One of the tools we will be rolling out for Tribes and currently use for Student Leadership Team is an app called GroupMe. If you are unfamiliar with GroupMe, it is basically an app that allows groups of people who know each other to communicate more efficiently in a safe environment.
At Fusion we take the safety and security of our students very seriously, and we want to protect our students and our leaders from evil and the appearance of evil. Because of this, we do not allow students and leaders to have each other’s personal cell phone numbers and discourage any contact that doesn’t take place in a public setting. That means no direct messages on social media, no texting, no phone calls, and no contact through any other channel that does not involve multiple people. All of this is done to protect our students, our leaders, and our ministry from any inappropriate contact between an adult and a minor, and from any accusations of inappropriate contact that can neither be proven or disproven. If it is all out in the open, then it can be verified.
All of that being said, we do feel like it is important for our Tribe leaders to be able to contact their groups, and it is important for students to have a way to reach out to their leaders when they need prayer, advice, or they just have a question. This is where GroupMe comes in. While there is no perfect system for this kind of thing, there are some safeguards involved with this app that make it worthwhile to use. Here’s what we like about GroupMe and why we are comfortable using it.
No Exchange of Numbers
When you are added to a group in GroupMe, it doesn’t show any of your contact information. It just shows your name and your picture if you choose to create an avatar. The only way you can contact someone in your group is through the app itself. This means that students don’t have leader’s numbers and vice versa.
The only way to get into a group is to be invited into the group by a group member. That means that the only people involved in group conversations are the people in that Tribe. Your student will be in a group with a dozen or so other students from their connect group and one or two adult leaders from that group. This means that no one can “follow” or “friend” your students. They are only in groups with people they know. If they get invited to a group by someone they don’t know, they simply don’t join the group.
Guys With Guys, Girls With Girls
The way we have it set up, female adult leaders will be in Tribes with girls, and our male adult leaders will be in Tribes with guys. This means that there should be no reason that one of our male adult leaders would ever be in contact with a female student through GroupMe, and vice versa. They shouldn’t even have each other available as a contact in GroupMe. Guys with guys, girls with girls.
Once It’s Out There, It’s Out There
The great thing about GroupMe is that you cannot go back and delete or hide comments or conversations. In some cases you may be able to remove a conversation from your phone, but it is still archived, and is still on the phone of everyone else involved in the conversation. This discourages people from sending inappropriate pictures and messages because they know they will get caught. It also means that if anything inappropriate is taking place, we will find it and we will deal with it.
Three or More
Although GroupMe does allow direct messages between people in a group, we don’t. Our policy is that if a student has a question for their group leader, or if a group leader wants to follow up with a specific student, they cannot have that conversation between just the two of them. There always needs to be at least three people in the conversation, and Fusion GroupMe needs to be one of the three. If a student sends a direct message to a leader, that leader will take a screen shot of the initial conversation and begin a new conversation with that student and Fusion GroupMe, including the picture of the first conversation. This gives us the ability to monitor every conversation that takes place between our students and leaders.
There are some other great features with GroupMe and we encourage you to explore and investigate these features yourself. If you have any questions or reservations about the app, we would be happy to discuss it with you in further detail. Just shoot us an email at email@example.com. Thanks so much for allowing your middle school students to be a part of Tribes!