I grew up in a small town in Michigan. There were rules for what you could and couldn’t do on Sunday. Throwing a ball in the yard was acceptable but you couldn’t play baseball. You could take a walk but couldn’t ride bike. These rules weren’t written down anywhere but it was that way because it had always been that way for my parents and my parents’ friends.
When we first attended our current church for an evening service we did what we usually did when we went to church – we arrived about ten minutes before the service began. Much to our surprise we pulled into a practically empty parking lot. No one was there but the custodian. We quickly learned that at this church everyone comes just before the service begins.
Everybody has experienced this – the idea that communities have rules and expectations that are not written down and aren’t communicated to newcomers because the people who are part of the community never even think about them – this is just the way we do things here. And everybody knows. Or at least everybody who has been around for a long time knows.
That can be a problem for churches that have a long history of being a community and want to be open to newcomers. It is also true for church volunteers. As church leaders we have expectations of our volunteers that often go unstated because they’re just “common sense” or because that is the way it has always been and everyone knows it. But sometimes our common sense isn’t the same as someone else’s. And people who haven’t been around very long can’t be expected to know our quirks and expectations. We should probably work harder to articulate some of these expectations.
This is one of the things we can learn from our larger churches who often have to face these sorts of issues before smaller churches do. Since the leaders are working with people they don’t know and who don’t know them, they have had to write down some of these expectations. Community Reformed Church in Zeeland, MI is one of those churches that have written a code of ethics for their volunteers. Nakisha DeJong, their Children’s Ministries Director, recently shared this code with the children’s ministry network that we are both a part of and I asked if I could share it here.
COMMUNITY REFORMED CHURCH STUDENT MINISTRIES
VOLUNTEER CODE OF ETHICS
I understand that as Student Ministries volunteer, I am a representative of Community Reformed Church and more importantly the kingdom of God. I agree to conduct myself in a manner that models for others an active and growing Christian faith. I understand that especially the students I serve will look to me for direction and guidance that supports their growing faith in Jesus Christ.
I understand that I am here to assist in carrying out the mission of the Community Reformed Church. I understand that in accepting this ministry role I agree to become actively responsible for providing a safe, secure, and enjoyable time for the students in my care, as well as for my fellow ministry members.
While acting in my capacity as a Students Ministries volunteer, the following rules shall apply:
1) Smoking or using tobacco products in the presence of minors is prohibited.
2) Using, possessing, or being under the influence of alcohol, illegal, or illicit drugs will not be tolerated.
3) Volunteers shall abide by guidelines set forth in the Student Protection Policy
4) Volunteers with minors are required to dress in a manner that is respectful of the ministry and the kingdom of God. All clothing (including any logo or phrase) should be modest, appropriate, and set a positive example as determined by ministry leaders.
5) Workers and volunteers must treat all people of all races, religions, and cultures with respect and consideration.
6) Workers and volunteers shall not use or tolerate the use of profanity in the presence of minors.
7) Workers and volunteers will portray a positive role model for minors by maintaining an attitude of respect, loyalty, patience, courtesy, and maturity.
8) Workers and volunteers will be expected to act and react with Christian love and understanding in all situations.
9) Workers and volunteers will do everything in their power to avoid being put in a situation where they are alone with a minor other than their own.
10) Workers and volunteers will contact the appropriate person in a timely manner if unable to fulfill their assigned/scheduled responsibilities.
I understand that learning the principles in the Bible and growing more like Jesus is important to my spiritual, emotional, and relational growth as a Christian. I understand that the best way to achieve this growth is through regular attendance of Church and personal Bible study.
I understand that any violation of this code may be grounds for removal as a worker or volunteer with minors and that this policy is subject to change at any time.
What do you think of their list? What things would you add? Are there things that surprised you?