Information. Everybody wants it. A lot of people are more than happy to give it. We print brochures, create ads, mail out flyers and—of course—post as much as we can on the Web so people can have our information. Printed materials are generally reviewed much more closely than items that are posted online. We realize that changing something in print tends to be costly and you can’t change it at all once it is on someone’s hands. On the web, things are sometimes scrutinized to a lesser degree.
Unfortunately, this less rigorous review and approval process means that on occasion, content gets posted that really should not be on the web at all. I am not talking about typos or grammatical mistakes, but the actual content itself.
Churches, ministries, and many non-profit organizations are unique in that in addition to full-time staff, they depend on a large number of volunteers. Volunteers often lead several ministries such as on-campus and off-campus small group Bible studies, support groups, vacation bible school, and the list goes on. As such, volunteers are often the key points of contact for their respective ministries. This makes it very tempting to simply post their personal contact information on the web and direct people to it. In a perfect world—no problem. However, I don’t need to go into a lesson on the depravity of man, to say the world is far from perfect.
When posting any information to your site, realize that someone can easily gain even more information from the little that you gave them. For example, let’s say you list an off-campus women’s bible study that meets at 8:00 p.m. along with a name and phone number. Simply typing in the name or phone into a search engine can quickly display an address, map and driving directions to that person’s location.
There are different tactics that you could try to protect such information, but the best solution is to simply not list personal information on the site at all. Instead, direct them to call the church office, send an email or fill out a form. Anyone legitimately interested should have no problem doing this, and it offers some basic safety for your volunteers, especially those in off-campus ministries.