Digital Communications Policy

Overview

Keller Park Church (KPC), a congregation of the Central District Conference of Mennonite Church USA, commits to being a safe place for all 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 and deepen relationships. At the same time, we recognize the challenges represented by these services. In efforts to apply healthy boundaries and safe church commitments to our digital communications, we commit to the following practices and guidelines.

 

General Information about Digital Communications

  • All communication sent digitally (e.g., email, social networking sites, streaming platforms, notes or posts, texting) is by nature 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, or exploitation of children, youth, elders, and vulnerable adults apply in the virtual world as they do in the physical world.

 

Best Practices for Email, Text, and Instant Messaging

  • Each KPC pastor, as well as the board (collectively), should have a designated KPC-specific email account in order to keep KPC emailing discrete from personal emailing. 
  • Each KPC pastor, staff person, and board member should utilize the app Signal for all church-related communications (besides emails) in order to keep work communications discrete from personal communications (the latter of which could take place by text, thereby creating healthy boundaries and allowing for healthy communication). 
  • No church-related communications by email or Signal should take place after 8pm or before 8am, except in the case of emergencies.
  • KPC employees or ministry leaders may receive email or text communication from KPC youth regarding confidential information that youth are uncomfortable sharing with parents and guardians but should notify parents or guardians that communications are occurring. If information shared poses a threat to the youth’s safety, further reporting may be required.
  • Emails to KPC youth should be copied to a parent, guardian, or another KPC 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 or guardian) is required to connect digitally with youth.
  • KPC employees and volunteers may use text messaging to communicate with KPC youth if and only if they have the formal written consent of parents and 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 email or other forms of digital communication, as strict pastoral confidentiality cannot always be maintained through such mediums.
  • Scheduling for Sunday morning responsibilities should generally take place through Planning Center. Follow-up emails, Signal messages, or texts should only occur when last-minute changes are needed to the Planning Center schedule (e.g., when someone scheduled to sing on the worship team wakes up on Sunday morning without a voice). 

 

Social Network Relationships

  • Adults working with children and youth are strongly encouraged to set 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. 

 

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, clothing, and state of dress.
  • All public posts and communication with youth should be saved when possible.
  • All pastors and other adults engaged in ministry should consider the content and nature of any post that will be read by or visible to congregants. Your voice is often considered the voice of the church, even when youth are not your intended audience.

 

Notice Regarding Publishing and Posting Content

  • Photos published on KPC-sponsored sites and publications should not include name or contact information for children or youth. Parents or guardians should provide permission for photos of children or youth to be posted, though in some instances of large-group photos, this will not be possible.
  • Congregants should be aware that services are live-streamed on Facebook through KPC’s public page. Typically, the live stream includes the children’s message but not congregational sharing time following the sermon.
  • No one in a ministry leadership role should post any content shared with them through text, email, or other written communication in a public or shareable post. 

 

Accountability

Accountability for this policy lies with the KPC board with consultation from the KPC staff and Pastor-Congregation Relations Committee (PCRC).

 

Additional Information

Adapted from the Digital Communications Policy of Assembly Mennonite Church, Goshen, Indiana (2021 update). KPC 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.