When Greenville operated more like a small town, it was considered a responsibility of churches to let its members know who was hospitalized as well as who graduated, moved, got married, received a commendation, or retired. It was understood that that news was for public consumption anyway, so the church played a useful role in making news “official” before it became “rumor.” It helped its members look after one another.

Today’s social media culture has turned all our personal information into bait for online trolls, unscrupulous marketing firms, and even criminals, who have mastered the art of turning information into money. Turns out “phishing” is not just poor spelling! Sophisticated algorithms can connect the dots and exploit vulnerabilities. Members who have been victims of these predators can tell you just how costly it can be! Now the question is: How can we take care of one another while protecting our privacy and confidentiality?

We propose that one way to do this is to reserve the church newsletter for announcements of sympathies for deaths only and to give the responsibility for sharing news of hospitalizations and other life transitions, celebrations and griefs to you and your small group as you see fit. That will empower you to ration your personal news among those who need to know and those who will do the caregiving work personally.

The other place that information can be shared and stored in a safe space is with our Care & Concern Team, that group of staff ministers that meets each week to stay informed and prayerful about the lives of our members. It’s a confidential space.

Like all changes, this may be an uncomfortable adjustment at first. But our hope is that it will not only better protect the privacy of our members but it will positively activate the caregiving role our small groups play. We see it not as a way of doing less ministry, but more, and doing so with greater discretion for all our sakes.

—Kendra and Kyle

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