It happened again this week. Two ministers in two different Churches were arrested for child molestation. Wherever there are children, there are often people nearby who want to harm them. That includes churches and faith based programs ministering to kids and teens. Your program is not immune and very likely does not have policies and procedures in place to adequately protect the children you serve.
Whether you are a minister, a leader or a volunteer, I beg you to do some checking. What does your church or faith based program do to protect the children it serves? There are many things that can and should be done, but the list below covers some of the most basic protections:
- Volunteer Screening – This should include an application, references and a criminal records background check. While the background check will only reveal felony convictions and the rest of the information can be falsified, it does serve as a deterrent to potential predators. They generally target churches because of their poor screening processes and the easy access to children who aren’t well protected. Finding out you have screening processes in place will most likely make them move on to an easier target.
- Written Child Safety Policies – These policies should include everything from how volunteers are screened, to rules for volunteer interaction with young people to incident reporting. The policies should be given to every volunteer and family and you may even want to post them on your website for easy reference.
- Classroom Behavior Management Policies * and Training – Volunteers should be asked to read and sign a policy similar to the one below. Training should be offered to those inexperienced in working with children to teach them appropriate classroom management skills and techniques. If you have the resources, you may also want to provide training in first aid and CPR to volunteers.
- Floaters – These are staff or highly experienced and trained volunteers who walk around when children are present checking on the various locations. They provide assistance to teachers who need help managing classroom behavior or have a child who becomes ill or needs special assistance in some way. This person not only frees the teacher to teach, but also lessens the likelihood that something inappropriate will happen – or at least that it can be stopped quickly.
- Parent/Guardian Identification Procedures – With the frequency of foster care, open adoptions and divorce, it is crucial your church or program has a way to identify the people who are or are not allowed to pick up your children. Parents may scream at the overprotectiveness, but I can’t tell you the number of incidents I have heard involving a noncustodial parent attempting to sneak and pick up a child at a church or faith based program.
- A No Child Alone Policy – This is one area where not only your volunteers, but parents need to be educated. It is not safe for any child to wander around a building or go to the restroom alone, especially while classes or services are in session. Once again, I have heard so many horror stories of children and teens being raped in church buildings, while other people are in the building otherwise occupied. Children should not be allowed to roam freely. They need to always be accompanied by an adult or at the very least another child. (Note: This can still be dangerous, but does make an incident less likely.)
While there are no guarantees that even with these items your students are free from all danger, it greatly improves their chances of staying safe. What a shame if while trying to teach them about Jesus, we don’t do everything we can to keep them from physical harm. The emotional and spiritual damage one incident can cause will undo any good you may have accomplished. Check with your program’s attorneys and insurance agents, but start protecting your students today!
*Ministry Classroom Management Guidelines*
Please check with your program’s lawyers, insurance carriers and advisors for specific changes and corrections needed for your particular program.
XYZ Ministry values the safety and well being of our students. The following guidelines are our expectations for classroom management.
- XYZ Ministry has an open door policy. We require classroom doors without windows in them to be open at all times.
- XYZ Ministry staff and/or permanent volunteers may come into your classroom at any time. They may offer assistance or observe your class.
- Parents of your students may observe your class if they have received prior permission from the XYZ Ministry staff. The staff will inform you when they have given permission to a parent to observe your class.
- Physical/corporate correction is not allowed under any circumstance.
- Cursing, demeaning comments, insults and other ugly speech are not allowed under any circumstance.
- We encourage you to require our students to follow XYZ Ministry rules:
- Do not talk when someone is giving instructions or teaching a lesson.
- Raise your hand if you have a question or need help.
- If an activity allows talking, movement and/or noise, you are still expected to be respectful of others.
- Do not use your words to be disrespectful or hurt others.
- Do not use physical violence or force against others.
- Follow instructions given by leaders, teachers and others placed in authority over you, unless they violate our ministry rules or God’s laws.
- If a student disobeys rules or does not follow instructions, they are to be given only one reminder.
- If a student is openly disrespectful or disobedient, please let our floater know as quickly as possible. The floater will determine appropriate consequences. If you become a permanent volunteer, you will be given training on giving appropriate consequences to students.
- If you encounter a problem not addressed by these guidelines or have any questions, please contact Joe ABC.