In keeping with the resolution adopted by the General Conference of the United Methodist Church in April 1996, the resolution adopted by the Western North Carolina Conference in June 2004, and the biblical teachings and the traditions and beliefs of the United Methodist Church, we the Church Council on behalf of Mt. Lebanon United Methodist Church, adopt the following policy and procedures so as to provide a safe sanctuary for children and youth.
The Mt. Lebanon United Methodist Church adopts the following policy and procedures to provide a safe and secure environment within the church and for any event that is connected with the ministries and operations of this church. While the primary reason for this policy is to prevent abuse and neglect of children and youth, it has been adopted to protect all who enter our doors. “Youth” or “Child” shall be deemed synonymous and shall be defined as any person less than eighteen (18) years of age for the purpose for these procedures. “Adult” shall be defined as any person at least eighteen (18) years of age for purposes of these procedures.
STATEMENT OF COVENANT AND POLICY
As a Christian community of faith, the Mt. Lebanon United Methodist Church pledges to conduct the ministry of the Gospel in ways that assure the safety and spiritual growth of our children, youth and adults. We as a church pledge our utmost to protect all who enter our doors by adopting the following procedures. He procedures are designed to prevent any type of child, youth or adult abuse, neglect or exploitation as defined by the North Carolina General Statutes. These can be specifically found in Chapters 7, 7a, 7b, and 14 in the North Carolina General Statutes Criminal Law and procedure. Nothing in this policy and procedures is designed to hinder or prevent the investigation of suspected, reported or confirmed violations of any North Carolina criminal law.
While the following are the basic procedures to insure a safe physical and emotional environment, there is a need for common sense procedures in dealing with hazardous conditions.
SUPERVISION AND CONDUCT:
- All teachers and those who supervise directly or indirectly children/youth should be at least 18 years of age and a church member in good standing for at least six months. If not yet a member, he/she must work with an established member of the congregation for a period of no less than six months. (In other words, if someone works with a member of the congregation for six months and then joins the church, they do not have to wait additional six months after joining the church to help with children/youth.) Another exception to the church membership rule could be the director of any pre-school programs which may begin or the director of youth ministries, as well as any scouting programs, which might later develop, and which would have their own set of requirements.
- All teachers supervising children/youth must have completed a volunteer application, including references, and complete the form to submit to a criminal and sexual offender background check from local, and when appropriate, state and national law enforcement agencies. (These background checks may be provided by law enforcement agencies or by the use of an approved investigative agency such as Castle Branch or Trak-1 who have a discount arrangement with the United Methodist Churches in Western North Carolina. Effective January 1, 2006, all paid employees of the church will be required to have a criminal background check. The Staff Parrish Committee must check out all references for paid staff.
- All classrooms or areas being used by children/youth should have a glass panel in the door to allow for outside monitoring of all spaces within the classroom or area. In addition, one person must be designated as a “roamer” and should make unscheduled visits to check on all classrooms or areas. This person may be the Superintendent of Sunday School or a designee. If a children/youth activity is held in any room not having a window in the door, then the door to the room must remain fully open during all aspects of the activity.
- The Pastor’s Study should have a small window in it as well as any other room where pastoral counseling or consultation is common. An open-door policy may also be used when necessary. Pastoral counseling is expected to be confidential in nature, but it is preferred that such sessions take place where other people are nearby even though not within hearing distance.
- “Rule of Two”: A minimum of two adults should be present for any church sponsored program or event involving children/youth. When possible, the two adults should be unrelated. If the “rule of two” is not possible, the door to the classroom must remain open or have a glass pane. The roamer rule should be followed.
- “The Buddy System”: Using the guidelines that the Scouts use, we encourage parents, teachers, and leaders of anyone under the age of 18 to make sure the children or youth always have a “buddy” who is close to their age so that no child is ever alone while in they are in the church building, or while away on any activity, trip, or overnight event.
- All paid or volunteer teaching/supervising staff working with children/youth must be trained before teaching or supervising in the safe sanctuary policy and procedures. Thereafter, all teachers/supervisors should be retrained yearly. This training may be provided by the individual church, district or conference training programs. It will be the responsibility of the Pastor or another designee to ensure that annual training takes place. All adult volunteers and staff shall sign a pledge to follow this policy and these procedures prior to being permitted to participate in activities with children/youth.
- Parents shall always be given notice and information regarding any activity in which their child/youth will be participation which deviates from the traditional classroom instruction offered at the church during Sunday School, UM Kids or other children’s learning or fellowship activities, or Vacation Bible School. Parents may be required to give permission for their child/youth before the child/youth’s participation in divergent activities.
- It is encouraged that a parent or guardian accompanies any child/youth needing assistance to the restroom. When this is not possible the door to the restroom should be kept open or ajar with as much privacy as possible to be provided to the child/youth.
- Children/youth at all times must be supervised by a responsible adult person (at least eighteen (18) years of age and five years older than those being supervised) to lessen the likelihood an any situation that could result in injury, abuse or neglect. (Numbers 3 and 5 above should be followed.) This procedure does NOT prohibit adults who are less than five years older than the youth or children in an activity from participating as a “counselor” or “helper” for the activity. This procedure does require the “two adult rule” be met by persons at least five years older than the children/youth in any activity.
- Overnight youth retreats or mission trips, especially those sponsored by the Western North Carolina Conference, all counselors must be at least twenty-one (21) years of age. On an overnight retreat where there are both male and female youth, there must be both male and female counselors. Youth will not share a bed with an adult. A minimum of three persons shall be assigned to a room, males and females housed in separate rooms, except for married couples. Visitation between males and females in bedrooms is prohibited unless directly supervised in a group setting with the counselors for devotional or group discussion times.
- Appropriate touch: Some good rules of thumb for appropriate demonstrations of affection or physical contact would be to: never initiate a hug (unless there are other adults in the room), keep hugs brief, always be the one to end a hug, hug from the side rather than the front, never impose touches on the children/youth in your group. Never separate yourself from others in the group so that you are alone with a child/youth.
- Insurance: The church will provide adequate liability insurance for their facilities and the church van in case of accident or injury to anyone participating in a church-sponsored activity, as well as coverage for sexual and other forms of abuse.
- Use/posting photographs or video of children/youth on social media, (including Facebook, Instagram, and website), must have prior written authorization from the child/youth’s parent(s) or legal guardian.
SAFETY AND FIRST AID:
- The church will maintain four first aid kits: three at the church-one in the kitchen/fellowship hall, one in the janitorial closet, one in the hallway near the nursery, and one in the van(s). Someone designated by the Trustees shall be responsible for maintaining these first aid kits.
- The church should offer a course or encourage training in CPR/First Aid annually for staff and volunteers, especially for those working with children/youth and older adults. In the event of the church employing any full-time employees whose work hours would coincide with regularly scheduled church programs, they should obtain and maintain certification as a condition of their employment. This course shall be from the American Red Cross or similar organization.
- In all buildings, fire evacuation routes will be posted, and the Trustees will maintain fire extinguishers and smoke alarms at least annually.
- Any teaching or educational experience that requires travel from the church or overnight travel must have the written permission and insurance information from the parent or guardian of each child/youth, and where necessary, the approval of the pastor or Sunday School Superintendent. The permission/medical information file must remain with the coordinator for the entire trip.
- The “rule of two adults” must be followed with no exception when traveling.
- No youth may drive to any youth group activity without the written permission from the parent(s) or guardian. No child/youth may leave the church with any person other than a parent without written parental permission.
- Van Use:
- Persons eligible to drive the church van must be at least 21 years of age, must provide a copy of their valid North Carolina driver’s license on file in the church office, and must not have any record of arrests for DWI/DUI. A designated member of the trustee’s committee will be responsible for maintaining this information.
- DMV checks will be made every three years on all persons driving the church van or adults who regularly transport children/youth in their personal vehicles.
- One person in the van should carry a cell phone in case of emergency.
- All passengers must wear seatbelts at all times.
- The Trustees, or person designated by the trustees, will be responsible for the approval and training of van drivers.
REPORTING ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE:
Any suspected or reported case of neglect or abuse (physical, sexual, or other abuse) must be reported immediately to the Pastor, and/or Sunday School Superintendent, the Church Council Chairperson. In the event that the Pastor is implicated, the chairperson of the Church Council or the Sunday School Superintendent must notify the chairperson of the Staff Parish Relations Committee and the District Superintendent within 24 hours.
The Pastor, the Sunday School Superintendent, or Church Council chairperson to whom the incident has been reported must immediately cause an incident report to be filled out containing all available details. Report forms will be kept in the church office. The District Superintendent must be notified by the next business day. It will then be the decision of the District Superintendent, Pastor and Sunday School Superintendent or Church Council chairperson as to the appropriate action to be taken. The District Superintendent shall have final local authority in the matter. The WNCC Director of Communications will also be notified.
However, in no event shall any of the above fail to report substantiated abuse or neglect to the proper law enforcement or social service agency as required by North Carolina law. Contact should be made with the Randleman Police Department and the Randolph County Department of Social Services to communicate the complaint.
Any person named as an alleged offender in a complaint shall immediately be required to cease any contact with children/youth through Mt. Lebanon United Methodist Church activities. The alleged offender may resume activities with children/youth at such time as the District Superintendent, Senior Pastor, and Staff Relations Committee shall deem appropriate.
The Pastor or the Administrative Board chairperson will serve as the ONLY spokespersons for the church regarding inquiries into the allegations by the media. All other church members must refrain from discussing the situation and advise those inquiring to contact the Pastor or Church Council chairperson directly.
In all ministries with children and youth, this congregation is committed to demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ so that each person will be “surrounded by steadfast love, established in the faith, and confirmed and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal.” (From Congregational Pledge 2 of the United Methodist Church Baptismal Covenant II.)
Policies and procedures adopted on October 16th, 2017 by the Church Council of Mt. Lebanon United Methodist Church, Randleman, NC. All forms referenced herein are from “Safe Sanctuaries” by Joy Melton