SPRING HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

POLICY FOR SAFE SANCTUARIES 

Our mandate as Christians of Spring Hill United Methodist Church is to live according to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The New Testament makes it clear that, as Christians, we continue in a covenant relationship with God and with the whole community of faith. Jesus plainly taught that children and youth are to be included and provided for within the community of faith. Today, the church may be the only place where some teenagers and children find the unconditional love and care they so desperately need to grow, to thrive, and to become faithful people. As Christians, we must take our responsibilities to our youth and children seriously, always attending to their spiritual growth and nurturing. We fail in our responsibilities if we neglect to take adequate precautions against physical and emotional abuse of youth and children while they are at Spring Hill United Methodist Church or participating in its activities and programs.

The social Principles of the United Methodist Church state that “children must be protected from economic, physical, emotional, and sexual exploitation and abuse” (Discipline par. 162C). God calls us to make our churches safe places, protecting youth, children and other vulnerable persons from sexual and ritual abuse. The General Conference of the United Methodist Church adopted this resolution aimed at reducing the risk of child sexual abuse in the church.

At Spring Hill United Methodist Church:

  1. We will develop and implement an educational plan for the congregation and its leaders in the form of a meeting on the reality of youth and children abuse risk factors leading to youth and children abuse and strategies for prevention.
  2. We will adopt screening procedures by use of application forms, interviews, reference checks and background clearance for workers (paid or unpaid) directly or indirectly involved in the care of all children and/or youth. (Forms will need to be updated every 3-5 years.)
  3. We will develop and implement safety procedures for church activities by having two or more non-related adults (non-husband/wife teams) present in the classroom or activity; installing windows in all doors of youth/children’s classrooms; providing hall monitors (Sunday School Superintendent); instituting sign-in and sign-out procedures for children ages 10 or younger during Sunday School hour and during other events.
  4. We will advise youth and children of a person outside the church (ex. school nurse) as well as someone within the local church (Congregational Designee-someone appointed by the SPRC who will maintain all of the records at Spring Hill United Methodist Church) whom they can contact for advice and help if they have suffered abuse.
  5. We will have liability insurance that includes sexual abuse coverage. (Attachment 1)
  6. We will assist the development of awareness and self-protection skills for youth and children through special curriculum and activities.
  7. We will be familiar with annual conference guidelines and other church policies regarding clergy sexual misconduct. (There is a current policy on file in the church office titled “Sexual Harassment Policy” and was adopted 2006.)

 

      Why do we need to implement a plan to prevent abuse? We need to implement a plan to prevent abuse because our church, Spring Hill United Methodist, is a community of faith, a safe haven and sanctuary where youth and children can be confirmed and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal. We must recognize that our efforts to protect the youth and children will also protect adults who work with the youth and children. Youth and children’s ministries in safe sanctuaries not only reduces the risk of abuse but will also equip the youth and children with the faith and hope they need to face the present and the future. There are several types of abuse- physical, emotional, neglect, sexual, and ritual. The abuse in which a person intentionally causes bodily harm is physical abuse. The abuse in which a person exposes a youth or child to spoken and/or unspoken violence or emotional cruelty is emotional abuse. The abuse in which a person endangers a youth’s or child’s health, welfare, and safety through negligence is neglect. The abuse that occurs when sexual contact of any sort, including fondling, intercourse, incest, and exploitation of and exposure to pornography and/or prostitution between a youth and/or child with an adult happens is sexual abuse. The abuse in which physical, sexual, or psychological violence is inflicted on a youth and/or child, intentionally and in a stylized way is ritual abuse. The youth or child victim is never responsible for causing the abuse and should never be blamed for it.

      No church is immune from the horrors of abuse simply because it wants to be. Three million incidents of abuse are reported each year and that equates to one incident every ten seconds around the clock, seven days a week. The concept of charitable immunity, which in the past shielded churches from many types of litigation, no longer serves as a viable protection in cases of abuse or sexual misconduct. The church must not look upon the reality of abuse of youth and children as a reason to withdraw from its ministries with youth and children. More than ever before, the youth and children in our communities need strong leadership from Christian role models to equip them with spiritual strength to face everyday challenges in school, at work, and in social arenas. We must work to assure that our ministries at Spring Hill United Methodist Church are carried out in responsibly safe circumstances. While we cannot guarantee the safety of every person, Spring Hill United Methodist Church can be responsible for reducing and eliminating circumstances that could lead to harm or injury.

      Youth and children suffering abuse often do not tell anyone about it; therefore, it is important to recognize other signs of abuse. We may notice hostile or aggressive behavior, fearfulness, destructive behavior, physical damages, depression, extreme passive or aggressive behaviors, unusual nervousness or anxiety, reluctance to participate, unexplained hostility, and unexplained comments. We are called to be vigilant in protecting the youth and children in our midst and in preventing abuse in the community of faith.

      Who are the abusers? They are not easily recognizable, for they may look just like everyone else. They have a greater power in relation to a youth or child, and they use that power to harm the youth or child. They may have unlimited and unsupervised access to our youth and children. Without a comprehensive strategy against abuse, we at Spring Hill United Methodist Church are taking a needless risk that harm may be done to our youth and children and our workers with youth and children. If there is abuse in our church it would create many victims: the youth and children, their families, the congregation and the family of the abuser. Our congregation could consequently suffer for a long time when civil or criminal litigation ensues as a result of the abuse.

      At Spring Hill United Methodist Church we have implemented a comprehensive strategy for the prevention of abuse and developed appropriate procedures for recruiting, screening and allowing people to work with our youth and children. This applies to all Sunday school teachers, all youth and children’s counselors, and any helpers in any of these areas that will have any interaction with any youth or children. The two-leader rule will apply and never will a youth or child be left alone with only one adult. We will provide parents with advance notice and full information about activities for the youth and children. The forms that we will use at Spring Hill United Methodist Church for all volunteer workers of youth and children will be: 

  1. Volunteer Information Sheet (Attachment 2)
  2. Employment Application (Attachment 3)
  3. Reference Form(Attachment 4)
  4. Authorization for the Release of Information (consent to criminal background check) (Attachment 5)

[Copies of these forms will be attached to this document policy for approval and additional copies will be kept on file at Spring Hill United Methodist Church]

After completion of these forms by a prospective worker, they will be reviewed by the Congregational Designee to ensure that all the appropriate guidelines have been met and followed before allowing that person to work with the youth and/or children groups. These forms will remain on file in the office, with the Congregational Designee and pastor’s approval, until such time as a worker is replaced or no longer desires to work with the youth or children. All files will be updated every 5 years or as deemed necessary by the Congregational Designee or Pastor.

      We, at Spring Hill United Methodist church, will train our youth and children’s Sunday School teachers, M&M, CB’s, and UMYF workers as well as all members of the Children’s Ministry Council in the implementation of the policies and procedures to reduce the risk of abuse by allowing all workers to understand that these policies are to protect them as well as the youth and children. All outside activities that may occur at Spring Hill United Methodist Church such as Trick or Trunk, Vacation Bible School and/or Family Fun Day, etc. will also be subject to these rules and guidelines and will be subject to extra monitors to ensure the youth/children’s safety at all times.

      If an allegation of abuse is reported about a worker in the church, the Congregational Designee should be notified and he/she should contact or report the information to the state, the insurance agent, the church conference attorney as well as the District Superintendent (who will contact the media if necessary) and the Bishop. The Congregational Designee must be prepared to state the church’s policy for the prevention of abuse, the church’s concern for the safety of the victim and all youth and children, and the procedures the church has followed to reduce the risk of abuse to youth and children. Planning ahead will enable Spring Hill United Methodist Church to preserve our congregation’s ability to surround the youth with steadfast love and establish him or her in faith strong enough to withstand any crisis. As faithful Christians, we, the congregation of Spring Hill United Methodist Church, must also be prepared to respond to the victim and his or her family as well as the abuser.

      This policy will be kept on file in the church office along with the applications of all current workers and teachers and will be reviewed periodically by the Congregational Designee.