16 Feb 2021

How to Protect Your Church Online

Christine Bové

5 Minute Read

Having your ministry online opens the door to so many possibilities. Whether you are connecting with your community, growing your congregation, or spreading the gospel around the world, the sky's the limit to how you can engage online to share the love of Jesus Christ.

At the same time, most are unaware that there are guidelines to follow to keep your online interactions legally compliant. Let's walk through from start to finish how to establish churches and ministries online and keep them protected.

Establish and Protect Churches and Ministries

If God has placed a calling to start a church on your heart, you can begin the journey of bringing that vision alive today. As you move forward, you'll want to protect what God has called you to lead. Let's take a look at how to legally establish your organization.

Here are the 5 Steps to establish your online ministry:

1. Secure your name

Establishing your name creates your identity in your community, gives you legal representation, and determines your brand. To check if the name you want is available, visit your Secretary of State's website.

2. Get incorporated

Now you will begin to establish the legal foundation for your church or ministry. Incorporation will look different per state, so be sure to check your Secretary of State's website for the specific incorporation process.

3. Create a brand

Branding is how people will recognize your ministry as you engage with your community. You want to have a consistent message to communicate your ministry's values and vision effectively.

4. Take your church or ministry online

After establishing your brand, you will want to create your online presence. We cover more of this topic in the next section.

5. Start your 501(c)(3) approval process

And lastly, once you have completed your incorporation process with the state, you will want to apply for your 501(c)(3). This allows you to receive tax-deductible donations.

If you wish to go further into these steps, we have a previous blog on this very topic here.

Do you need help getting your church or ministry incorporated? Look no further than our StartRIGHT Service! Give us a call today at 877-494-4655 to learn more, or click the link below!

%startright-cta%

Pick your platforms

Website

The best option for establishing an active online presence is by creating your church or ministry website. Your website designates a professional space on the internet to provide services and make yourself available to those in need.

Your website works in tandem with streaming services and social media, so it's essential to have a central location online for your community to engage with your church.

We provide a service named StartSITES Creative, through which a Church Website Specialist will craft your website and tailor it to your church's heart and mission. To learn more, give us a call today at 877-494-4655 or click the link below to learn more!

Create a Church Website in One Hour!

Click Here

Streaming Services

If you are just beginning streaming your online services or events, here are a few popular options:

    • Facebook
    • Youtube
    • Vimeo
    • Zoom

To stream to multiple platforms at once, check out services like StreamYard.

Social Media

Along with having a website and streaming options, it's a good idea to have an active social media presence. These platforms are constantly adding new features - so get creative with how you engage with your audience to spread the gospel!

Here are content ideas for some of the most popular platforms:

    • Facebook: Post blogs, events, announcements, videos, and encouragement. This platform is excellent for connecting with your congregation and streaming your services online.
    • Twitter: Post sermon clips, quotes, bible verses, announcements, or encouragement.
    • Instagram: Post pictures and graphics, scripture, announcements, and sermon quotes.
      • Instagram TV: post longer videos of church announcements, sermon clips, encouragement, and more.
      • Instagram Live: go live and download the video afterward to upload it to your page.
      • Instagram Reels: upload 15-30 second video clips of encouragement.
    • Youtube: live-stream services and post house church videos, bible studies, or general curriculum you want to make available online.

Establish policies 

It is crucial for a church or a ministry to have policies for how they do online ministry. These policies need to cover how to interact with others online, how to use social media, privacy policies, and more.

Some topics a church's social media policy should outline are:

    • Who and what can be represented in the photos posted
    • Protection for those who are in foster care systems and custody issues
    • Your privacy policy
    • Who can post on social media (does someone approve posts before they are published?)
    • How to interact with political matters

There are also privacy policies for your website and the information you collect from the people who visit there.

The online ministry should also add a section to their policies that would help keep the church in line with IRS compliance. The IRS publication 1828 lists qualifications and rules nonprofits must follow. As a nonprofit holding 501(c)(3) status, your organization also must abide by these rules. When a church or ministry violates one of the listed rules in publication 1828, the organization is at risk of having its 501(c)(3) status revoked.

Stay Compliant to IRS Publication 1828

Here are some negative behaviors to avoid on social media to stay in IRS compliance:

    • Inappropriate comments, pictures, or gestures: This means promiscuous pictures, sexual comments to other people online, or crude gestures should never be posted on social media.
    • Political comments, stances, or rants: As is listed in the IRS publication 1828, a pastor or church can't claim a political party from a public platform, including social media. However, a pastor can address beliefs and hot political topics over social media. Let your policies be clear on how your staff and pastors can interact with political matters on social media to stay within the IRS compliance.
    • The pastor's or church staff's behavior: As a church staff member, one is held to a higher standard and faces scrutiny more frequently. The staff member's conduct is reflected not only on them individually but also on the church. Actions to avoid include, but are not limited to:
      • Angry rants
      • Theological debates
      • Slandering businesses, organizations, other pastors
      • Behavior that violates the church's bylaws of restricted activities

Without these details included in your policy, it could be easy to misuse social media. Churches and individuals can also be sued for violating privacy, custody issues, and related situations regarding this matter.

If you need help with other policies for your church, we offer a Policies Suite to help you protect what God has called you to lead!

Be aware of annual reports

Another way to protect your online ministry is to make sure you file what you need annually or biannually. Different states have various requirements for churches and ministries. Be aware of what your church or nonprofit needs to continue operating online. You can refer to your Secretary of State's website to see what they require for your ministry.

Utilize copyrights and trademarks

In a previous blog, we delve into the details of copyrights and trademarks. These are important to implement and use for your online ministry. Not only will they protect the content you show online (which could be easily stolen if not protected), but they will also help keep your organization out of trouble.

By this, I mean worship songs and other graphics you use online could very well be protected by copyrights and trademarks. Licensing music and other digital resources are important to factor in as well. If you are using content that is not originally yours, make sure you obtain a license. If you do not, you could jeopardize your credibility and legal standing.

You are ready

While we covered much in content today, we hope you feel better prepared to establish and protect your church or ministry online. We want you to have a solid legal foundation and to continue to stay in compliance.

Remember: if it is God's dream, He will help you make it happen. He will open the doors and provide the path and understanding for you to accomplish His vision.

If you need help establishing your ministry, we would love to help. Give us a call at 877-494-4655 or click the link below to schedule a call with a specialist.

%schedule-a-call-cta%

Please feel free to comment. We always appreciate good dialogue. However, we do moderate each comment to ensure that it is on topic and not derogatory to other participants. We ask that you keep your comments brief and pertinent to the topic so that others may benefit.

Blessings,
Raul Rivera


And receive our free eBook Sequence: A step-by-step guide to successfully launching your church.