Safe Gatherings Policy
The Mora Church is concerned about the safety of all children, youth and vulnerable adults. Our calling and our mandate are to ensure “safe gatherings” for each of God’s children.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus provides teachings on providing a peaceable kingdom for all of God’s people, including our most precious gifts, our children and youth. The peaceable kingdom begins with sanctuary. Scriptures provide examples of how sanctuary is to be a community of nurture and protection:
- And when you welcome one of these children because of me, you welcome me. – Matthew 18:5
- In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father's will that even one of these little ones should perish. – Matthew 18:14
This is an abbreviated Safe Gatherings Policy without appendices,
forms and some detail.
Download a full copy here.
The purpose of this policy is to address the safety of children, youth and vulnerable adults at all Mora United Methodist Church sponsored events. The Mora United Methodist Church recognizes the need to have a formal, written policy with procedures in place (1) to help prevent the opportunity for the occurrence and/or the appearance of abuse of children and youth, and (2) to reduce the likelihood that workers (paid and volunteer) will be subjected to false accusations and/or suspicions. By establishing this policy we hope to ensure that the Mora United Methodist Church extends safe Christian hospitality, nurture and community to the children, youth and vulnerable adults in our midst so that they can grow in spiritual maturity in an environment that offers security from sexual, physical or emotional abuse or neglect to the fullest extent possible.
There are two levels in which volunteers may interact with children, youth and/or vulnerable adults:
- Regular Volunteer Regular volunteer workers have supervised interaction with children, youth or vulnerable adults. Examples include nursery, Sunday school teachers, youth program, Vacation Bible School volunteers.
- Lead Volunteer Lead volunteers have unsupervised interaction with children, youth or vulnerable adults. Examples include youth or children’s group leaders, overnight retreat chaperones, nursery staff. This level requires background checks including: criminal background, sex offender, Social Security verification, driving record.
Length of Volunteer Involvement at the Mora United Methodist Church
Any potential volunteer worker working with children, youth or vulnerable adults must have been a regular attendee of Mora United Methodist Church services or activities for a minimum of six months before becoming a regular volunteer. An exception is that parents of children and youth may volunteer to serve as a regular volunteer immediately upon becoming church members and completing an application for service. Lead volunteers must have been a member of the Mora United Methodist Church for a minimum of six months.
Volunteers will be asked to complete an application. Lead volunteers will be asked to supply personal information, including Social Security Number, Driver’s License number, current and past addresses.
Age of Volunteers
All volunteer leaders must be at least 18 years of age, provided that person is at least five years older than the oldest youth in the group and that the other volunteer worker with that group is at least 23 years old. Individuals under age eighteen can assist a Level A, B, or C adult, but they should not substitute for an adult under the “Two Adult Rule.”) Teens may serve as Sunday School and Vacation Bible School teachers, under the direct or indirect supervision of a screened adult volunteer.
All new staff and volunteers working with children, youth and vulnerable adults will be required to participate in a comprehensive training event every August. This policy does not address the method, scope or topics of training; only specifies it needs to occur. This will be a joint effort between SPPRC and Christian Education.
The Mora United Methodist Church shall implement the following policies to foster a safe environment for children, youth and vulnerable adults:
Crime of Abuse Rule
Persons who are deemed a threat to children and youth based on a criminal record check, application response or reference feedback will not be permitted to volunteer, be employed or be accepted as a volunteer or paid worker in any church-sponsored program for children, youth or vulnerable adults.
Six Month Rule
All volunteers must be either a regular attendee or member of the Mora United Methodist Church for at least six months before they are allowed in any position involving contact with children, youth or vulnerable adults. (See exception in 4.2 for parents of a child or youth who joins the Mora United Methodist Church.)
Two Adult Rule
Our goal is to provide an environment of acceptance and love in which learning can take place. We will strive to have two adults present in each classroom. If this is not possible, a staff person or other Lead volunteer worker will be on site to monitor classes. Whenever there is only one adult leader in a classroom, the door will remain slightly opened.
Relatives Working Together
If the two adult supervisors working together are spouses or members of the same immediate family, a third adult will monitor the classroom. The exception to this rule is the Mora church nursery during worship services. Married couples and parent/teen combinations may continue to serve as nursery attendants. The ushers will be monitoring nursery activities via the door window at least twice during the service. Parents are encouraged to visit their children as they choose.
Overnight Activities and Trips
Two chaperones should be present at any overnight activity. If the group is of mixed gender, the leaders must include at least one male and one female. The ratio of children/youth to adults should be one adult per five to seven children/youth. At events that require overnight accommodations, leaders shall sleep nearby in a separate room or other lodging, or if it is necessary to share a room, leaders shall sleep in beds which are separate from children, youth or vulnerable adults. No leader shall be alone with any child or youth in an enclosed space or vehicle under any circumstances.
Children and youth should have parental permission for involvement in church-sponsored activities. All adult volunteers should obtain written consent from the child’s parent or guardian if the activity will be off-site.
Classrooms may be visited without prior notice by church staff, directors of the individual programs, and parents.
Discipline Procedures for Children and Youth
All staff and volunteers should deal with children and youth in a positive and respectful manner when behavior problems occur. A copy of the Mora United Methodist Children’s Discipline and Behavior Management Policy and the Youth Covenant are available.
Monitoring and Visibility
Hallways, classrooms and other areas of the building will be monitored while activities for children and youth are ongoing. All classroom and office doors will have windows or other provision for visibility and accountability.
First Aid Kits
First aid kits will be available (in the church, fellowship hall, traveling vehicles, etc.) and a plan implemented to keep them adequately stocked by Trustees.
Age and Activity-appropriate Equipment Supervision
The Christian Education Committee shall periodically and annually during the month of August examine the safety and appropriateness of the equipment used in nursery, classrooms and youth room.
The Office Administrator will serve as the liaison with outside groups using the facilities of the Mora United Methodist Church and will provide groups with a copy of this policy. A representative of outside groups involving children, youth or vulnerable adults will be required to sign the Outside Groups Covenant.
Off-site Transportation and Car Restraint Safety
In addition to this policy, all vehicle operators driving children or youth must be 21 years old or older and not have been convicted of a DUI or drug-related charges within the last seven years. The driver assumes all responsibilities to ensure the safety of all passengers. All passengers must use passenger restraint systems as required by state law.
Use of Alcohol and Other Substances that Impair Cognitive Faculties
At no time shall Mora United Methodist staff or volunteers be allowed to supervise or work with children, youth or vulnerable adults while under the influence of alcohol or other substances that would impair cognitive faculties.
Annual Review of Policy
The Safe Gathering policy of the Mora United Methodist Church will be reviewed at least annually in August by the Staff Pastor Parish Relations Committee, and the congregation will be informed of any substantive changes made.
The Mora United Methodist Church committee is responsible for selecting potential volunteer workers as appropriate. A designated person will process applications for volunteers. Screening process to be proposed by SPPRC. The SPPRC Chair or designated representative is responsible for ensuring that the screening procedures described in this document are implemented. A designated person will review results of all national background checks conducted for both paid and unpaid workers within the scope of this policy.
The Staff Pastor Parish Relations Committee (SPPRC) and the Christian Education Committee, as is appropriate for the age level, is responsible for implementing the provisions of this policy with regard to training. This policy does not address the method, scope or topics of training or who receives training, only specifies it needs to occur. The training program will be developed in early 2009.
The Board of Trustees
A designated representative from Trustees is responsible for reviewing this policy and its attendant procedures with the insurance company and for assuring that, in the event of litigation pertaining to an incident of sexual child/youth abuse, insurance coverage is sufficient to protect the people and assets of the Mora United Methodist Church. The Trustees will assure that outside groups using the facilities of the Mora United Methodist Church, currently and in the future, complete the Outside Groups Covenant and are given a copy of this policy, and where necessary, that adequate waivers have been duly processed.
The Safe Gathering Review Committee is comprised of the Staff Pastor Parish Relations Committee, the Chair of Trustees (or designate), Christian Education Chair (or designate) and the Pastor. This committee is responsible for approving procedures within the scope of this policy, initially and at least annually in August thereafter. In addition, this committee should develop an implementation plan in conjunction with staff in charge of communications to communicate key principles of the Safe Sanctuary policy to the congregation at large. If changes to the plan are necessary before the annual review, such changes will be communicated by appropriate methods to all parties concerned.
The Safe Gathering Crisis Response Team is comprised of the Pastor, chairperson of the Mora United Methodist Church’s Board of Trustees and the Staff Parish Relations Committee and outside consultants as needed. On a case-by-case basis, the Directors of Children and Youth will be a member of the team in managing an incident. This group is responsible for assuring that step by step procedures for a Crisis Response Plan is written and approved by the Mora United Methodist Church Council to manage any alleged sexual, physical or emotional abuse or neglect incident of a child or youth involved in activities within the scope of this policy and for implementing this plan should such an event occur. In the unfortunate event of an abuse or neglect incident, this Team will disseminate appropriate information to the proper authorities, staff, congregation, and media (only if inquiries are made). A single spokesperson shall be designated within this Team to respond to media inquiries following the guidelines found as Appendix 10.5.
All members of the Mora United Methodist Church, but especially mandated reporters, have an affirmative duty to immediately report a suspected incident of physical, verbal or emotional abuse or neglect to a member of the Staff Pastor Parish Relations Committee using the Incident Report Form found as Appendix 10.8.
Reporting of Incidents and Accidents
When an accident occurs, or when the leader of a church-sponsored activity reasonably suspects that abuse is taking or has taken place, he or she shall call 911 as deemed necessary. If abuse is suspected, the leader shall report the incident to the appropriate local law enforcement agency or the Kanabec County Department of Human Services. In addition, the leader shall complete an Incident Report Form (Appendix 10.8) and if the leader is a volunteer, contact the appropriate staff person and the Staff Pastor Parish Relations Committee immediately.
Report to Parents/Guardians
Leaders (staff or volunteers) should address any needs the child or youth may have, medical or otherwise and notify a member of the Staff Pastor Parish Relations Committee in a timely manner. Once the Committee has been notified, they shall immediately report to the parent(s) and/or legal guardians(s).
Removal of Suspected Abuser
The person suspected of abuse shall, for the safety and well-being of the children, youth or vulnerable adults, be removed with dignity from further contact with the children and youth unless and until the reported incident has been determined to be unsubstantiated. The decision as to whether the reported incident has been substantiated is in the sound discretion of the Staff Pastor Parish Relations Committee unless the incident has been substantiated by authorities outside the Mora United Methodist Church. The matter shall remain confidential to the extent possible.
A leader who in good faith reasonably suspects that an incident of abuse has occurred shall document the incident using the Incident Report Form found as Appendix 10.8. The completed Incident Report Form shall be submitted to the Staff Pastor Parish Relations Committee as soon as practicable and notifications made as indicated on the Incident Report Form. The identity of the reporting person shall remain confidential to the extent possible. Confirmed reports of proven incidents of abuse shall be retained in a confidential file for future screening purposes.
Notification of District/Conference Authorities
The Staff Pastor Parish Relations Committee shall notify the Conference/District authorities if a substantiated report involving abuse of children, youth or vulnerable adults results in removal from duties of any staff or volunteer.
Supportive Care to Victim and Respondent
It shall be the goal to provide supportive care to both the victim and the respondent and to restore such persons to wholeness. Supportive care can include the procedures of the criminal justice system, provisions of the current United Methodist Book of Discipline, appropriate counseling referrals and continued pastoral visitation.
This policy is authorized by the Mora United Methodist Church Council, including the Staff Pastor Parish Relations Committee and Trustees as indicated by signatures below. This authorization will remain in effect even though incumbents will change.
Effective Date of Policy is November 30, 2008 (Ogilvie removed 4/5/2022)