I was reading an article recently about how a New Study Finds High Clergy Internet Use, [but that] Guidelines [are] Lacking. I wasn’t really surprised by this fact. Most demographics are now showing high internet use, so it makes sense that clergy are as well. This is especially true when you remember that clergy deal a lot with congregants, who are you and me, so therefore also online.
The second part of the title of the article that references a lack of guidelines also doesn’t really surprise me. The rate of adoption has been pretty quick for online activities like social media and churches want to be there, and want their clergy to be there as well. This often means that people start blogging and using Facebook and Pinterest before their congregation or denomination has time to decide it should have a policy regarding these things never mind having the time to write and adopt the policies.
As I was reading through the article and seeing some of the references to things that are lacking policies it struck me that most of these actions are already likely governed by other policies that churches have in place. Still others are likely governed by the current moral code that may not currently be in policy for offline or online behaviour.
As an example, the study found that “less than 10% of congregations had a policy around online interactions between clergy and staff with congregants”. I’m curious how many congregations have a policy around offline interactions between clergy and staff with congregants. If they do, would this policy not apply to online behaviour as well? I’m guessing this kind of policy probably doesn’t say it applies everywhere but Twitter, so, likely it’s relevant to online behaviour as well. So then, why the need for a new church internet policy or new online guidelines?
In case you’re starting to think that I just don’t like policies, let me assure you that quite the opposite is the case. I have and do sit on many organizational boards. This includes a 5 year stint on the national Executive Committee for my denomination. I also read policy and governance books for fun. I don’t dislike policies. What I dislike is excessive use of policies.
I feel that the excessive use of policies is becoming more and more common, and I link it to a lack of trust amongst each other. I find this lack of trust is gradually becoming stronger, and is entering more and more parts of our lives. This is a bigger issue then I’m going to tackle here, but what I will say is that I think we should trust each other more and not create policies that tell us what we already know we should or shouldn’t do, especially when we already have a similar policy on the books. We should be treating our online lives just like our offline lives; they’re becoming less and less separate every day after all.