCUCC recommends that no adults initiate a ‘connection’ on any social media with any youth in the church. If a minor initiates the ‘connection’ with you, we ask that you only accept if you can set the privacy settings on your account so that they are not able to see any age inappropriate content or comments you may share. If you have any questions about a social media request from a minor, you should speak with the minor’s guardian before proceeding.
Final Thoughts: FCUCC understands the good that comes from electronic communications and social networking. It is not our desire to create consternation or dampen creativity when it comes to the use of these mediums. At the same time we recognize the tremendous potential for hurt and misunderstanding that go with these mediums. We trust that by following these guidelines and common sense, you are able to both reap the rewards of electronic communications … and avoid their potential pitfalls.