Lampeter United Methodist Church
Saturday, January 25, 2020
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Safe Sanctuaries Policy

Reducing the Risk of Abuse in the Church

Adopted from the policy of the Central PA Conference of the United Methodist Church

When the disciples tried to keep the children away from Jesus, he was quick to respond, “Let the chil-dren come to me.” This oft quoted scripture from Matthew 19 is framed on both ends by Jesus placing His hands on the children. Our objective in this policy is to ensure the safety of our children and minis-try volunteers but not to produce an environment so sterile as to prohibit a hug of encouragement or a stern grasp of discipline. Jesus taught that children were to be included and provided for within the community of faith. Today, the church may be the only place where some children find the uncondi-tional love and care they so desperately need to grow and thrive. As Christians, we must take our re-sponsibilities to our children very seriously. We fail in our responsibilities if we neglect to take adequate precautions against abuse in our churches. It is unlikely that we can completely prevent child abuse in every situation, but it is possible for us to greatly reduce the risk by following a thorough practical pol-icy of prevention. This policy attempts to do just that for local church. It is based on our understanding of the widespread problem of abuse throughout our country.

Every 15 seconds a child is abused or neglected.1 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 ac-quainted with the abuser.2

The purpose of this policy is to protect all the children that come to us, to protect both our paid and vol-unteer staff from potential false allegations of abuse and to limit the extent of legal liability of local church.

Presented herein is a comprehensive plan that will include all the areas of the issue: Screening, Super-vision, Reporting Procedures and a Response Plan.

These delineated policies are the MINIMUM necessary precautions for protecting children. Local church will endeavor to monitor updates and recommendations by The United Methodist Church and may modify these procedures.


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

“Child abuse” as defined under Pennsylvania Protective Services Law means any of the following:
“(i) Any recent act or failure to act by a perpetrator which causes non-accidental serious physical injury to a child under 18 years of age.
(ii) An recent act or failure to act by a perpetrator which causes non-accidental serious mental injury to or sex-ual abuse or sexual exploitation of a child under 18 years of age.
(iii) Any recent act, failure to act or series of acts or failures to act by a perpetrator, which creates an imminent risk of serious physical injury to or sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a child under 18 years of age.
(iv) serious physical neglect by a perpetrator constituting prolonged or repeated lack of supervision or the fail-ure to provide essentials of life, including adequate medical care, which endangers a child’s life or develop-ment or impairs the child’s functioning.

No child shall be deemed to be physically or mentally abused based on injuries that result solely from envi-ronmental facts that are beyond the control of the parent or person responsible for the child’s welfare, such as inadequate housing, furnishings, income, clothing and medical care.3

“Child” / “Children” means any person under the age of 18.

“Vulnerable adults” for the purposes of this policy will be adults whose mental or physical condition makes them sus-ceptible to abuse.

“Children’s activities” means any activity or program in which children are under supervision of staff persons or vol-unteers of LUMC.

“Staff person” means any person employed by this local church or programs using its facilities who is responsible for children’s activities. This person has regular and direct contact with children, must be 21 years or older and is counted in the 2-adult rule.

“Ministry Team Leader” means any person who supervises a children’s activity. This person has regular and direct contact with children, must be 21 years or older and is counted in the 2-adult rule.

“Volunteer” means any adult, who assists in conducting children’s activities under the supervision of a staff person and/or Ministry Team Leader, has regular and direct contact with children, must be 21 years or older and is counted in the 2-adult rule.

“Helper” means anyone who aids in ministry and is not counted in the 2-adult rule including a youth ages 14-18.

“Persons required to report child abuse4” means persons, who, in the course of their employment, occupation, or practice of their profession5, come into contact with children. Such persons include, but are not limited to, medical pro-fessionals, school administrators, teachers and nurses, social services workers, day-care center workers, mental health professionals, peace and law enforcement officers.

“Staff person(s) in charge of a children’s activity” means the church employee(s) responsible for the conduct of this activity - Sr. Pastor, Youth Pastor, and Director of Administration.

“We” means local church.

In case of non-local church programs operating on church property, the duties of the “staff person in charge of the chil-dren’s activity” shall be carried out by the non-local church lead staff or volunteer.

Careful screening is one way to prevent to abuse of children and vulnerable adults. It can be time con-suming and expensive, but well worth the effort in peace of mind that the most reliable, committed and experienced staff and volunteers are in place for every program that involves children.

1. All Staff, Ministry Team Leaders and volunteers who have regular and direct contact with children shall be required to fill out a Volunteer Screening Form that shall include but is not limited to:
a.    Standard contact information
b.    Experience and qualifications for the position.
c.    Voluntary disclosure of past criminal history and allegations of criminal history
d.    Waiver of confidentiality allowing the church or non-church organization to secure the background checks necessary for the position being applied for
e.    Listing of 3 non-related references of which one will be from outside of the local church. This list shall have complete contact information for all references. This portion of the application process is considered incomplete if full contact information for the references is not provided.
f.    A completed PA Child Abuse History Clearance form (CY113 3/95) dated less than one year prior to the application.
g.    A completed PA Request for Criminal Record Check (SP 4-641/97) dated less than one year prior to the application.
h.    For local church children’s ministries, persons shall demonstrate an active relationship with children’s activities and regular attendance at church - 3 out of 4 weeks a month. In the case of new staff hires, references deemed adequate by the hiring supervisor will re-place the six-month waiting period.

2. Persons who have a break in service of one or more years May be required to submit to screening procedures. The local church reserves the option to repeat background checks of persons who have had 3 or more years of service.

3. All forms and reference reports shall be kept as a part of an applicant’s confidential personnel file.7
All forms shall be kept in a locked file on church premise. Detailed notes on a designated form shall be for all reference checks, which shall also be included in the personnel file. All applications and related forms must be completed.8

4. Non-local church programs shall maintain their own personnel files. The local church reserves the right to obtain an explanation of the non-local church’s record-keeping process and, upon written re-quest of the Lead Pastor, to be given copies of documents applicable to programs conducted at the local church.

5. The staff person in charge of the children’s activity(ies) is responsible for reviewing the policy with each applicant during an interview prior to service.

6. Anyone serving in Children’s or Youth Ministry will be actively involved but are not required to be members. They will adhere to the Participation Covenant defined by “Safe Sanctuaries.”


Supervision procedures are designed to reduce the possibility of abuse to the children or vulnerable adults and to protect staff persons and volunteers from unwarranted accusations. Again, these are MINIMUM standards and each children’s activity may adopt more stringent requirements as necessary.

1. Training is a requirement for all Staff persons, Ministry Team Leaders and Volunteers working with children in church children’s activities. An educational component of the Safe Sanctuaries Program will be part of the Application Packet and Interview. Thereafter, the minimum training would be an annual orientation offered on 2 alternate dates that includes information regarding this Policy, procedures for supervision, discipline, and first-aid as well as information on how to identify and report child abuse.

2.  Minimum supervisory standards will include the “two-adult rule”. The two-adult rule requires that no matter the size of the group, there will always be two unrelated adults present. This may include the presence of an adult “roamer” who moves in and out of rooms. 9 10

3. No child will be left unsupervised while attending the local church children’s activity.

4. Each room or space where children are being cared for shall have a window in the door or the door shall be left open such as a restroom. All activities should occur in open view.

5. Should the children’s activity be an outdoor program or occur in a setting which makes it difficult to comply with this Policy, the staff person in charge of the activity shall take appropriate measures to make sure that the setting suits the activity, and the children are properly supervised.

6. Registration materials for activities in which children are outside of the direct supervision of their parents/guardians shall require signed written permission forms for the year and for participation in any offsite activities.

7. All participants who can understand a covenant shall sign a participation covenant.12 This covenant can be in the form of clear, posted or printed rules that are explained to the participants at the outset of the program.

8. No person shall supervise an age group unless he/she is AT LEAST 18 years of age or older, 11 and is five years older than the children being supervised.

9. Accurate participation records shall be maintained for all children’s activities. At a minimum, these records should list the date and hours of the activity, its location, the names of the children participating (including whether any were dismissed early and the times of such dismissals), and the names of the adults involved directly in the activity and other supervisors on site that day.


Once an incident of child abuse occurs or allegation of an incident is made, it is crucial that it be dealt with speedily and in a clearly outlined manner.

1. The Staff person, Ministry Team Leader, Volunteer or Helper who observes alleged abuse or to whom such alleged abuse is report is required to report the incident immediately to the staff person(s) in charge of the children’s activity - Sr. Pastor, Youth Pastor, and Director of Administration..

2. The staff person(s) in charge (Sr. Pastor, Youth Pastor, and/or Director of Administration) of the chil-dren’s activity in which the alleged abuse was observed or disclosed shall immediately attempt to ob-tain necessary information such as the name of the alleged victim and his or her address and family information.

3. Upon receiving such information, the staff person(s) in charge of the children’s activity will call the Pennsylvania Childline & Abuse Registry (1-800-932-0313) 13 to make a report of the alleged abuse. Upon the recommendation of Pennsylvania Childline & Abuse Registry the staff person(s) in charge of the children’s activity shall then send the completed PA CY47 form to the local Children and Youth Services agency. This line of reporting shall be followed in all such incidents.

4. The Lead Pastor is to be informed immediately before or if unavailable, subsequent to the mak-ing of a report.

5. Any person who is the object of the report will be required to refrain from all children’s activities until the incident report is resolved. Any staff member will be immediately suspended from em-ployment.

6. In any removal of a person from any children’s activities, care should be taken to handle this in a discreet manner, recognizing that an investigation is still being conducted.


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

1. The Director of Communication for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference (Suzy Keenan 1-800-828-9093 ext.227) or his/her designee, is the only person(s) authorized to make statements to represen-tatives of the media. All requests for statements should be directed to the Lead Pastor.

2. Training in how to handle media requests should be a regular part of staff training. A spirit of coop-eration in helping the media find the “official spokesperson” is often helpful. The official spokesperson for Lampeter UMC is the Sr. Pastor.

3. In response to all allegations of child abuse, the staff person(s) in charge of the children’s activity shall make the initial contact with the Childline and Abuse Registry.

4. If the allegation is against a Local church staff person, Ministry Team Leader, Volunteer or Helper or if it occurred in the course of a children’s activity, the staff person(s) in charge of the children’s activity and the local church Leadership Team shall be contacted immediately. The local church Crisis Man-agement Team (The Lampeter UMC Leadership Team) will be activated.

5. Even if an allegation is made concerning activities or persons outside any relationship to this local church or its events or activities, procedures in number 3 shall be implemented. An example of this would be a child telling a teacher about abuse by a relative during the prior year. If this report were made to the teacher in the course of his or her duties as a teacher, then the incident report should be filed with the staff person(s) in charge of the children’s activity within 24 hours.

6. If the allegation is against a staff person, Ministry Team Leader, Volunteer or Helper, the custodial parent will be notified immediately and a face-to-face meeting between the parent and the Sr. Pastor, Youth Pastor, and/or Director of Administration will be scheduled.

7. In either case, pastoral support will be available to all persons involved with the incident as indi-cated through the Leadership Team.

(Footnoted References available upon request)