Responsibilities of the Conference & Local Churches

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:

  1. 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;
  2. 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;
  3. 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;
  4. 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;
  5. Carry liability insurance that includes sexual abuse coverage;
  6. Assist the development of awareness and self-protection skills for children and youth through special curriculum and activities; and
  7. Be familiar with annual conference and other church policies regarding clergy sexual misconduct.

B. Annual conferences should

  1. 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
  2. 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

This is from the Guidelines for Procedures of the Policy, bullet number 4:

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.

For help with developing your local church policy and procedures and/or training program, learn more...