By Kris Nussbaum
Kidron Mennonite Church Minister of Christian Education
A child protection and abuse response policy benefits everyone in our congregation. Not only does it work to create a safe environment for children, but it also protects volunteers from the appearance of wrong doing and the church from potential accusations.
Our entire child protection and abuse response policy fits on the front and back of a sheet of paper. It includes definitions of various types of abuse, steps the church intends to take to prevent and address ab use, and an assignment of responsibility for administering the program. All parents/guardians and youth workers receive yearly copies of the policy, containing any updates, along with completing or reviewing and initialing registration forms.
Each fall before the start of the new church year, we host a Wednesday evening workshop for all Sunday school teachers, youth sponsors, nursery workers and any other interested parties. In addition to offering input regarding leadership and teaching, we review the child protection policy, tips for being safe, and the church – wide behavioral guidelines.
Volunteers who are not able to attend the workshop are asked to read the policy and a pamphlet of practical tips, then sign and detach a slip confirming that they have read and understood the policy. This paper is kept on file, along with attendance from the training workshop, in case questions arise.
All volunteers are checked against sex offender registration websites such as www.nsopw.gov to ensure that no convicted sex offenders are given access to children. Additionally, behavioral contracts between the church and convicted sex offenders help define appropriate behavior and boundaries for the protection of all involved.
Children are reminded frequently of the church – wide behavioral guidelines, which are posted prominently in every space used by children’s ministries. We have five expectations: listen to the leaders and follow directions; ask permission before leaving the area; participate in activities without complaining; take good care of our room and equipment; and no running, hitting, fighting or name calling.
The total time investment for maintaining our program now that it is up and running is well within the realm appropriate to ask of a volunteer. Having a clear person in charge of the program is a must.
Visit our Child Protection resource page for more info on how you can improve your child protection policy