Youth Ministry: Develop a Digital Communication Policy

Provide guidelines for participants and youth ministry workers to follow

Smartphones, instant messaging apps, text messages, and other digital tools offer an array of options for planning events, staying in touch, and reaching out to ministry participants. However, digital communication can open your ministry to liability in many ways, especially when adults are interacting with minors.

It’s important to understand the impact of digital media on communication, so you can develop policies and training to keep everyone safe. Following written policies and procedures helps your ministry clarify its expectations about acceptable behavior. This is true for youth ministry staff and volunteers as well as for the students they guide.

Educating youth ministry staff, volunteers, and participants about your ministry’s expectations regarding their digital communication with each other can help promote an environment of safety and accountability.

Adopt a Policy

Develop a policy that states your ministry’s position on using smartphones, instant messaging apps, texting, group chats, and other forms of digital media to communicate within your youth ministry program. Include best practices as well as legal parameters.

Require all youth workers (paid and volunteer) to sign a consent form committing themselves to abide by your ministry’s policy.

Offer Education

Ask youth leaders to remind participants occasionally about the ministry’s policies and expectations for proper conduct involving digital communication.

When appropriate, encourage leaders to also educate students about the importance of protecting themselves and others from the risks of sharing inappropriate pictures in text or online. Some youth may be unaware that sharing sexually explicit content could not only get them expelled from youth ministry, but also charged with a crime.

Staff and volunteers should avoid communicating privately with program participants. Encourage them to send group messages instead. It may even be helpful to include parents on group chats, texts, and emails. There are a number of apps that offer free group messaging services. These apps often include other features that can be helpful for group administration.

Educate youth ministry leaders and volunteers about the dangers of direct messaging youth group participants. All too often, private conversations between adults and minors can lead to misunderstandings, misconduct, or both. Taking steps to protect ministry leaders and participants against such risks can be a valuable safeguard for everyone.

Obtain Consent

Create forms for both youth ministry participants and their parents or guardians to sign. The forms would explain your rules and expectations about digital communication in youth ministry and asking them to abide by your ministry’s policy. As with any policies or forms, please consult a licensed local attorney before putting new policies into practice.

Additional Resources

Brotherhood Mutual has created a sample policy and related consent forms that can be modified to suit your ministry.

Sample Policy: Digital Communication in Youth Ministry  
Sample Worker Consent Form for Youth Ministry Digital Communication  
Sample Participant Expectations for Youth Ministry Digital Communication 
Sample Parent Consent Form for Youth Ministry Digital Communication 

Updated on July 2, 2021

The information provided in this article 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. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.