The Ultimate Guide to Website Privacy Policies for Churches
Julianne Alkire works at Church Marketing University- which is a fancy-sounding way of saying that every day, she gets to serve the local church: whether that's researching a topic that intimidates many church leaders, helping people navigate the many resource... read more
When it comes to your church’s physical meeting space, you know people need to feel safe before they’ll be willing to come back- and the same rule applies to your digital location. So, in addition to creating a great aesthetic that conveys welcome, you need to help people understand how you’re protecting their personal information.
In this guide, we will give you an overview of why website privacy policies are important and what they include. In addition to the template above, we’ve included tons of examples and links to legal resources where you can get additional help.
- clear communication
- technical excellence, and
- a new-user focus.
Plus, our team will work with you to help you get unstuck as you’re setting it up. If you’d like to learn more, check out our next website bootcamp!
- Website privacy policies are required for websites that gather information about people.
- A way to “Plan Your Visit” or “Pre-Register Your Kids.”
- An Opt-in for a newsletter.
- Any “contact us” field.
- A page for online donations.
- Small group sign-ups.
- Selling online church merch or fundraising through other means.
If you’re not sure what “cookies” and “GDPR” are, we’ve included a definitions section later in this guide.
Don’t Website Privacy Policies Scare People Off?
No. In fact, telling people exactly how you’re using their information should reassure them.
In the end, every piece of information you collect is designed to help people achieve their goals. For example, cookies allow your website to load more quickly on people’s browsers. In the case of forms, entering personal information helps people to accomplish their goals, like planning their visit. Just make sure you explain why you’re collecting that information and how your church uses and stores it.
1 ) The Introduction
This is your opportunity to explain the purpose of your website. If you’re not sure what your purpose is, try to answer the question, “What am I trying to accomplish with this site?”
Tip: If you find that your site isn’t helping you get new visitors, it might be time to try Omega!
2) Collected Information
This section helps people understand what is being collected and how you are using it. Be crystal clear about every piece of information you collect, even if it seems obvious.
3) Means of Collection
In this section, explain the procedure you use to gather information about people. For example:
- Do you use forms?
- Are there fields to provide personal information?
- Is information collected through cookies?
- How do you use this information?
4) Information Storage
Now, tell people exactly where their information is being stored. This demonstrates that their personal information is secure in your hands. As far as information storage goes, there are different regulations depending on your location. (We’ll look at these later)
If you’re not sure how to store information, looking into a church management software or email/text solution like Text In Church is a great place to start.
5) Contact information
Lastly, you need to provide information on how the user can contact you. This needs to be a clear and direct form of communication, such as an email address. Make sure it’s an address where people will receive a quick response if they contact you with questions.
You may want to include a section that defines some key terms, such as:
- personal data
- data controller
- data processor
- personal identification
We have example definitions of a few of these terms in the next section of this guide. You are welcome to steal them!
Data Collection Laws
You can provide a section that explains the laws regarding data collection for the area where you live. For example, for countries that are members of the EU, you can explain how the EU Cookie Laws apply to your site. Be sure to check your understanding of these laws with a lawyer.
What Is A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Protocol?
SSL encrypts the information sent between you and a website so that hackers and people with harmful intent cannot read your data. It’s a basic level of site security, allowing people to:
- Browse your website without their information being stolen
- Enter information securely
- Communicate online without fearing that their information will be stolen
Wondering if your website already has SSL protection? Good news: it’s easy to figure out! Your website has SSL protection if the URL begins with HTTPS instead of HTTP. For example, https://churchmarketinguniversity.com 🙌
If you don’t have SSL protection, you need it. You can find a link to get it in the “additional resources” section of this guide.
It’s important to make sure you install your SSL so that ALL the pages on your website are protected. We’ve seen too many church sites not appearing in Google searches and/or having online ads rejected because they hadn’t protected every page on their site.
Side note: If your site is secure, and you’re STILL having trouble appearing in Google searches, we recommend signing up for our CMU website coaching! You’ll receive personalized training on how to get your church on the first page of Google searches for churches in your area.
What are Cookies?
Have you been prompted to select your language preference when you visit a site for the first time? After making a selection, chances are, the website remembered your preference the next time you visited. This is the work of a cookie.
Basically, a cookie is a small document of information that websites store in order to remember user preferences and useful information.
Here are a few facts about cookies:
- Cookies do NOT carry personal data from your hard drive.
- Cookies require explicit consent from the user before a site can use them.
- Sadly, these kinds of cookies do not contain chocolate chips.
What Is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)?
Essentially, corporations and websites must follow GDPR guidelines in order to protect the safety of people using their site. GDPR sets a specific list of DOs and DON’Ts regarding what information can be recorded and what cannot. For more information on GDPR, take a look at the “legal resources” links in the next section.
Example Church Website Privacy Policies & Legal Resources
Iubenda offers solutions to help you make your website or app compliant with legal requirements. They cover privacy policies, cookies, terms and conditions, and more. If you use their paid services, their legal team can keep them up to date and maintain them. They also offer free webinars on some of these subjects!
Omega Website Builder by Ministry Designs
If your entire website needs attention, you’re going to love the Omega Website Builder from Ministry Designs! With Omega, you’ll successfully achieve clear communication without sacrificing technical excellence or a new-user focus. If you’d like to learn more, check out our next Website Bootcamp.