Social Media Policy

This Social Media Policy applies to all online and mobile platforms for sharing content and information, whether controlled by St. Matthew United Church of Christ or hosted by others, on which members of the church community engage in discussions or activities relating to St. Matthew United Church of Christ. The term “social media” refers to social networking services, blogs, short-message services, message boards, wikis, podcasts, image- and video-sharing sites, and other methods for real-time information sharing among users. Because this is a constantly evolving area, this policy applies to all new social media platforms whether or not they are specifically mentioned in this policy. Social media site content represents current and upcoming events, news, and commentary related to the activities of St. Matthew and is reflective of the congregation mission statement.

    1. Core values. In areas where this policy does not provide a direct answer for how members of our community should answer social-media questions, members should use their best judgment and take the most thoughtful and prudent action possible, bearing in mind St. Matthew’s need to preserve accountability for the use of its name in all social media and the core values of this policy:
      1. Be selective – there are a variety of digital platforms available. Use the right medium for your message – a blog or social network might not be the right place for messages intended only for a small group, and email or other more targeted media might be best.
      2. Be responsible – social media are individual interactions, not official congregation communications. Members of the St. Matthew community are personally responsible for the content they publish. Official statements of St. Matthew policy may only be made by the Church Council.
      3. Be smart – a blog or community post is often visible to the entire world, and can be shared by others in ways that you cannot control. Remember that what you write is public, and will remain public for a very long time (perhaps permanently). Be respectful to our community.
      4. Be identified – authenticity and transparency are driving forces behind social media. Use real identities to the greatest extent possible rather than anonymous posts and comments.
      5. Respect the privacy of others – do not publish the personal information of others in the community without their permission or, in the case of children under 18, written permission of their parents. This is particularly important in the Sunday School community, in which some parents do not wish their children’s personal information and images to be shared online.
      6. Be respectful – St. Matthew is a thoughtful and prayerful community that encourages free expression and values civil debate. If you disagree with others, do so with civility. Respect your audience, express your views with appropriate language, and be respectful of the Church and its teachings.
      7. Be trustworthy – respect the confidentiality of matters that are shared with you in confidence, or that are meant to be kept confidential by the nature of your work, ministry or volunteer mission.


    1. Use of Official Name and Logo. Any use of the St. Matthew United Church of Christ name or logo for branding or titling pages, blogs, or other similar elements of social media must be approved in writing prior to use. Requests for prior consent to use such names or logos should be made to the church office. Permission to use the name or logo of the congregation may be revoked at any time in the sole discretion of St. Matthew. This policy, however, should fully preserve free expression. It should not, for example, be interpreted to limit the ability of members of the St. Matthew community from using the name of St. Matthew to identify themselves in profiles, discuss matters relating to St. Matthew United Church of Christ, or other similar uses.


    1. Duties of Owners and Moderators. At least two adults should be granted access and trained to act as administrators for each official website/social media account. Administrators must have full access to all account or site settings and must have complete access to all communications to and from the official site or account.


    1. Individual Judgment. Even when engaging in social media for personal use, the comments of a member of the St. Matthew community may be viewed as a reflection on St. Matthew. Users should use their best judgment when engaging in social media activities and should be on guard against actions and discussions that could harm the interests of our community.


    1. Transparency. Users’ social media communications are made in their personal capacity and not on behalf of St. Matthew. Statements made by members of the St. Matthew community should not be taken as expressing the formal position of St. Matthew unless the speaker is specifically authorized to do so by the Church Council.


    1. Copyright Laws. Users must comply fully with copyright law when posting and uploading materials. Any posting of materials to official St. Matthew social media must be limited to materials in which the copyright is owned by the party seeking to post the information, or in which the owner has consented to the sharing of the materials. Images and other materials from the St. Matthew websites shall not be copied and uploaded to other forums without prior written consent. This policy should not be construed to limit discussion of matters using the St. Matthew name, and it should not be interpreted to limit users’ ability to link to St. Matthew sites.


    1. Privacy. Users of social media must comply with the St. Matthew Privacy Policy. All users of social media within the St. Matthew community should take care to safeguard the privacy interests of other community members. In particular, personal information (that is, information that can reasonably identify a particular person, including name, phone number, address or email address) should not be disclosed without the prior written consent of the person identified. In cases where a user has consented to the publication of such information, appropriate privacy settings and levels should be utilized.


    1. Children. Church personnel or volunteers are forbidden to post or distribute personal identifiable information of any child under the age of eighteen. Personal identifiable information includes but is not limited to: full name, home address, email address, telephone number or any information that would allow someone to identify or contact a child or that would jeopardize their safety or well-being in any way. When sharing photographs or videos of children, verifiable consent should always be obtained from the parent or guardian before images are shared online. Verifiable consent can take the form of: a Video/Image Release form (see end of policy), an email from a parent or guardian, or spoken permission by a parent or guardian in the presence of another adult, preferably an adult congregational volunteer or employee of St. Matthew. Photos of children taken at open to the public events like VBS, Easter Egg hunt, etc. can only be shared if a photo release form is signed by the parent or guardian in advance, and is on file with St. Matthew.


    1. Media Opt-out. Some persons may choose not to have their photos, or photos of their children, used and we respect their wishes. Therefore, we are providing a Media Opt-Out form for individuals or families who prefer NOT to have photographs of themselves used by St. Matthew. If you have no objection to the use of your photos, you do not need to sign or return this form. Copies of this form are available in the church office or online. This form is a request, not a 100% guarantee. We will do our best to ensure these opted out folks do not appear in any photos or videos and will take them down as soon as possible if the person(s) lets us know there has been a photo posted by accident.


    1. Recording of Sunday service. St. Matthew must post signs that indicate the service will be recorded and uploaded to the Internet. Congregations are NOT considered PUBLIC space and therefore must inform participants when they are being recorded. Full services will be recorded weekly and uploaded using social media but children under 18 should not be shown in recorded services. Exceptions will occur such as portions of services, like a child acolyte or bell choir, where children are shown in a camera shot. The children’s sermon or message for the children section will only show the adults speaking on camera. Services will be kept on YouTube for two weeks and will be removed after that time.


    1. If You See It, Say It. Any use of social media that does not comply with this policy should be brought to the attention of the congregation office staff immediately. The office staff will make sure the report is handled appropriately, seeking guidance from the Church Council if needed.


  1. Updates. This policy may be updated and modified at any time. Users will be apprised of changes in this policy by our posting this policy on the St. Matthew website. Approved October 15, 2019 date