New Study Finds High Clergy Internet Use; Guidelines Lacking

In the fall of 2012, the Religious Institute surveyed clergy in the Religious Institute database of progressive religious leaders regarding congregational and personal use of the Internet and social media, with a focus on sexuality issues. The survey responses indicated that while a majority of clergy and congregations have an active social media presence, there are virtually no written policies or national standards on how congregations or clergy are to use these technologies.

An executive summary detailing the results of this survey is available.
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Eight in ten clergy report having a congregational Facebook page, and 92% have a freestanding web page that is actively used for sharing news, prayer requests and more. One in five clergy reported intentionally visiting a sexually explicit website in the past six months. An additional 16% replied that they preferred not to answer the question about their personal use of these sites.

Less than ten percent of congregations have policies on congregational Facebook or Twitter account posting, or policies around online interactions for clergy and staff with congregants. Only 10% had policies around youth and educator online interactions, or an online extension of a “safe sanctuaries” or “safe congregations” policy.

“We believe that congregations need formalized, written policies governing use of social media, web sites, and other Internet technologies,” said the Rev. Debra W. Haffner, President of the Religious Institute. “As more of the work of ministry moves online, these needs are only going to become more urgent. Specific policies governing online interactions between adults and minors are just as necessary as policies governing real world interactions between adults and minors.”

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