Social Media Guidelines for Kidmin

Jeremy Mavis March 3, 2012 6

Social Media Guidelines for Kidmin Children\s Ministry YouthSo you’re a kidmin worker…

… and you took some of the cutest (or coolest) pictures (maybe even some videos) of the kids…
… and you naturally want to share them online (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.)…

… and just as you are about to click UPLOAD, something stops you and you think:

Should I share these pictures online?

Am I allowed to upload these pics?


Great questions: “should you”? and “am I allowed”?

It’s a natural feeling to want to share pictures and videos of what you are doing in your life. I mean, in the current social media revolution world we live in, that’s what everyone is doing. And it isn’t all bad!

However, we (as children’s ministry workers) need to be cautious and overly careful regarding how we share pictures and videos of other people’s children. Because that is what they are: other people’s children.

So if you want to post pictures of children in your ministry:

1) You need to ask permission. This might go against the current technological grain, but it’s an important and appropriate step.

At our church (Hayward Wesleyan Church), we use what we call the Blue Sheet or Blue Info card. This is our standard, fill-out-information card. It asks for all the pertinent information from a family (i.e. birthdays, phone numbers, emails, address, etc.), but it also contains 3 “legalese” sections: Permission (to attend the event/ministry), Medical Release (in case of an emergency), and a Media Release (so we can take pictures of them and use them for promotional means and Internet sharing). So we ask for written permission.

2) You need to be smart. This might sound subjective (and it is), but that’s how we’re writing the rules and practices in this fast-paced, digital world right now. I have yet to come across a resource that gives specific, hard and fast guidelines for children and youth pastors on how to use the digital space (if you have, let me know!). You need to be smart.

For instance, I had a counselor last year at our Kids Camp who was an avid blogger. She wanted to post some pictures of the girls in her cabin (more group pictures, not individual pics). She approached me (and I’m glad she did) and asked if it was okay. Now I had already asked permission of the parents of the campers (the media release was on their registration form that they signed). However, any pics or videos of their children, a parent would expect to see on the official Kids Camp website, not some random blog out there in cyberspace.

My wisdom to this counselor was: I would NEVER post a picture of a student in our children or youth ministry on my personal Facebook page. That kind of stuff would go on the official Facebook page. Since her blog wasn’t officially (and organizationally) tied to the camp, I felt it would be inappropriate for her to post pictures. This counselor was great because she understood.

If you find yourself pausing before uploading a picture, or second-guessing whether or not you should upload, don’t. In this arena, it is better to NOT post a picture or video than it is to do so.

One caveat to this “guideline”: I would post a picture of a child if I am relationally connected to them in my role outside of kidmin worker or youth pastor (and if I asked permission). I’m part of an adult small group, and there are a lot of children in this group. I could imagine posting some pictures after we had done an event or fun activity and there being some children in the photo or video. I think this is okay.

I’m going to stop here. There might be more guidelines and parameters to using the Internet and social media in children’s ministry, but what do you think?

Are there any other guidelines/parameters that you would add?

Do you have any stories or examples that you would like to share?


I look forward to crafting Internet and Social Media Guidelines with you!

6 Comments »

  1. Jason Byerly March 3, 2012 at 9:24 am - Reply

    Great food for thought. We’ve wrestled with some of this at our church too. I think most of us have more questions than answers at this point. Let’s keep the conversation going!

    • Jeremy Mavis March 3, 2012 at 6:02 pm - Reply

      That’s been my sneaky suspicion for a while now… that the kidmin community (and thus churches) have more questions about this than answers. Technology moves at a rapid pace…it’s difficult to keep up sometimes!!

  2. Belinda March 3, 2012 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    I have wondered those same things. But in serving a small church the youth leader and I, children’s leader, do not have a church webpage to use, so we do use Facebook for advertising events and photos of those events to generate interest. We do know all the families pretty well though and would not post if they asked. Usually no names listed either, just the class name or event. And Facebook is where all the parents look and then add comments.

    • Jeremy Mavis March 3, 2012 at 6:06 pm - Reply

      Belinda, thanks for responding! I wonder if these sort of guidelines would look differently in a small church versus a much larger church. Mainly because in a small church, everyone knows everyone… it’s not weird. In a larger church where the “unknown” factor is in place, it would be weird if an adult I did not know well (which is difficult for me because I am a pastor here!), posted a picture of one of my kids on Facebook.
      Good perspective, thanks!!

  3. Jeremy Mavis March 3, 2012 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    Here are a couple of other ones I thought of later:

    1) I have chat turned off on Facebook. Why? It’s actually distracting for me, personally. But also because there is no record of a chat (unlike your wall and messages) and I like to keep things more public.

    2) I don’t typically initiate friends requests from students on Facebook. I let them make the first move.

    3) If I know a kid is underage on Facebook, I will not accept them as a friend. You can actually take it a step further and report them to Facebook. That’s how the company knows a member is underage or not.

    4) While I may post a video collage of a ministry event on my blog, I will not post a pic of kids @ our church. My blog is interestingly connected both personally and professionally.

    Maybe I’m off, but I think of pictures as something different than a video. Maybe because it’s easier to share and manipulate pics than it is video.

    Anyway…

  4. Keith March 3, 2012 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    Jeremy,
    Great conversation starter! It is so true that if something causes us to pause we should avoid uploading it. Caution is the key word we should use as we move ahead with the use of social media within our ministries that involve children.

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