Maintaining Facebook Privacy as a Church Worker

September 19, 2017 Peter Frank

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Last week, I explained several reasons why your church Facebook page should not replace your church website. The last reason I mentioned was that despite Facebook having a huge number of users (more than 2 billion!), not everyone is on Facebook. One group that can be very hesitant to join Facebook is church workers.

Facebook, among other social media platforms, can be a place for building community, growing relationships, and better getting to know your members. Unfortunately, it also opens up people to sharing and viewing more information than they want. For church workers especially, it can blur the line between personal and professional lives.

How can a church worker take advantage of the benefits of social media without opening up their personal life to unwanted attention? By using the built-in privacy setting.

Update Your Privacy Settings

Privacy on Facebook has been a hot-botton issue since it started, and that is even more true today. Thankfully, Facebook frequently improves its privacy and it now allows users to implement very specific restrictions on who can see what on their account. Here are a some things to consider.

Hide Your Profile from Search Engines

The first setting that every church worker should change is one that prevents search engines from viewing your profile. Unless you are a celebrity pastor at a large church (and even in that case, I recommend creating a page), you won't need this. Go to Settings > Privacy > Who can look me up? and make sure the setting for "Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile?" is set to "No."

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Limit Who Can See Your Stuff

Whenever you share a post, you have the option to limit the audience. Most of your posts should not be shared with the public, unless you are posting about a public church event. You can choose the audience for each individual post, but you can also set a default value in Settings > Privacy > Who can see my stuff? In that same place, you can also apply a new setting to all of your previous posts by clicking "Limit past posts."

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Manage Your Restricted List

There may be some people with whom you want to be friends, but you are not comfortable with them seeing your posts. You can add them to the Restricted list in Facebook, which means you still will be friends, but they will only see your public posts. You can manage this list by going to Settings > Blocking > Restricted List. This is great for people who attend your church whom you wouldn't consider to be "friends" in the non-virtual world.

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Unfollow Friends

There may be some people with whom you want to maintain your friendship and allow them to see your posts, but you don't want to see their posts anymore. For situations like that, you can simply unfollow that person. To do so, go to their profile, look in the top right where it says "Following," click on that box, and select Unfollow. You will still have the option to go to their profile and see their posts, but they won't show up in your newsfeed.

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Unfriend or Block People

Sometimes you just don't want to be friends any more, meaning you don't want someone to see your posts and you don't want to see theirs. In Facebook, you have two options: Unfriend or Block. Both of these options end the digital friendship, but blocking someone will prevent them from trying to re-friend you. To unfriend someone, go to their profile, click the box in the top right that says "Friends," and select "Unfriend." To block someone, click the box with three periods right below the "Friends" box and select "Block." 

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Limit Who Can Send Your Friend Requests

Sometimes Facebook profiles can receive spam friend requests. If you find that your account is receiving a lot of these requests, you can set it so that only friends of your friends can send you requests. To do this, go to Settings > Privacy > Who can contact me? and change it from "Everyone" to "Friends of friends."

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Restrict Who Can Post on Your Timeline

Even if you are diligent about what you post, other people may choose to add things to your timeline that your friends will see. If you wish to prevent this from happening, you can choose to not allow anyone but yourself to post on your timeline by going to Settings > Timeline and Tagging > Who can add things to my timeline? and selecting "Only me" by the question "Who can post on your timeline?"

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Require Your Review for Posts on Timeline

For me, only allowing my posts to appear on my timeline was a bit too restrictive, so I keep my settings for that to "Friends." However, when someone thought it would be fun to post embarassing childhood photos to my timeline, I knew I needed a bit more privacy. I've set it so that Facebook now asks for my approval before posting anything on my timeline, which means others can start the process, but I have to approve it before my friends see the post. To do this for your timeline, go to Settings > Timeline and Tagging > Who can add things to my timeline? and turn the setting to "On" for the question "Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline?"

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View Your Profile as Someone Else 

After you've made these changes, it's good to check that your profile looks like you want it to for the public and your restricted list. To test this, go to your profile, in the box in the top right with three periods ("...") click "View As..." This wil show your public profile, but you can also view it as a specific person. Please note: your current profile photo and cover photo will always be available to the public, but you can change the privacy and past photos so they no longer are public.

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So what do you think? Do you feel a bit more comfortable about being on Facebook now that you know how to apply more privacy settings? Let us know in the comments section below. 

To learn about other ways to keep yourself and your church safe, download and read our free ebook Computer Security for Your Church.

Download Computer Security for Your Church Ebook

About the Author

Peter Frank

Peter Frank serves as Senior Marketing Manager of Church Supplies at Concordia Publishing House. A graduate of Concordia University Wisconsin, his background in theology, business, and computers gives him a unique perspective on technology in the church. Married and the father of two children, he is frequently humbled when his 18-month-old shows him new things on the iPad.

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