Over the past few months, I have received multiple requests like the following …
“Do you have an Electronic, E-Mail, or Internet policy for churches to use? I am on the newly formed Personnel Committee, and I am working to generate a policy. We have computers in various locations, as well as laptops and tablets that staff and church members use at times. We have no problem, just want to protect our staff and the church.”
Unfortunately, there is not a boiler-plate media policy that would do much good, because every church, ministry, non-profit or business has its own unique set of circumstances. With that said, I can offer some advice and examples to get you started in developing your own policy(s) to suit the specific needs of your organization.
What should we cover in an electronic media policy?
Basically, you are defining who will use your resources and what permissions they have while using them. Start by doing an inventory of how electronic media resources are currently being used. Do you provide computers? Internet connectivity via cable or Wi- Fi? If so, then you need a policy that instructs the users as to the intended use and limitations.
This policy should cover any of the following provided by your organization: use of computers (i.e. – desktops, laptops, tablets, phones); internet connectivity; logins; guest networks; email; and social networks. Include anything related to electronic media that ultimately the organization’s employees or guests own or use.
Which is better – one policy or separate policies?
If your organization is small, with limited staff, resources, and electronic media use, then one media policy could easily cover all aspects. On the other hand, a large organization may need to separate policy areas to better focus on each topic. For example, you could have a connectivity policy, email policy, and social networking policy. Ultimately, it’s about what is the right solution based on the specifics of the particular organization.
How do you present the policy once it has been approved?
You should have a meeting for staff/employees, to review the policy(s). Then, the policies will become a part of the employee handbook or manual. For visitors/guests you can set-up the electronic media to present the policy. If a guest connects to your Wi-Fi network or uses a computer, you can display a splash screen that presents the policy and asks them to agree before moving on, which is much like the experience of loading new software or an app.
Are there any good examples of electronic media policies?
Yes, there are. A quick search using your favorite search engine will provide more than you have time to read. To save you some time and research, let me share four good resources here:
1. Overview Of What Is Needed for A Church Internet Policy
2. Actual Policy Samples and Tools from Various Church Organizations
3. Life Church Open network – Social Media Best Practices
4. Free Church Forms – Two samples: Church Internet Acceptable Use Policy