To Post, or Not To Post: A Social Media Contract for Youth Ministry Leaders
As leaders in the church, whether volunteer or paid, we desire to present ourselves as followers of God in every aspect of our lives, and to model our faith both in person and on social media. It’s difficult these days to not have some sort of social media presence and most of us have students that follow their leaders. While most ministries would hold their leaders to a high standard in their everyday lives, we often forget the growing aspect of our social media presence. To assist my volunteer leaders in setting their guidelines for social media, each of them is given a social media contract when they begin working in our ministry. Here is an example:
In the realm of social media, we commit to following the conduct as expressed below:
Language – All language that appears on the social media outlets of the leader must remain free from vulgar and coarse language. This not only covers posts made by the leader, but expands to others who may post on their page as well. You are the gatekeeper of your social media presence.
Topics – The things discussed and posted by the leader must not contain improper content, such as: private matters, alcohol-related subjects, content on illegal substances, or matters contrary to our denominational rules.
Photos – Images on the social media outlets of the leader must not contain offensive material, which would include: pornography, indecent attire, substance abuse, alcohol, vulgar language, or lewd actions with another person.
All social media presence must be in line with the Free Methodist Church.
Failure to comply to the guidelines as a leader at PFMC will result in action taken by the staff member in charge of the ministry area the leader is a part of.* The system below is dependent on the severity of the offense in the opinion of the ministry leader.
1st Offense – Warning
The leader will be required to meet with the ministry leader to review this document and the post in question. This conversation will stand as a warning based on the opinion of the ministry leader after the meeting.
2nd Offense – Temporary Removal
Upon the second offense, the leader in violation will be immediately removed from his/her position for a period of time, which will be determined at the discretion of the ministry leader. The leader will be allowed to return to his/her position at the end of the removal period and after a meeting with the ministry leader. The leader will then be on mandatory probation for a length of time.
3rd Offense – Complete Removal
Should a third offense occur, the leader will be removed from their position permanently, only to be reinstated by the consent of the ministry leader and/or, the church leadership team, or lead pastor.
*In cases where a leader is involved in more than one ministry, the heads of each ministry will be a part of the meetings that follow.
When you get past the legal overtone of the document, you can see the underlying sentiment in it. Our goal as youth leaders is to guide and grow the students in our care, which means training and shaping the leaders who work with them as well. Few things derail a student as fast as when they see a trusted leader not living what they teach, and this includes what they see on social media. This contract is not meant to force leaders to create false fronts for teens, but instead to think twice about what they post, and ultimately help them make wiser choices. Additionally, by linking it with a denominational or church standard, you help to teach your leaders more about the foundations of your ministry, while also giving you the structured support you may need to uphold the standard of your leaders.
Setting standards is not always fun, but these days, I would rather make my leaders ask; “To post, or not to post?” than take the “simple” route and deal with the fallout of poor judgment.
SCOTT OSBORNE is the Student Ministries Pastor at Portage Free Methodist Church in Portage, MI. He lives with his wonderful wife and two sons and enjoys anything that gets him in the woods. He has been serving in ministry since college and is passionate about relationally engaging teens with the story of Jesus and walking with them in their journeys. You can follow him on Twitter @PFMCOREANDSOMA, and at his blog @ THOUGHTSFROMAROLLYCHAIR.WORDPRESS.COM.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.