Safe Sanctuaries Policy (Proposed)

Safe Sanctuaries Policy (Proposed)

Safe Sanctuaries Policy

St. James United Methodist Church

Adopted: 2011- Revised January 2017


Every 15 seconds a child or youth is abused or neglected. Often abuse occurs in settings where children, youth or vulnerable adults should have been able to feel safe—homes, schools, camps, and most sadly, the church. In more than three-quarters of the reported incidents of child abuse, the victim was related to or acquainted with the abuser.

As Christians, we live according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our Christian heritage derives from that of the ancient Hebrews who gave us a legacy of justice and mercy centered in the community of faith. (Leviticus 19:5; Deuteronomy 24:17; Isaiah 1:17; Isaiah 56:1; Amos 5:24; Micah 6:8) We also have a strong tradition of hospitality of generosity demonstrated by the people of faith (Leviticus 19:10 and Isaiah 58:10-12.)

The General Conference of the United Methodist Church in April 1996 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 millstone 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 states that “children must be protected from economic, physical, emotional and sexual exploitation and abuse”

Tragically, churches and church agencies have not always been safe places for children. Child sexual abuse, exploitation, and ritual abuse occur in churches and church institutions, large and small, urban and rural. 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, youth and adults grow safe and strong

(The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church-2000)

Thus, in covenant with all United Methodist congregations, we adopt this policy for the prevention of child abuse in our church.


Our congregation’s purpose for establishing this Child Abuse Prevention Policy and accompanying procedures is to demonstrate our absolute and unwavering commitment to the physical safety and spiritual growth of all our children and youth.


Therefore, as a Christian community of faith and a United Methodist congregation, we pledge to conduct the ministry of the Gospel in ways that seek the safety and spiritual growth of all our children and youth as well as all the workers with children and youth. We will follow reasonable safety measures in selection and recruitment of workers; we will implement prudent operational procedures in all programs and events; we will educate all our workers with children and youth regarding the use of all appropriate policies and methods (including first aid and methods of discipline); we will have a clearly defined procedure for reporting a suspected incidence of abuse to seek to conform to the requirement of state law; and we will be prepared to properly respond to media inquiries if an incident occurs.


In all our ministries with children and youth, this congregation 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, United Methodist Hymnal, page 44).


This policy, once adopted by the Executive Leadership Team of St. James United Methodist Church, will go into effect immediately for St. James United Methodist Church and staff. Beginning on July 1, 2011, all ministries will be supplied with the St. James United Methodist Church’s Safe Sanctuary Policy and be required to implement safeguards and procedures in accord with this policy. While participating in St. James United Methodist Church sponsored activities, volunteers will function within the confines of this document and any successors, including standards of conduct, reporting procedures and safety precautions.


The following terms will be used throughout this document. These definitions are offered for clarification.

“Adult” means a person 18 years of age or older.

“Youth” or “Youth and Children” means any person less than 18 years of age.

“Child abuse” is a harmful act against any person under 18 years of age that presents itself in one or more of the following forms or types.

“Physical abuse” is any abuse in which a person deliberately and intentionally causes bodily harm to a youth or young child. Examples may include violent battery with a weapon (such as a knife or belt), burning, choking, fracturing bones, and other non-accidental injuries.

“Emotional abuse” is abuse in which a person exposes a youth or younger child to spoken and/or unspoken violence or emotional cruelty. Emotional abuse sends a message to the youth that he/she is worthless, bad, unloved, and undeserving of love and care. Emotional abuse can include closed confinement (being shut in a small area), making racial remarks, excessive punishment, use of profanity, knowingly permitting drug or alcohol abuse, ignoring or encouraging peer abuse.

“Neglect” is abuse in which a person endangers a youth’s health, welfare, and safety through negligence. It may include withholding food, medical care, affection, and even education to destroy the youth’s sense of self-esteem and self-worth.

“Sexual abuse” is abuse that occurs when sexual contact occurs between a youth and an adult (or older, more powerful youth). The youth victim is not capable of consenting to such contact or resisting such sexual acts. Often, the youth victim is physically dependent on the perpetrator, including youth pastors, teachers and other trusted friends. Examples of sexual abuse include fondling, intercourse, incest, and the exploitation of and exposure to pornography and/or prostitution.

“Ritual abuse” is abuse in which physical sexual, physical, or psychological violence is inflicted on youth, intentionally and in a stylized way, by someone (or multiple people) with responsibility for the victim’s welfare. Typically, the perpetrator appeals to some higher authority or power to justify his or her abuse. Examples of ritual abuse may include cruel treatment of animals or repetitious threats of sexual or physical violence to the youth victim or to people related to the youth victim.


The following rules are a part of the St. James United Methodist Church’s Safe Sanctuary Policy:

Background checks: A background check through protect my ministry will be performed on all staff and volunteers that engage with children or youth. These checks are performed for every new staff person or volunteer and then resubmitted every five years while that person is still engaging with the children and youth ministries.

Two-adult rule: Two adults are to be present during all church sponsored programming with children and youth. All adult/child ratios must be followed. Where it is impossible to staff two adults in every room, an additional staff representative must serve as a floater with visual and physical access to all areas.

Minimum Age:

The following standards for Authority Figures are designed to separate Authority Figures from the group they are serving by age or enough years to reinforce recognition of the Authority Figure’s role. St. James United Methodist Church adopts the following standards for Authority Figures and Assistant.

  1. Authority Figures – the primary leaders of youth and children’s activities
  2. To work with youth (grades 6th and above), the Authority Figure must be a minimum of 21 years of age.
  3. To work with children (infants to 5th grade), the Authority Figure must be a minimum of 18 years of age.
  4. Assistants – persons who lend aid to the Authority Figure and act at the direction of the Authority Figure, including volunteers. Whether working with youth or children, Assistants must be:
  5. A minimum of 12 years of age; and
  6. In the judgment of St. James United Methodist Church staff member, competent to assist in this activity.

Six Month Rule: All adult volunteers Authority Figures involved with children or youth must have been members or regular worship attenders of the congregation for at least six months before beginning to volunteer. Persons not meeting this requirement may only serve as an assistant with another trained adult unless approved and documented by STJUMC children’s director.

Sleeping arrangements: With parental consent, children or youth of the same sex may room together without an adult. In situations where adults room with youth or children in a hotel, cabin, tent or similar situation, there must be two adults not related. These adults must be the same sex as the youth or children.

Physical safety issues: Youth or children’s workers should be conscious of safety issues when leading activities and games. Proper equipment and adequate supervision of the activity should always be in place.

No drugs, alcoholic beverages, weapons, pornography or fireworks will be allowed.

Open Door Policy: Each room or space where youth are congregating shall have a window in the door, or the door shall be left open. All activities should occur in open view. When teams are outdoors, adult youth workers with the teams are to take appropriate measures to make sure that the setting suits the activity and that youth are properly supervised. Staff and adult volunteers should work with youth in reasonably open places where others are welcome to enter—not behind closed or locked doors.

Counseling: Counseling should be as confidential as possible without sacrificing safety. In counseling sessions with minors, parental permission shall be obtained prior to a minister or adult leader meeting privately with a minor, or the two-adult rules shall be used, or the session shall be held in a public place.

Transportation plans: No drivers under the age of 21 will be used to transport youth and any drivers must be covered by adequate insurance. A youth worker who transports youth should be a safe driver and have proper credentials in their state of residence—no DUI’s or an excessive number of speeding tickets. EACH PASSENGER MUST HAVE A SEATBELT AND USE THEM DURING TRANSPORT. The only exclusion is buses where seatbelts might not be available. Youth will not be transported in St. James United Methodist Church, vehicles. Youth may not be transported in the beds of trucks. There should be enough space for the passengers to be reasonably comfortable and for all the luggage and equipment. There should be a cell phone or some other way to communicate in an emergency. Good directions will be given to all drivers.

Boy Scouts: Although Boy Scouts Troops and Cub Scout Troops may be supported by Saint James United Methodist Church, they abide by the Youth Protection Plan, a policy of the Boy Scouts of America.


An essential component of preventing abuse is careful screening. Although we recognize the integrity of an overwhelming number of persons with discerned calling to ministries with children youth, and vulnerable persons, we realize that abuse may occur in the church. Therefore, we believe that all those working with children and youth must be properly screened.

All persons who by virtue of their employment or ministry and are involved in activities with children or youth at St. James United Methodist Church must be screened.

All persons will:

  • Complete standard application form.
  • Expect all references will be checked.
  • Have an individual interview
  • Have a nationwide criminal background check

During the first year of this Policy’s implementation all persons involved in activities with children or youth at St. James United Methodist Church will submit to the screening procedures prescribed by this policy. Following the first year of this Policy’s implementation, all new applicants, persons who have a break in service of one or more years and those with two or more years since their last background check shall submit to the screening procedures.

All forms and reference reports shall be kept as a part of an applicant’s personnel file.

In the event that a reference follow-up is accomplished by phone, detailed notes of the conversation should also be included in the personnel file. Each year, the St. James United Methodist Church employees will participate in Safe Sanctuaries training.


A quick, compassionate and unified response to an alleged incident of child abuse is expected. All allegations will be taken seriously. In all cases of reported or observed abuse in a young person’s activity, the entire staff of that activity shall be at the service of all official investigating agencies.

The Executive Director of St. James United Methodist Church or his/her designee is the only person authorized to make statements to representatives of the media. All requests for statements should be directed to the Executive Director.

All adults should make written reports of their experiences, with the initial report containing the name of the alleged victim, his/her address and family information. Law enforcement and parents will be contacted if warranted.

Persons who are the objects of the report will be required to refrain from all youth activities until the incident report is resolved. In any removal of a person from any youth activity, care should be taken to handle this in a discreet manner, recognizing that an investigation is still being conducted.


Mandated Reporters

The Law of the State of Alabama requires that certain categories of persons who have reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused shall report or cause reports of that abuse to be made as provided by the law. Alabama’s recognized mandated reporters include among others--medical personnel (doctors, dentists, and EMS workers), school officials (teachers, counselors, and school principals), childcare workers, mental health professionals, clergy, and police or law enforcement officers). The St. James United Methodist Church directs all mandated reporters to comply with all the requirements of the Law.

Non-mandated Reporters

St. James United Methodist Church directs all of its paid personnel and volunteers, whether mandatory reporters or not to report their knowledge or belief of abuse of minors when that knowledge is obtained while engaging in the ministries of the St. James United Methodist Church.








As a Saint James member/staff person, I have read and agree to observe and abide by the policies set forth.


Print Full Name

1. Staff person completing report: ______

2. Child’s name: ______DOB: ______

Child’s address: ______City ______

State______Zip______Phone # ______

Parent(s)/guardian(s) of child: ______

3. Date/time/location of incident: ______

4. Brief description of incident: ______




5. Date/time/location of initial conversation with child: ______

Notes of conversation: ______



6. Name of person accused of abuse______DOB______

Address of person accused of abuse: ______City ______

State______Zip______Phone # ______

Date/time/location of initial conversation with accused (if staff member):______

Notes of conversation: ______



7. Date/time/location or date of phone call of initial contact with parent(s)/guardian(s):______


Person(s) spoken to: ______

Notes of conversation: ______



8. Date/time of call to child protective services agency: ______

Person(s) contacted:

Notes of conversation: ______



9. Date/time/location of call to law enforcement agency: ______

Person(s) contacted: ______

Notes of conversation: ______



10. Date/time/location of call to Sr. Pastor: ______

Notes of conversation: ______



Report of Suspected Incident of Child Abuse, Page 2


(Please print all information)

1. Date of accident: ______Time of accident: ______

2. Name of child/youth injured: ______DOB: ______

Child’s address: ______City ______

State______Zip______Phone # ______

Parent(s)/guardian(s) of child: ______

3. Date/time/location of accident: ______

4. Brief description of accident: ______




5. Name of person(s) who witnessed the accident: ______

Name: ______Phone # ______

Name: ______Phone # ______

Name: ______Phone # ______

St. James United Methodist Church

The information obtained on this form is for internal use by this local church only.

Please provide all information requested. You may continue on the back of this sheet.

Name ______Date of Birth______

Address ______

City, State, Zip ______

Home Phone______Business Phone______FAX ______

Position applied for: ______Current driver’s license number ______

Occupation, current employer, and business address:

Time at this employment: ______years ______months.

List (name and address) other churches you have attended regularly during the past 5 years:

Name /address/ telephone number of pastor, employer, and personal references who may be contacted.

Pastor: ______

Employer: ______

Personal: ______

Describe your background working with the program and/or age group requested. (Include information about church-related, volunteer, and paid experience you may have.)

Groups in which you are currently active: ______

(Circle 1)

Have you ever been convicted of any criminal offense?YESNO

Have you ever been charged with or convicted of child neglect or abuse?YESNO

Have any complaints or allegations of misconduct involving children ever been made against you?YESNO

Within the past 30 days have you abused alcohol and/or legal or illegal drugs? YESNO

Have you ever been convicted of or pleaded guilty to a traffic offense within the last 5 years?YESNO

Please explain fully any YES answers to the above questions. In addition to the above, is there any fact or circumstance involving you or your background that would call into question your being entrusted with the supervision, guidance, and care of young people? (Explain.)