Q&A: Text Messaging

How can I maintain an open ministry while using tools that encourage privacy?

I’m a student pastor who recently added a text package to my phone for church use only. I do not text for personal reasons. The only reason I added the text package was for the purpose of connecting with the students in my student ministry. How can I ensure good transparency and accountability between my students, their parents, and me while using this one-on-one means of communication with young people?

The transparency and accountability you desire is only a click away. When you respond to a text message, hit “menu” and click on “add recipient” to copy your message to the person to whom you are accountable. This could be your senior pastor, a youth ministry overseer, your spouse, or even the parent(s) of the student to whom you are responding. Knowing that your text messages will be read by someone else will help keep your responses wholesome and appropriate.

If you choose to copy your messages to someone, be sure to let the people who send you text messages know that your responses to them will be seen by someone else as well.

You control what is sent out via text messages from your phone. This is not the appropriate mode of communication to discuss personal issues or make critical comments about someone or something. Keep your responses short and direct. Use your text messages to send logistical information, and answer with the information needed immediately. When people text you with problems, use your text response to set a meeting time to discuss in detail the issue at hand. Don’t use texting or e-mail to express frustration, anger, or unhappiness with anyone or anything. Get together in a two-way conversation to address problems.

Remember that text messages are not “private” communication. What you write can be forwarded far beyond your intended recipient and viewed by who knows how many people. So be careful what you write. Don’t join the playful mood of many teen messages and type something that could be misinterpreted as inappropriate. Also, your text messages can be accessed by whoever is responsible for your phone account—in your case, your church. Be sure you type and send only the messages that you will be comfortable having read by the leaders of the church if they ever have a reason to examine your interaction with anyone in your ministry.

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