Best Practices for Youth Ministry at Heritage United Methodist Church

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1 Contents Introduction Page 1 General Guidelines Page 2 Defining Inappropriate/Unsafe Behavior Page 3 Reporting Inappropriate/Unsafe Behavior Page 3 Ministry Specific Situations Page 4 Off Church Property Situations Page 5 Introduction Overview Every ministry of the church has a moral responsibility and obligation to reduce the potential of abuse from ever occurring. This policy has been formed with that obligation in mind. Abuse causes deep and lifelong psychological wounds to its victims, perpetrators, and their families. When abuse happens in any organization, the reputations of the organization, its staff and other volunteers are jeopardized. When abuse takes place in a religious community, the faith foundation of the victims, perpetrators, their families, and the entire religious community is fractured. Thank you for your support and partnership in adhering to what is outlined in these pages so that students for years to come can grow in their trust of God and belief that this church is a safe and trustworthy environment. Limitations of Any Policy & The Rule of Three Not every situation you encounter will have a corresponding policy. When in doubt, choose the course of action that: 1. Maximizes safety for the student 2. Limits one-on-one ratios 3. Encourages ministry done in community rather than isolation. A helpful guideline is the rule of three. When there is no policy to help navigate a situation, aim for no less than three individuals either two adults and one student or two students and one adult to ensure that no student is ever placed in a one-on-one situation with an adult or student. B e s t P r a c t i c e s f o r Y o u t h M i n i s t r y Page 1

2 Identification Physical Touch Best Practices for Youth Ministry at Heritage United Methodist Church General Guidelines During youth programs and events all adult youth workers must wear their church name tag, a youth ministry lanyard or visitor name tag Physical affection can have an appropriate place in ministry. Workers shall use discretion as to the frequency and type of physical touch they provide students of either gender. Specifically, youth workers should: o Use touch in response to the need of the student and not the need of the adult o Reserve the use of touch only as a response to a student s initiative o Whenever possible, avoid front-to-front hugs (but side hugs are great!) o Never: Give or receive massages of any type Have students sit on their laps or vice-versa Kiss a student (this includes kisses on face, head, and even hands) Touch a student s breasts, buttocks, or groin Corporal punishment is never permissible. Physical restraint should be used only in order to protect the health and welfare of the student, other students, volunteers or staff. All games and activities should encourage appropriate touch, never placing a student in a powerless or submissive position without the student s willful and uncoerced consent. Communication Modesty Each parent/guardian will complete an annual consent form which grants permission for adult leaders to contact students through phone calling, letter writing, ing, text messaging, instant messaging, and other social media (e.g. Facebook and Twitter). Adults are not to contact students without parental/guardian permission unless it is an off-site event and the student s cell phone is the only way to contact them. You are an example to students in every way. For that reason, we expect that your dress, behavior, words (both written and via the internet) and body language be of the highest standard. Please be conscious of what your physical and online presences will speak to both genders. B e s t P r a c t i c e s f o r Y o u t h M i n i s t r y Page 2

3 Inappropriate/Unsafe Behavior Defining Inappropriate/Unsafe Behavior Inappropriate/unsafe behavior is any action verbal, online, physical, or insinuated that violates these guidelines. Inappropriate/unsafe behavior can be exhibited by adults and/or youth. o Reporting should always take place when anyone s actions jeopardize the safety of an individual (including but not limited to self-harm/cutting, suicidal or homicidal thoughts); in these situations an individual needs protection from harming themselves or preventing the harm of someone else. Reporting Inappropriate/Unsafe Behavior When To Report If you become aware of other adults, youth or staff violating these guidelines, report the situation immediately to any Heritage United Methodist Church staff member or the Senior Pastor. Trust your gut. If you felt awkward in a particular situation, chances are that the student felt uncomfortable as well. How to Report Kansas law states that if you have reason to suspect that a child has been harmed as a result of physical, mental or emotional abuse or neglect or sexual abuse of a minor (under age of 18) you should make a report to the Secretary of Social and Rehabilitation Services. Their 24-hour child abuse hotline is Your identity will remain anonymous. Who Can Report Anyone can report and has a holy and ethical responsibility to report a violation of these guidelines. The United Methodist Book of Discipline states that all clergy of The United Methodist Church are charged to maintain all confidences inviolate, including confessional confidences, except in the cases of suspected child abuse or neglect or in cases where mandatory reporting is required by civil law. (Book of Discipline, Paragraph 341. Unauthorized Conduct) Disciplinary Action If at any time your behavior towards students or other adults becomes questionable or specific expectations outlined here are violated, the steps below will be taken by church staff. A meeting will be scheduled with the staff member overseeing the program in which you are volunteering. The action in question will be discussed and the guidelines in this policy will be reviewed and resigned. If it is determined that questionable behavior has occurred, the Senior Pastor and other appropriate staff members will be contacted and will become involved. If questionable behavior continues after the meeting, a temporary or permanent removal from your volunteer position will follow. In all situations, we will communicate our purpose in discipline and keep it in confidence within the church guidelines. B e s t P r a c t i c e s f o r Y o u t h M i n i s t r y Page 3

4 Meeting Individually with a Student Ministry-Specific Situations During Regularly Scheduled Programs: if a meeting occurs during regularly scheduled program times, it must be in a common visible area in a place where other people are present. Under no circumstances shall any youth worker meet privately with an individual student behind a closed door or without another means of being visually seen by another adult. Outside of Regularly Scheduled Programs: on the occasion when a youth worker needs to meet individually with a student of the same gender outside of regularly scheduled programs, parental/guardian consent must first be obtained. All meetings must occur in a public place where other people are present. Some examples of public places where other people are gathered include restaurants and coffee shops. Students and youth workers will meet at the public place and depart from the public place separately. Under no circumstances shall any leader meet privately with an individual student of the opposite gender. Alone in a Home or Building with an Individual Student As a rule, youth workers shall not be in a home or building with an individual student. If the situation becomes unavoidable (e.g. a student is the first to arrive or the last to be picked up): o In good weather, the adult shall wait with the student outside the home or building. o In bad weather, the adult may leave the main entry or front door open and remain inside with the student in the front room or entryway. o When this situation occurs, please report it to the youth ministry staff member in charge of that program or the Senior Pastor as soon as possible. Sunday School/Small Groups/Youth Group The goal is there be a minimum of two unrelated adults shall be present during Sunday School, Small Groups, and Youth Group. If an adult is leading a group alone, please make sure the Youth Director or other Church Staff Member is aware of the meeting. If activity requires splitting the group into smaller groups, adults shall separate between groups to ensure appropriate adult supervision at all times. Counseling with Youth Director Situations will arise when students seek counsel from an adult leader. The Youth Director shall meet with a student for counseling in one of the following ways: o At a church building with another staff member or a parent/guardian present in the building o In a public place only with parental/guardian permission and written notification (via or text) to the Senior Pastor. Students and Youth Director will meet at the public place and depart from the public place separately. B e s t P r a c t i c e s f o r Y o u t h M i n i s t r y Page 4

5 Confirmation Best Practices for Youth Ministry at Heritage United Methodist Church Ministry-Specific Situations Preferred contact between mentors and students is two mentors and two students together whether on church grounds or off-site. Adult mentors and their student mentees may meet off church grounds in a public place only with parental/guardian permission and written notification (via or text) to the Youth Director. Off Church Property Situations ***NOTE: All adults working with youth off church property must be Safe and Sacred Spaces Certified. *** Driving Students When providing rides to students, youth workers should have a third person in the car. Although situations may require the driver to be alone in the car with a student of the same gender (e.g. picking up the first student) this should be the exception rather than the norm and parental consent must be obtained. Care should be taken to plan ahead to avoid finding oneself in these situations. Under no circumstances shall any leader be alone in a car with an individual student of the opposite gender. Off-Site Events (e.g. swimming pool, amusement park, food pantry) On the occasion that students need to be apart from adult supervision: o Students must check in with adults every two hours via cell phone. Every four hours students and adult leaders must have a face-to-face check in. For example: 12pm arrive at off-site event; 2pm student checks in with adult leader via cell phone; 4pm student checks in face-to-face with adult leader. o For students personal safety, when apart from face-to-face adult supervision, students will be in groups of no less than three. o Under no circumstances should two students ever be alone without eyes-on adult supervision. On the occasion that one adult and a small group of students need to separate from the rest of the group (e.g. on a mission trip work site, the group is asked to split and go to multiple locations): o Adult will notify another adult leader about where the group is going and what time they anticipate returning to the larger group Group Sleeping Arrangements (e.g. camp cabins, lock-ins, mission trips) During the stated lights out time two unrelated adults must be present. Under no circumstances shall any youth worker share a bed with a student. In dorm or hotel settings, students and adults will sleep in separate rooms. o Parents/guardians may sleep in a room separately with only their child/guardian. A minimum adult to student ratio of 1:12 shall be observed on any overnight event. o Any leader who is a minor: Must be at least four years older than the students participating in the event B e s t P r a c t i c e s f o r Y o u t h M i n i s t r y Page 5

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