Church employees and volunteers are often exposed to a great deal of confidential information. This assumes a significant amount of responsibility and code of ethics for those who have access to this sensitive material.
According to dictionary.com, confidentiality is defined as “having another’s trust or confidence; entrusted with secrets or private affairs.”
It is the responsibility of church leadership to protect and safeguard confidential and sensitive information.
Members and volunteers provide the church with information about their demographics, their finances and often their personal lives and trust that those who have access to this sensitive information will maintain a high level confidentiality.
The church also maintains human resource information on their employees which needs to be safeguarded also. This includes personal demographic data as well as social security numbers and medical information.
Without a focus on confidentiality, sensitive information may be inadvertently shared with individuals who should not have access to this information.
5 Tips for Church Confidentiality
1. Confidentiality Policy
The first step is to write a policy for confidentiality. This should include expectations for those people who are exposed to sensitive information and guidelines for dealing with inappropriate inquiries. For example, it is common for people to call the church office and ask for the phone number or address of a church member. This policy should include how to handle such inquiries.
2. Confidentiality Agreement
Employees and volunteers who have access to sensitive information should be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement indicating that they understand the importance of safeguarding sensitive information. The goal of the agreement is to merely assert the organization’s commitment to maintaining and respecting personal and private information and should be kept in the employee or volunteer file.
3. Confidentiality Training
Once you have a well thought out policy in place, it is essential to train employees, as well as volunteers, about the importance of maintaining confidentiality. This type of training can be incorporated into the employee and volunteer orientation process. Simply making people mindful of the expectations helps to heighten their awareness and compliance.
4. Need-to-Know Approach
Sometimes there are issues with members or volunteers that are of a pastoral matter and need to kept at that level. Sharing this information with other employees and volunteers is inappropriate with the exception of a need-to-know situation. For example, if the volunteer office receives a background check and discovers that a volunteer has been convicted of a child sexual predator act, a pastor will need to be informed so they can help manage the communication to that volunteer.
5. Control Access
Access to confidential and sensitive information needs to be controlled. Electronic files need to have limited user access and paper files need to be locked at all times. The policy should clearly state who has access to what data and specifically who is exposed to donor and background check information.
The are many responsibilities that come with managing a church office but one of the most significant is creating an environment that protects and safeguards employee, member and volunteer sensitive information.