Safe Sanctuary Policy

 

A Child Abuse Prevention Policy

Good Shepherd United Methodist Church employs a strict Safe Sanctuary Policy to ensure the safety of children and youth at all times. The policy's objective is to ensure a safe, secure Christian atmosphere for all children and students during Good Shepherd sponsored events and worship services, on and off campus, as well as events held in any of Good Shepherd’s buildings or recreation areas.

Adopted October 26, 2008
Updated May 11, 2009

 

Introduction Background Statement

In April 1996, the General Conference of The United Methodist Church adopted a resolution aimed at reducing the risk of child sexual abuse in the church. The adopted resolution includes the following statement:

Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes [a] child…welcomes me” (Matthew 18:5). Children are our present and our future, our hope, our teachers, our inspiration. They are full participants in the life of the church and in the realm of God.

Jesus also said, “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones…it would be better for you if a great milestone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). Our Christian faith calls us to offer both hospitality and protection to the little ones, the children. The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church state that “children must be protected from economic, physical, emotional and sexual exploitation and abuse” (P162C).

Tragically, churches have not always been safe places for children. Child sexual abuse, exploitation, and ritual abuse [“ritual abuse” refers to abusive acts committed as part of ceremonies or rites; ritual abusers are often related to cults, or pretend to be] occur in churches, both large and small, urban and rural. The problem cuts across all economic, cultural, and racial lines. It is real, and it appears to be increasing. Most annual conferences can cite specific incidents of child sexual abuse and exploitation within churches. Virtually every congregation has among its members adult survivors of early sexual trauma.

Such incidents are devastating to all who are involved: the child, the family, the local church and its leaders. Increasingly, churches are torn apart by the legal, emotional, and monetary consequences of litigation following allegations of abuse.

God calls us to make our churches safe places, protecting children and other vulnerable persons from sexual and ritual abuse. God calls us to create communities of faith where children and adults grow safe and strong.

(From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church - 2000, pp. 180-181. Copyright 2000 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.)

Thus, in covenant with all United Methodist congregations, we as the official body of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, adopt this policy to protect children and youth in our church from abuse and/or harassment.

 

Purpose

The congregation of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church (GSUMC) is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for all who participate in ministries and activities sponsored by the church. GSUMC implements a Safe Sanctuary policy to protect children, youth and volunteers from all forms of abuse and/or harassment and demonstrate our unwavering commitment to physical safety, mental well-being, and spiritual growth.

 

Statement of Covenant

Therefore, as a Christian community of faith, Good Shepherd United Methodist Church pledges to conduct the ministry of the gospel in ways that assure the safety and spiritual growth of all of our children and youth as well as those who work with them.

 

We will:

Follow reasonable safety measures in the selection and recruitment of workers.
Implement prudent operational procedures in our ministries.
Educate individuals working with children and youth regarding this policy and its requirements.
Have clearly defined procedures for reporting a suspected incident of abuse that conforms to the requirements of state law.
Be prepared to respond, if an incident occurs.

 

Conclusion

In all ministries with children and youth, the congregation of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church is committed to demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ so that each child will be “surrounded by steadfast love, established in the faith and confirmed and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal.” (Baptismal Covenant II, United Methodist Hymnal, p. 44).

Charge Conference
Good Shepherd United Methodist Church
October 2008

 

Employee/Volunteer Application Requirements

Volunteers over 18 years of age will complete a Volunteer Application for Adults form. Youth, age 13 through 17, will complete a Volunteer Application for Youth.

Employees will complete a GSUMC Employment Application.

All employees and Adult Volunteers will complete a Character and Conduct Questionnaire upon application and at least annually thereafter.

References will be listed on the appropriate application and will be checked by GSUMC.

Employees and Adult Volunteers who work with children will have a background check. The background check will be paid for by GSUMC and conducted through an agency/organization approved by the church.

Employees and volunteers will review the Safe Sanctuary policy and agree to abide by the procedures and requirements.

Youth ages 13 to 18 years of age who wish to become a church employee or volunteer are to provide at least two written references from adults who have seen the applicant interact with other children. This might be a church worker, coach, school teacher, scout leaders, etc. At least one of these two references needs to be unrelated to the applicant. (Checking these references will take the place of the background check required for adult applicants).

Volunteers must meet one of the following requirements before beginning a volunteer assignment: Member of GSUMC for at least six months; Regular attendee at GSUMC for at least six months.

Employees and volunteers will attend training, as required.

Employees and volunteers may be asked to undergo subsequent background checks in order to continue to work with children or youth.

All personally identifiable information obtained by the church for the purpose of screening employees and volunteers will be handled with care and discretion. It will be seen by only those who need to see it in order to implement church policies and it will be stored in a secure and locked location on the church property until such time as it may be destroyed.

 

Application Review

Good Shepherd United Methodist Church reserves the right to deny or revoke any individual’s application to work with children/youth. Circumstances under which an application will be denied/revoked include, but are not limited to:

Applicant has a child abuse conviction or impingement (sexual, physical or emotional).
Conviction or impingement for violent offenses including, but not limited to, murder, rape, assault, domestic violence, etc.
Refusing to complete and sign the Volunteer Application or Character and Conduct Questionnaire.
Refusing to provide consent for a background check.
Refusing to provide information necessary for reference checks.
Violations of the Safe Sanctuary policy.

 

Discipline Policy for Children

When a child is not functioning well in a group setting, one or more of the following procedures are used.
Children are verbally asked to stop a certain activity or are redirected to another one.
Church volunteers and employees will model appropriate words or behaviors as a teaching strategy.
A church volunteer or employee will only physically remove a child in the event of danger to the child or another child.
A child may be asked to leave the group for a brief period until ready to join group activities again.
A church volunteer or employee may place their arms around a child whose behavior is out of bounds in order to stop the child from injuring self or others.
The church environment is re-evaluated often in order to make changes that would suggest a more positive behavior.
Church volunteers and employees will work with parents to gain new insight and establish common goals.
Corporal punishment is not allowed at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church. Spanking, threatening or frightening the student is prohibited. Depriving a student of food or comfort, such as taking away snack or long periods away from the group are not permitted and are not allowed for disciplining at GSUMC. No physical punishment (e.g., spanking, hitting) and/or verbal/emotional abuse (e.g., yelling at, name-calling, ridiculing) will be used at any time.