Even if you don't yet have a safe church committee in your congregation, your council or leadership team can start working on a policy. One suggestion is to appoint a small working group or committee to develop a policy. In my church, our council appointed three council members (two elders and a deacon) to adapt the policy from another local CRC.
Through the process of developing a policy and educating the congregation about why you are doing this work, you may find that you identify individuals who would like to be involved in the work on a more permanent basis.
The CRC’s Safe Church website has many resources to help you with this work. In addition to resources created by our own denomination, the Safe Church website has links to other helpful resources. Bonnie Nicholas, Director of Safe Church Ministry for the CRC, encourages you to visit www.churchsafety.com or the website of Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company.
"There is no reason to reinvent the wheel when there are already good resources available," says Bonnie.
On the Safe Church website, click on the question that says "Where can I find help to create a Safe Church policy for my church?" for a drop down menu of resources. In addition, a document entitled “Basic Elements of a Child Safety Policy” will help you know what to include in your policy. Here are some of the key items that a typical safe church policy covers:
- Biblical foundations of your policy
- Definitions of abuse
- Identification of legal requirements and implications in your jurisdiction
- Programs covered by the policy
- Outlining actions and measures that will protect individuals in church programs
- Acceptable forms of discipline
- Supervision and accountability for leaders
- Rules around transportation of children and youth
- Screening of and/or reference checks for staff and volunteers
- Reporting of abuse
- Responding to alleged incidents
Sometimes the best way to develop a policy is to adapt an existing policy from a neighbouring church. Or, you can check out the sample policies available on the Safe Church website. Three samples are included, two from the U.S. and one from Canada.
Appendices of your policy can include helpful tools and resources such as:
- Signs and symptoms of abuse
- Denominational and local resources
- Screening forms
- Procedures for nursery
If your church already has a policy, we would love to hear from you about how you got the ball rolling in your church. Please share your suggestions and experiences.