Cyber Liability Issues

Some churches extend their ministry electronically using resources such as online prayer lists and sermon illustrations that use Web media. While providing additional means to communicate with those your church serves, online tools also come with common liability risks.

Consider the following factors as you introduce these tools.

  • Website Privacy Policy
    • List the types of information your website collects (e.g., phone and credit card numbers).
    • Describe your means of data collection (e.g., cookies, fillable forms).
    • Define your purpose for collecting data (e.g. furthering your ministry’s ability to serve).
    • Explain how you keep users’ data secure. (e.g., encryption, firewalls)
    • Ensure legal compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act if your website includes a page for young people.
  • Social Media Page
    • Establish guidelines for guest content and posts made on your ministry’s behalf.
    • Designate a social media team to screen user content and post content on your ministry’s behalf.
  • Treatment of Electronic Prayer Requests and Personal Data
    • Secure consent, preferably in writing, from those you want to include on your prayer list. Consider electing a family spokesperson to divulge details on a person-by-person basis.
    • Do not include excessive or embarrassing medical details.
  • Digital Communications with Youth
    • Print and distribute a general policy, specifying electronic communications parameters.
    • Specify when young people can and cannot use their devices at church or when engaged in church activities.
    • Develop a youth communication policy that defines what channels of communication your ministry will use to communicate with youth, prohibits youth ministry leaders from sending one-on-one messages, and keeps parents informed.
    • Inform staff, volunteers, and youth group members about the dangers of sexting.
    • Stay abreast of new technologies and social media platforms.
  • Copyright Issues
    • Understand the purpose of copyright laws, and know your legal options for using copyrighted works.

New technologies often provide unique ministry opportunities. However, using these technologies may entail new liability concerns, which should be studied and navigated carefully.

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