For lots of churches, there can be real confusion about what they’re meant to do to be safe… There’s training courses, working with children checks, policies, codes of conduct, referee checks, and so much more that you could do. So before we get lost in the details, let’s start by thinking about what a safe church would look like…
Living in this world means there’s always the potential that people could be harmed in our church communities. That means an important basis of a safe church is making sure everyone is aware of the potential dangers for vulnerable people. In other words, a safe church is a community where everyone plays a role in looking out for the well-being of vulnerable people, and then speaking out if they have any concerns that someone is being treated inappropriately.
That’s why we’ve created a short awareness course designed for everyone who’s part of your church. It only takes a few minutes to do online, and it can even be done in small groups in someone’s home. The awareness course helps people see that whether they’re serving in church or not, they can help look-out for issues, and they can speak-out if they have concerns.
Leaders are screened and trained
But it’s more than just being aware… What else would a safe church look like?
A safe church would make sure their leaders are properly screened and regularly trained to work with vulnerable people. It’s important to note leaders means all your volunteers, not just your volunteers who work with kids. Anyone at your church who serves other people is a leader.
That’s why we’ve developed the Leaders Online Training Course; it’s another short course that builds on the content of the Awareness Course and helps leaders understand; their responsibilities, the potential risks around vulnerable people, and how to deal with concerns when they’re raised. It helps your leaders feel confident about the role they play in safeguarding vulnerable people.
But what about screening your leaders? What type of screening should a safe church do? This is where your insurance company is really helpful, and they have clear requirements about how churches should screen their leaders. The basic requirements are these:
- Your church should ask potential leaders if there are things in their past that mean they might not be suitable to work with vulnerable people.
- Your church should ask potential leaders for references; someone from the church leadership, and someone from outside church; 2 people who can confirm that the leader is suitable to work with vulnerable people.
- If the potential leader is going to be working with children, your church needs to validate their working with children check status, and keep a record of that check.
- And, Your church should ask potential leaders about their previous ministry experience so their team leaders or staff can help provide appropriate support if needed.
That might seem like a lot of screening, but part of the Leaders Online Course is a series of questions that allows the Safe Ministry Training system to automatically screen them for you.
- We ask potential leaders to disclose any previous accusations or reasons they might not be suitable.
- We record their referee details so our system can then automatically email the referees, ask them the questions they need to answer and we record their response.
- We ask for people’s working with Children Check details, and we can automatically verify their status and record that result in most states.
- And, we give people the opportunity to provide information about their previous experiences in ministry so your team can best support them.
Supervisors, Board Members and Safe Ministry Contacts
So, we’ve seen that a safe church is where everyone has some awareness of how to care for vulnerable people, and where leaders are properly screened and trained to work with vulnerable people.
What else would help make a church safe?
Well, a safe church would make sure that people who are leading big teams of volunteers understand their responsibilities and know how to ensure their programs and their leaders are safe.
And a safe church would be lead by a board, or elders, or a committee that doesn’t just understand all these things, but who champions them at every level of the church.
That’s why we’ve developed the Safe Ministry Training Supervisor’s Course and the Board Members Course. Both online courses are designed to help the people in your church who are in those vital positions understand how they play an important role in safeguarding vulnerable people.
It’s also at the board level that a safe church will develop and establish a Safe Ministry Policy, as well as appoint Safe Ministry Contacts. Your Safe Ministry Contacts should be a few people who will be responsible for hearing concerns when they’re raised and helping your board to make sure they are taking the appropriate steps to respond and care for vulnerable people.
Since these are so important, we’ve worked together with Ansvar Risk Management to develop a template Safe Ministry Policy you can modify and use at your church. And we’ve written a Incident Response Process document that your Safe Ministry Contacts can follow when someone raises a concern or makes a report.
Making our churches safer is such an important responsibility for everyone. And Safe Ministry Training Online is designed to help churches like yours be safe and safeguard everyone involved.