Policy on Churches Protecting Personal Email Addresses

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For years I have declined giving my email address to a company I deal with. I'm much more comfortable with snail mail (and my email and Facebook accounts were mostly created so I could communicate with my children abroad). About 6 months ago, an individual from my church took over my account with this company and started sending me emails. Yes, my church does have email so I can receive prayer requests and urgent messages. However, I'm grieved by this breach.

Is there a 'safe church' policy whereby email addresses submitted to the church for church business are used just for this purpose? What do professionals recommend as far as a "policy" our church could adopt and recommend to our congregation (in a gracious way) to not abuse contact information? 

Thank you for your thoughtfulness to my question. 

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Guide

Hi Chris, thanks for putting this question out there! 

I do think our churches need to re-think how we use digital information - especially with social media, pictures, and the ways that they all connect and are very public. Here is a link to a sample social media policy by Brotherhood Mutual. 

However, it sounds like you are having an issue with the privacy of your email address/contact information. Perhaps this sample policy, also from Brotherhood Mutual, would be helpful. Unfortunately, some individuals take contact info and use it in a way that others, like you, wouldn't like it to be used - this is somewhat out of the control of the church. In your case, I might also encourage you to contact the person from your church who is sending you his company emails and ask to be removed - often companies have an unsubscribe button that quickly takes you off their list. 

 

I hope this is helpful!

 

 

 

Participant

Good question! Thank you. This is a good reminder to churches to respect the privacy of the information that they collect from members. Churches that have online directories, or prayer chains, which can be so helpful to church members, must also have security measures in place to protect this information. I was recently at a women's retreat, where pictures from the event were posted online - and we were never notified or asked about this at the retreat. Before posting pictures from an event, churches must be sure to get permission from those attending. We must not be careless about this but honor and protect the privacy that people desire. Thanks for the question! And if your church has created a good social media safety policy, that might be helpful to other churches, please feel free to share it (with proper disclaimers of course). Safe Church would be happy to have more examples of policies to share with churches that have these questions. Thank you. 

As a church administrator I have been confronted with this problem frequently - our online directory is password protected and I don't give out people's contact information unless it's to another member who could also access that information through our protected online directory. If I get calls from outside sources asking for contact info, even denominationally, I will take their information and forward to the person they are asking about so they can choose to communicate directly if they would like. I also frequently get people using my personal email address for work related conversations and it is frustrating to consistently remind people to differentiate between my work and home life and different email addresses for each.

It is unfortunate that the person who took over your account chose to communicate with you via email without your permission and that is, in my opinion, a misuse of information they were privy to strictly for other purposes. A kind but well placed word to them might be in good order.

As an individual who uses the professional services of members of our congregation I am always checking to make sure that I am contacting them appropriately (personal vs. professional email and phone numbers) and even asking if they view it as a conflict to handle my accounts/needs, etc. Some of those in leadership roles in our church have asked that their personal information not be included on Classical or Denominational forms or websites (such as the Yearbook) and that all communication regarding their role in the church be funnelled through the church office. Others do not set such strict boundaries.