In creating a policy for digital church gatherings, we should stay true to the covenants and policies we use when meeting in person.
Just like when we meet in person, it is our responsibility to keep our members safe, and to communicate what behaviors we expect from our members. Unfortunately, digital gatherings still leave churches open to harm and liability as people can forget that there are real human beings on the other side of their screens.
Don’t Start From Scratch
In creating a policy for digital church gatherings, we should stay true to the covenants and policies we use when meeting in person. If our confirmation group has already agreed to confidentiality and not using cuss words when we met in person, our digital church policy is simply documenting that those same expectations apply online. The creation of a digital church policy should be used to keep all ministry leaders, volunteers, and congregants focused on caring for one another and doing good ministry during this time by eliminating distractions and opportunities for harm.
Five Principles for Creating Digital Church Guidelines
- Technology orientation: If you’re like me, you spend so much time online nowadays that it seems impossible that anyone would not know how to use the mute/unmute functions on Zoom. However, a simple technology orientation at the start of each gathering helps eliminate technological inequalities and keeps everyone feeling comfortable during your gathering.
- Be kind to one another: The most important piece of a digital church policy is reminding everyone that while we are not in the same place, we still exist to lift each other up and share Christ’s love. Reminding everyone gathered that we are all human can help everyone extend more grace and kindness through their screens.
- Confidentiality: It is important to remind everyone that what is said during gatherings is confidential. While it may seem obvious when meeting in person that we wouldn’t share personal struggles, or photos taken without permission, these formalities can be forgotten when meeting online.
- Appropriate language and dress: Reminding everyone to dress appropriately, sit with their back to a wall to prevent unsuspecting family members from joining your call, and speak with the same language they would use in your church building will avoid embarrassing and uncomfortable incidents from occurring.
- Child safety policies: Remember to follow your church’s Safe Place policies regarding children and youth. If you typically require background checks, more than one adult, or more than one youth for in-person meetings, those same safety measures apply online as well.
Lindsay Bates is a student at Princeton Theological Seminary and pastoral associate at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church in Ambler, PA She is passionate about the church being a safe place full of love and acceptance for everyone, no matter where we’re meeting.