What You Need to Know about Church Data Privacy
The concern over data privacy can’t be ignored, even by churches—and while it may seem complicated, there are resources available to help the faith and church industry “level up” up on the subject. In fact, when you understand data privacy as a pastor or church leader, you can help instill a new level of trust, and reinforce the meaningful relationships you’ve built with the people and communities you serve.
People simply want to know their information is protected, whether it’s notes on their membership record, counseling appointments, financial data, etc. They need to know you care about keeping it secure, and you’re taking steps to protect their privacy.
This blog will point you toward some of the resources we’ve gathered so you can learn:
What data privacy is
How to protect the information your members have entrusted you with
What you can do to help protect your church’s data as a whole
Data—One of a Church’s most Valuable Assets
It’s important to understand the many types of data you may collect as a church. Ministry Business Services states, “Data is one of the most valuable assets a church has. Protecting it isn’t difficult, but must be approached as deliberately and strategically as fire and security protection.”
Their article, Protecting Your Data—Is It Really Worth the Hassle? includes comprehensive lists intended to help you understand:
Prioritizing data protection
Layers of protection
A Responsibility to Protect Data
Ministry Impact explains that as a pastor or church leader, you have a responsibility to protect the information members share with you, which may include their names, addresses, ages, notes, family affiliations, etc.
Although people are increasingly sensitive about how their data is collected and used, there are some simple steps you can take to help protect it. Their blog, Keeping Your Church Members’ Data Secure, even provides a list of actions you can take to ensure better data security for your members, and your church.
In the blog, they state, “As a church leader, you know that we have nothing to fear with God as our provider and protector. However, we also know that he’s entrusted to you a great responsibility to care for his people. And a big part of that care is to do all you can to protect them . . . .”
Collecting and Protecting Church Information
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides a resource to its members entitled, Keeping Church Information Safe, in which they state, “You are a steward of sensitive information. It is important that you share this information only with those who need it to fulfill their callings and assignments.”
They explain how to keep membership, personal, and financial information confidential, as well as how to:
Protect sensitive information with passwords
How to safely store data
How to protect information on mobile devices
Be smart online
The Difference Between Data Privacy and Protection
As you work to protect the information your congregants share with you, it’s important to educate yourself around data privacy laws and regulations. Data Privacy Vs. Data Protection, published by Ipswitch, states that, “data protection is about securing data against unauthorized access. Data privacy is about authorized access — who has it and who defines it.”
In the blog, they explain how data privacy and protection are interconnected, but that one doesn’t ensure the other.
GDPR and Your Church
One of the biggest changes in privacy and security came about with the introduction of GDPR. Originally intended for anyone living in, or doing work in the E.U., many organizations in the U.S. have also complied. Fishhook explains how these regulations could affect your church in their blog post, What the GDPR Update Means for Your Church.
10 Top Tips to GDPR Compliance
Digital Church has set out to help churches everywhere understand GDPR and how it could affect their ministry in their blot post, Is Your Church Ready for GDPR?
In their blog, they explain what GDPR is, who it affects, and what you can do to make sure you’re in compliance with these new regulations. They state, “If you process any data in the E.U. (even attendance data), GDPR needs to be on your radar.”
This blog provides 10 top tips to help you get on board!
Physical and Computer Security
Data and security breaches are becoming more common, even in the church space, which is why American Church Group recommends being proactive in your physical and computer security.
In an article titled How Well Does Your Ministry Secure Personal Data?, they state, “By carefully managing your members’ personal information, you are not only exercising good business practices, but you also are protecting your church or ministry from crippling data losses, embarrassing public disclosures, and potential lawsuits.”
The article includes two bullet lists—one for improving physical security and the other for computer security. It’s a quick read with some suggestions worth following up on!
Privacy Policies & Data Protection
They also provide step-by-step directions for those who want to withdraw consent for use of their information.
Church Privacy Policies & Why You Need One
Data Privacy Training
There are many organizations that provide privacy and security trainings to help educate your church leaders about how to handle the information you exchange with your members. We recommend IAPP, the industry leader around privacy, and a not-for-profit organization.
“Data powers the information economy. And the risks associated with it continue to skyrocket. Data breach, identity theft, loss of customer trust—these are the threats to organizations of all sizes, in all sectors, in today’s marketplace,” they explain. “The International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) is a resource for professionals who want to develop and advance their careers by helping their organizations successfully manage these risks and protect their data.”
Partner with Trusted Providers
Church leaders and pastors everywhere are recognizing the need to use technology to help them with things like:
Child check in
The information exchanged with these services is powerful, and it’s critical that you select partners who handle that data with integrity and trust. Trust includes privacy, security, confidentiality, and accountability.
When selecting a data solutions provider, ensure they follow industry standard self-regulatory principles around consumer privacy, established by organizations like the IAB and DMA.
Make sure partners have rules in place that protect against risks, unethical use of your information, and other pitfalls.
As you partner with trusted providers, it will allow you the confidence and reassurance that you can put your focus on what matters most—your ministry. For a “deeper dive” on data and church, and to learn how you can identify a trusted data solutions provider, download our ebook: Data & The Church.
“Level Up” on Data Privacy
At Gloo, we’re working to provide additional resources to help you “level up” on trust by understanding privacy, security, and compliance practices. Watch for monthly posts in our blog, and be sure to subscribe, so you don’t miss a beat!