Q: How can our ministry reduce liability associated with youth texting/sexting activity?

A: Ministries should caution staff, volunteers, and members against texting/sexting and should create a written policy on the subject.

Text messaging has become the primary way that teens reach their friends. It surpasses email, instant messaging, and voice calling as the tool kids from 12 to 18 use to communicate. With an increase in texting comes potential liability exposures for ministries and their youth leaders.

If leaders become aware that anyone involved in the ministry has engaged in inappropriate communication, whether involving texting or any other form of communication, it should be immediately addressed in a straight-forward manner. Inappropriate texting should be approached in the same way that your ministry leaders would handle inappropriate conversation heard in a hallway of the church.

Once texting turns into “sexting,” (sending sexually explicit images through a hand-held electronic device) the stakes get much higher. Legislation addressing sexting varies from state to state, so ministries should consult with a local attorney to determine the law in your jurisdiction. Consider the following recommendations:

  • Ministry staff and volunteers should know what’s legal or illegal in their state when it comes to texting. They should specifically be cautioned against sending improper images from mobile devices.
  • Ministry youth leaders should inform youth group members of the dangers of sexting, and that young people could actually be charged with a sex crime for transmitting sexually suggestive photos.
  • Encourage ministry youth workers to send most texts or emails to a group rather than to individuals. This approach eliminates problems associated with one-on-one electronic communication.
  • Churches should develop a written policy on texting/electronic communications for all staff and volunteers.
  • The policy should also outline when young people can and cannot use their cell phones. It’s recommended that the policy state that, generally, cell phone use is not allowed in any form during official church youth functions.

Recommended Resources

For more information on this topic, read our article, Youth Texting and Sexting.

*Important information: Brotherhood Mutual is pleased to provide Legal Assist as a complimentary resource. The services we offer through Legal Assist are intended to provide general legal information to our current and prospective policyholders.

The information we provide is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. Accordingly, no attorney/client relationship is created through this process, and no legal advice will be provided. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.