Policy & Procedures
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CONFERENCE POLICY AND PROCEDURES
Child Abuse Prevention Policy
The Missouri Conference Child Abuse Prevention Policy is for children, youth and vulnerable adults.
Read the Conference procedures set up for youth and children for Conference and District Ministries.
Procedures at Annual Conference
Learn about the procedures at Annual Conference for workers with childcare at the Missouri Annual Conference Sessions.
Best Practices for Preventing Abuse and Maintaining Safety and Boundaries for the Digital Church
Read the best practices document. As the pandemic has given rise to the digital church (e.g., virtual, online ministry through small groups, worship, youth ministry, etc.), local churches are thinking through standards of care, guidelines and best practices for maintaining healthy boundaries with vulnerable populations like minors during digital engagement. Many of the existing protocols and procedures for in-person ministry events should be applied to the online experience. The addendum includes more suggestions including guidance for “children’s time” and concerns related to requesting contact information from minors, particularly those under age 13 (COPPA).
- Sample Local Church Communication (from Schweitzer UMC)
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE CONFERENCE AND LOCAL CHURCH
Both the General Conference and the Missouri Annual Conference make clear statements about the difference between what the Conference and the local church are responsible for. Understanding these differences can help distinguish the appropriate responsibilities for you and your local church.
The Conference training offered is for only those persons wanting to participate in Conference-level events and ministries. For local church-sponsored events, participants need to follow the policies and procedures of the local church. The Conference and local church need different procedures because of the disparity in size of events, the individual requirements of each ministry, and your local church may need more personalized guidelines.
Local Church Responsibility
The passage below is from the General Conference resolution adopted in 1999:
A. Local churches should:
Develop and implement an ongoing education plan for the congregation and its leaders on the reality of child abuse, risk factors leading to child abuse and strategies for prevention;
- Adopt screening procedures (use application forms, interviews, reference checks, background clearance and so forth) for workers (paid and unpaid) directly or indirectly involved in the care of children and youth;
- Develop and implement safety procedures for church activities such as having two or more non-related adults present in classroom or activity; leaving doors open and installing half-doors or windows in doors of halls; providing hall monitors; instituting sign-in and sign-out procedures for children ages 10 or younger; and so forth;
- Advise children and young persons of an agency or a person outside as well as within the local church whom they can contact for advice and help if they have suffered abuse;
- Carry liability insurance that includes sexual abuse coverage;
- Assist the development of awareness and self-protection skills for children and youth through special curriculum and activities; and
- Be familiar with annual conference and other church policies regarding clergy sexual misconduct.
B. Annual conferences should
Develop safety and risk-reducing policies and procedures for conference-sponsored events such as camps, retreats, youth gatherings, childcare at conference events, mission trips and so forth; and
- Develop guidelines and training processes for use by church leaders who carry responsibility for prevention of child abuse in local churches. Both sets of policies shall be developed by a task force appointed by the cabinet in cooperation with appropriate conference agencies. These policies shall be approved by the annual conference and assigned to a conference agency for implementation. It is suggested that the policies be circulated in conference publications and shared with lay professionals and clergy at district or conference seminars.
The following is from the Missouri Annual Conference Abuse Prevention Policy
4. Every church in the Missouri Annual Conference shall have a Child Abuse and Abuse of Vulnerable Adults Prevention Policy with accompanying procedures. These policies and procedures shall include:
a. Reasonable safety measures in the selection and recruitment of both employee and volunteer workers with children, youth and those vulnerable adults;
b. Educating said workers of the policy and procedures along with ongoing monitoring so that compliance is maintained and, using age-appropriate language, educating children, youth and those vulnerable adults of definitions of abuse and procedures for reporting;
c. Reporting incidents of child abuse and abuse of vulnerable adults in accordance with state laws of Missouri, the written guidelines of the Missouri Annual Conference, and the written guidelines of the local United Methodist Church;
d. Providing for sufficient liability coverage;
e. Dealing with the safety, protection and ongoing emotional support of those who may have been victimized;
f. Active communication with family members, the congregation and the public media;
g. A copy of the policy shall be on file in the church's District Office;
h. Administrative bodies of the local church shall be responsible for implementing and monitoring the policy and accompanying procedures.
We have provided more resource information from Joy Melton, National Sex Offender Public Registry, FaithTrust Institute, LexisNexis and UM PACT background screening services, and the Missouri Department of Health: Family Care Safety Registry.
2004 Book of Resolutions
#355. Church Participation by a Registered Child Sex Offender
The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church declare: "We recognize that family violence and abuse in all its forms—verbal, psychological, physical, sexual—is detrimental to the covenant of the human community. We encourage the Church to provide a safe environment, counsel, and support for the victim. While we deplore the actions of the abuser, we affirm that person to be in need of God's redeeming love."
Increasingly, churches are faced with a dilemma in their attempt to be faithful to both of the last two sentences above. Assuring the safety of children in our care, our facilities and our programs is a sacred duty. We must weigh that duty in the balance with what often seems the conflicting value of participation in the life of the church by a convicted child abuser. Being part of a worshiping community is not the only way for a person to experience God's redeeming love, but it is an important one.
Recent studies suggest a low likelihood that pedophiles can or will change. Without extensive professional treatment, virtually all child sexual offenders will re-offend. Repentance, prayer and pastoral support, always in combination with lifelong professional treatment, can be crucial in helping to change behavior but, in themselves, offer slim hope of changing the behavior of perpetrators. Welcoming a child sex offender into a congregation must be accompanied by thorough knowledge, careful planning and long-term monitoring.
A convicted and/or registered sex offender who wishes to be part of a church community should expect to have conditions placed on his or her participation. Indeed, offenders who have been in treatment and are truly committed to living a life free of further abuse will be the first to declare that, in order to accomplish that, they must structure a life that includes on-going treatment, accountability mechanisms and lack of access to children.
The following steps should be taken in order to be faithful to the Social Principles' commitment both to safety from abuse and to ministry with abusers:
A. Local churches should:
- hold discussions in the church council and in adult education settings about the possibility of facing the situation of a convicted sex offender returning to or joining the church. These discussions should be held and general agreements reached about actions to be taken should the church find itself in this circumstance;
- develop a carefully constructed and openly negotiated covenant between the offender and the church community. The covenant should include agreements in the following areas: participation in a professional counseling program for at least the entire time of church membership or participation; adult "covenant partners" to accompany the offender while on church property or attending church activities; areas of church facilities that are "off limits;" restrictions on leadership in or on behalf of church; no role in church that includes contact with children or youth; any additional conditions for presence or participation; and
- assure that the covenant is maintained by having it written and signed by the offender, the pastor(s), and the chairperson of the church council. While confidentiality of victims should be respected, the covenant should not be secret. Monitoring of the covenant should be taken seriously as a permanent responsibility.