The IRS and Your Church's Social Media

Written by Mariel Villarreal on Sep 30, 2021 in IRS Compliance

Read Time: 3.5 Minutes

Did you know around 233 million Americans regularly use social media today?* This number reveals the enormous potential for your church to make an impact online. However, social media posting comes with great responsibility.

While social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are strategic ways to reach many people today, they can also be easily misused. With this in mind, let's look at some helpful strategies to protect your church and stay IRS compliant. 

Establishing a social media policy

Many church and ministry leaders are surprised to learn that the IRS cares about what you post on social media. In the case that your church or ministry undergoes auditing, the IRS may review your social media platforms to determine if you are staying compliant and operating according to your tax-exempt purpose. However, you can safeguard your church by implementing well-crafted policies for your staff and volunteers to follow. 

Your church's social media policy should outline:

  1. How the church's social media will be used,
  2. The language that is appropriate to use in posts, 
  3. The type of content that can be posted,
  4. Who and what can be represented in the photos used on social media,
  5. Protection for those who are in foster care systems and in custody issues,
  6. A privacy policy
  7. Who has the authority to post on the church's social media, and whether or not approval is required before posting. 

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.

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IRS Publication 1828 and your church

As tax-exempt organizations, churches and all nonprofit organizations must follow listed qualifications and rules in the IRS Publication 1828. When a church violates one of the listed rules in Publication 1828, it risks losing its 501(c)(3) status. However, using wisdom and due diligence, you can avoid this!

Let's take a look at behaviors to avoid on social media to stay in IRS compliance:

  • Inappropriate comments, pictures, videos, or gestures. This means promiscuous content, 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 can't claim a political party from the church's platform. With social media operating as a second pulpit, no church should declare a party publicly from the church's social media account. Let your policies clarify how your staff and pastors can interact with political matters on the church's social media. 
It's a good idea to take one step further in defining the tone of your church's social media presence. Churches can decide that certain behaviors can reflect poorly on the church and should be avoided.

These behaviors include: 

  1. Angry rants;
  2. Theological debates;
  3. Slandering businesses, organizations, or other pastors; and
  4. Behavior that violates the church's bylaws

Without these details outlined in your policy, it could be easy to misuse social media. Churches and individuals can also be sued for violation of privacy, custody issues, and related situations, so it is crucial to take these policies and practices seriously.

Best practices for social media compliance

Here are a few steps to take stay compliant, protect your church, and increase engagement on social media:

1. Adopt your social media policy in your Board Meeting Minutes.

Craft your policy to meet your church's mission and vision, and be sure to have the policy approved by your Board of Directors.

2. Adequately inform staff and volunteers of your policies.

Train your staff and volunteers on your social media guidelines, have them sign a copy of the policy, and update them on any new changes.

3. Regularly monitor your social media pages.

Make it a practice to review your social media platforms for any content that may go against your policies and guidelines - including deleting any inappropriate comments or activity.

4. Update policies as needed to adjust to new social media platforms.

As new social media platforms and features arise, it's important to stay up-to-date on your policies and make changes as needed. (For example, TikTok and Instagram Reels focus on trending songs and sound bites - make sure these audio clips abide by your policies before you post.)

5. Link your social media platforms to your church website.

Your church website will allow your church members to keep informed and help inquiring visitors learn more about who you are before attending a service. Linking your social media to your website will make it easier for people to connect with you.

If you don't have a website for your church yet, we will help you create a website with online giving in less than one hour. Click here to learn more about our website builder, StartSITES.

Protect your church, expand your impact

Social media is an excellent platform to share the gospel around the world. You can grow your church's audience, engage in digital missions, and reach those you'd never otherwise be able to impact without the internet.

However, if you want to have the most significant impact, your church must operate its social media wisely. Creating policies for you and your staff and volunteers to follow will help protect your church, so you can continue to grow for years to come.

Understanding church compliance can be overwhelming - but it doesn’t have to be. Our church specialists would love to help you feel confident you are fully protecting what God’s called you to lead. Give us a call at (833) 264-0423 or click the button below to schedule a call to learn how we can serve you.

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Resources:

*Hou, Z., Hrach, A., Griffiths, A. H. and J., & Griffiths, J. (2021, May 24). Social media usage statistics for 2021 reveal surprising shifts. Content Marketing Consulting and Social Media Strategy. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-research/social-media-usage-statistics/.

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Blessings,
Raul Rivera


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