The virtual world is a vital part of people’s lives -- this is particularly true of young people. As such, St. Luke’s recognizes that social media and electronic communications can be powerful ministry tools that extend our ministries, not just to our own church members and participants, but also to those outside of our congregational sphere who may need to hear about God’s love and our welcoming community of Christians. However, care and intention must be used to balance effective and vibrant ministry with safety and transparency. We will strive to honor and protect the privacy of those in our care. The following guidelines provide clear boundaries and accountability for those interactions that occur outside our physical walls.
1. Personnel must ensure that posts and comments reflect the spirit of the church’s ministry on church sites or personal pages used for ministry. Any comments or photos will not be posted that could be deemed as bullying, inappropriate or harmful and anything that could be categorized as such will be immediately removed. Any such comments added to posts on ministry sites or pages will be removed as soon as they are discovered.
2. In order to provide proper supervision during church activities and programs, cell phones should not be a distraction for the leaders.
3. Posting Pictures of Children, Youth, or Vulnerable adults
a. Staff leadership may post pictures or comments regarding activities involving Children, Youth or Vulnerable Adults in the church’s newsletter, website or social media pages only after obtaining photo release permission for those in the picture. Permission can be found on the Annual Medical Release Form or otherwise designated by Director of Ministry.
b. Comments and photos must not include full names or other identifying information.
c. Students will not be tagged or otherwise identified in social media posts unless they expressly request to be tagged or identified.
4. Utilizing Social Media and Other Communications with Youth
a. All individual communication done via electronic means must be done on traceable platforms; messages, photos and data should be savable to the device’s Cloud. Screenshot or screencap any individual communication that may have been sent via non-traceable means, particularly if the content is potentially questionable.
b. All direct communication with Youth will be done to further ministry with Students and must be professional and within the spirit of the church’s ministry. All communication will occur in appropriate timeframes for the applicable ministry. For example, late-night communications with Students would be inappropriate.
c. Social Media Accounts
i. It is highly encouraged that Staff and leaders use social media accounts dedicated solely for ministry use.
ii. If instead a Staff or Screened Volunteer uses personal social media pages for use within ministry, these must be as open and public as possible. This ensures that Parents, Staff or Volunteers can also view communications on personal pages. Personal social media accounts used within ministry will include easily identifiable information such as a real photo and real name.
iii. For the church’s youth group social networking pages, passwords to accounts will not be divulged. Adults or Youth allowed permission to manage such social media will be screened and trained by church Staff.
d. Following Students on Social Media
i. Screened Volunteers may follow students in their small group on social media with permission from their Parents. Volunteers are discouraged from initiating requests to follow students on social media who are not in their small group, or without their Parents' permission.
ii. Staff are discouraged from initiating friend requests or initiating following Students from their personal social media pages, and are encouraged to initiate following Students and communicating from the designated ministry pages. Staff are required to follow all other rules within the social media policy if they follow Students on social media.
e. Texting Youth
i. It is best practice to follow the 2 Adult Rule even in communications (including electronic forms); group format communication is highly encouraged whenever feasible. This communication should include the Youth’s small group, the Parent or Responsible Adult, or the Staff.
ii. Small Group Leaders may text Youth one-on-one with written permission from parents. If the Parent is in agreement through text or email before the first contact with a Student occurs, the leader may communicate openly with the Student using Staff-approved, traceable means of communication.
iii. Phone calls or other direct communication with Students may only be done with Parent permission. Where reasonable and appropriate, Parents will receive the same information as the Student.
iv. If a Staff or leader is uneasy about the content of one-on-one communication with a Child, the Parent or another Staff must be informed. Honor privacy, but not secrecy.
5. Privacy of Information:
a. Personnel will not share contact information for a Child, Youth or Vulnerable Adult with anyone other than a Small Group Leader without specific consent from the Parent or Responsible Adult (for Vulnerable Adults).
b. When addressing a group via email, the best practice in respecting and maintaining privacy is to use the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) feature so as not to disclose each person’s email address to the others within the email without permission. Any group of emails over 20 must have an opt-out procedure.
c. Bulk emails that go out to the church congregation will have an easy opt out procedure. The church approved email tool complies with all state and federal regulations pertaining to bulk email including Opt Out. In the instance where the removal is manually done, removal must be completed within 3 business days of receipt of removal request.
6. Video Conferencing with Children, Youth, & Vulnerable Adults:
a. Video conferencing with Children, Youth, & Vulnerable Adults should be from church accounts rather than personal accounts.
b. All volunteers must be trained on how to use video conferencing as part of their volunteer training if they plan to use video conferencing with their small groups.
c. The Parent shall be notified of the conference and give permission for their child or youth to participate.
d. Passwords should always be used when meeting with children and youth.
e. Meeting Participants should change their display name to reflect their real name, and no nicknames should be used.
f. Parents are always welcome to attend conference videos.
g. Peer-to-peer chat is turned off so that chatting occurs only with the host and/or all participants.
h. Limit screen-sharing to hosts only.
i. 2-Adult Rule
i. In accordance with the 2-Adult Rule, there shall always be two screened adults present on any video conference.
1. When breakout rooms are employed, the host of the meeting shall function as a floater when it is possible to “float” between rooms. This can count towards the 2-Adult Rule.
2. When a parent or guardian is available in the house of a participating student, their presence in the room with the student can count toward the two-adult rule.
3. If two adults are not possible, the meeting should be recorded and saved to the ministry’s Zoom account. The meeting should not be saved on a personal device.
ii. When possible, a waiting room shall be employed for participants to ensure that two adults are present before students enter the video conference.
j. One on One Video Calls.
i. In accordance with the 3-Person rule, one-on-one video calls shall not take place between an adult and a child or youth.
ii. When a child, youth, or at-risk or vulnerable adult initiates a video call the authority figure is to deny the call and move the conversation to a group video platform, text, or audio call.
iii. A parent present with the child, youth, or vulnerable adult when the call is initiated may serve as the second adult in the case of a video call.