Safe Church

SAFE CHURCH POLICY ST. PAUL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN ARLINGTON

PREAMBLE

God has called us to make our ministries safe, protecting our children, youth, and all people from abuse and exploitation. God has also called us to create communities of faith where children, youth, families, and all individuals can be safe and grow strong.

Jesus taught that “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Mark 9:37, NRSV)

Building on these foundations, we recognize that our faith calls us to offer hospitality and protection to all children, youth, and adults, as well as those who are committed to ministering to them as volunteers and employees. Abuse often occurs in places where children and youth feel safe—homes, schools, camps, and even churches. In over three quarters of reported cases, the victim was related to or acquainted with the abuser. 

In light of this, St Paul Lutheran Church has seen fit to outline policies and procedures that can (1) prevent such abuse from happening in our church; (2) be a place where children can feel safe in disclosing abuse; (3) protect the loyal volunteers and employees that minister to our children, youth, and adults; and (4) allow those known offenders who choose to worship at Church to do so.

Therefore, to help protect children, St Paul Lutheran Church has adopted the following Child and Youth Abuse Prevention Program. It is important that all paid staff and volunteers understand and implement these guidelines to help prevent abuse against children. The following includes the Purpose of and Definitions for these guidelines, the outlines of Protection and Prevention, and an Acknowledgement to be signed by those people working with children.

PURPOSE

 These procedures are designed to reduce the risk of abuse in order to

1. provide a safe and secure environment for children, youth, adults, members, volunteers, visitors, and paid staff;

2. assist St Paul Lutheran Church in evaluating a person's suitability to supervise, oversee, and/or exert control over the activities of children, youth, and families;

3. satisfy the concerns of parents and staff members with a screening process for paid staff and volunteers;

4. provide a system to respond to alleged victims of abuse and their families, as well as the alleged perpetrator; and to

5. reduce the possibility of false accusations of abuse made against volunteers and paid staff.

DEFINITIONS

 The following terms used herein and are defined as follows: 

1. Paid Staff: Any pastor, minister, intern, or other employee who is paid.

2. Children/Youth/Minor: Any person who has not reached their 18th birthday or the age of majority as defined by state law.

3. Adult: Any person who has reached their 18th birthday or as defined by state law.

4. Volunteer: Any unpaid person, known to the congregation for 6 months, engaged in or involved in activities and who is entrusted with the care and supervision of minors or a person who directly oversees and/or exerts control or oversight over minors or adults.

5. Sexual Abuse: The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any minor or adult to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or any simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of such conduct or rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of minor or adult, or incest with a minor or adult, or as defined by federal and state law. This includes and is not limited to unwelcome sexual remarks, jokes, advances, leering, whistling, or sexual gestures; sexual touching, fondling, molestation, assault, or other intimate physical contact; compelling another person to engage in a sexual act by threats or fear or undue influence; and providing or displaying inappropriate materials to another person.

6. Emotional Abuse: Verbal or nonverbal conduct including mental exploitation, degrading communication, or humiliating or threatening conduct that may or may not include bullying or as defined by state law.

7. Physical Abuse: any intentional act causing injury or trauma to another person by way of bodily contact. 

PROTECTION AND PREVENTION

The following screening procedures are to be used with paid staff and volunteers who are entrusted with the care and supervision of minors or a person who directly oversees and/or exerts control or oversight over minors. All information collected should be maintained in confidence.

1. Employees: Any paid staff who will work with a minor must complete the Employment Application and pass a CORI/SORI check. They must also complete safe-church training provided by Praesidium Online. Two references will be required for all staff.

2. Volunteers: All volunteers, such as Sunday School teachers, who regularly work with children and youth will receive orientation regarding safe church policy and procedures. Sunday School teachers will also be required to pass a National Criminal Background Check. 

POLICIES

1. There will be no fewer than two unrelated adults present with children. Youth over the age of 14 may assist an unrelated adult in supervising children and youth activities; however, such assistance does not alter the requirement that at least two unrelated adults be present. 

2. Prohibited harassment includes unsolicited and unwelcome contact that includes contact containing sexual overtones, particularly 

a. written contact, such as sexually suggestive or obscene letters, notes, text messages, instant messages, e-mails or invitations; 

b. verbal contact, such as sexually suggestive or obscene comments, threats, slurs, epithets, jokes about gender specific traits, sexual propositions; 

c. physical contact, such as intentional touching, pinching, brushing against another’s body, impeding or blocking movement, assault, coercing sexual intercourse; and 

d. visual contact, such as leering or staring at another’s body, gesturing, displaying sexually suggestive objects or pictures, cartoons, posters, or magazines.           

REPORTING HARASSMENT

A report of harassment must be made to the pastor and the president of the congregation/CYF Director. Should the report of harassment involve one or more of these persons a report can be made to any member of church council. To resolve the matter, a team of two or more from the church staff and/or church council shall investigate the report and make recommendations to resolve the matter. Upon learning that exploitation or harassment has occurred, the church is called upon to take action accordingly and must include one or more of the following:

1. a formal reprimand, with defined expectations for changed behavior; 

2. recommending or requiring psychological or psychiatric assessment, counseling, and/or treatment; 

3. probationary standing, with the terms of the probation clearly defined; 

4. dismissal from employment or volunteer position.

A written summary of the investigation and recommendation will be maintained. This record shall be kept in the business administrators files alongside the personnel files. The person(s) toward whom the inappropriate behavior is directed need not be the complainant. Moreover, neither consent nor acquiescence will excuse or exonerate inappropriate behavior. At any time St Paul Lutheran Church may initiate or proceed with the formal complaint process.

In determining whether alleged conduct constitutes harassment or exploitation, consideration shall be given to the record of the alleged incident(s) as a whole and to the totality of the circumstances, including the context in which the alleged incident occurred. Further, any person bringing a harassment or exploitation complaint or assisting in investigating such a complaint will not be adversely affected in terms and conditions of employment or church membership or affiliation, or otherwise discriminates against or discharged.

All allegations of behavior which call into question the fitness for ministry of any Authorized Minister will promptly be forwarded to the Association where the Minister currently has standing.

Mandatory Reporting

The clergy and staff of St Paul Lutheran Church are both morally and legally required to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

CONCLUSION

The objective of these policies is to keep our community safe and should not hinder our experience and interaction with kids, but to enhance it and to make it safer both for them and for us. Therefore, we as a community of faith agree to upholding this policy. 

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