Digital Communications Policy
Assembly Mennonite Church
Safe Church Digital Communications
Assembly Mennonite Church covenants to be a safe place for all of God’s people. In our constantly evolving world, social networking sites, on-the-spot communication devices and email are an integral part of our society and culture. In our faith community, they can enhance communication, faith sharing and deepen relationships, however, we recognize the challenges represented by these services.
In efforts to apply healthy boundaries and our safe church commitment to the world of digital communications, we commit to the following practices. Assembly also recognizes that the landscape of digital services is constantly evolving to include different devices, language, and the like. This document should be read with that changing landscape in mind, as some verbiage may need updated over time.
General Information about Digital Communications
- All communication sent digitally (e.g. email, social networking sites, streaming platforms, notes or posts, texting) is NOT CONFIDENTIAL and may be shared or reposted to others beyond our control.
- Interactions in the virtual world need to be transparent, as a window in a door provides transparency in the physical world.
- In the virtual world, healthy boundaries and safe church practices must be adhered to as they are in the physical world.
- Laws regarding mandated reporting of suspected abuse/neglect/exploitation of children, youth, elders and vulnerable adults apply in the virtual world as they do in the physical world.
- Assembly’s other covenants and safe church documents apply in the digital space as well, just like in real life interactions.
Social Networking Sites Relationships
- Adults working with children and youth are strongly encouraged to set very stringent privacy settings on any personal networking profile. Bear in mind that the content posted to a public profile can be viewed by anyone without your consent.
- Before initiating a virtual connection, consider if it is essential or if a more traditional route such as in-personal communication may be better suited. Any digital relationship should be pursued through the lens of caution. For additional guidelines see Social Networking appendix 2.
Best practices for Video Chats, Blogs or Video Blogs
- Adults should refrain from initiating social text or video chats with youth.
- Participants in a video chat or blog should consider what will be shown in the video such as their surroundings, their clothing/state of dress, etc.
- All public posts and communication with youth should be saved when possible.
- All Pastors and other adults engaged in ministry with Youth should consider the content and nature of any post that will be read by or visible to Youth. Your voice is often considered the voice of the church, even when youth are not your intended audience.
Recommendations for Publishing/Posting Content
- Photos published on Assembly sponsored sites/publications, should not include name or contact information for children or youth.
Recommendations for Use of Email/text/Instant Messaging
- Emails to Junior or Senior Youth should be copied to a Parent/Guardian and/or an Assembly leader. Content should be brief and pertain to the logistical details of connecting.
- Prior written permission for youth to connect digitally (signed paper, or email reply by Parent/Guardian) is required.
- Assembly employees and volunteers may use text messaging to communicate with Junior or Senior Youth, if and only if, they have the formal written consent or parents/guardians. Content should be brief and pertain to the logistical details of connecting (e.g. about attending an event or requiring transportation).
- Care must be taken when pastoral care or counseling is done through text messaging or other forms of digital communication.
Adapted from guidelines of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, https://www.episcopalct.org/FindResources/General-Parish-Operations/Safe-Church- Resources/Guidelines-for-Social-Media/ Used with permission. Excerpts from “Social Media for Christian Ministry: Getting Online and Keeping Out of Court,” Kenneth A. Hall, The Advantage, September 2012.
Updated November 2021 by Safe Church ad hoc committee chaired by Lora Nafziger.