About safe ministry
Safe ministry with children
The Act and Regulation requires the church to have a Child and Youth Risk Management Strategy that addresses several areas to make ministry safe. The overall aim is to create a culture of extended guardianship. Our policy is the Child and Youth Risk Management Strategy and it helps you to address the requirements outlined in the Act but breaks things down into more manageable chunks or building blocks:
- Adopting the policy and minuting the adoption —your statement of commitment
- Selecting and supporting leaders and helpers
- Ensuring working with children checks are conducted for all positions that require it (including church council members)
- Ensuring church property is maintained to a standard acceptable for the conduct of activities
- Being prepared for emergencies
- Making sure activities are well planned and appropriate
- Maintaining registers and records
- Responding to concerns and
- Reporting to presbytery and Synod.
Upholding church values
Safe Ministry with Children is intended to enhance the strengths of congregations, support the vision and values of the church and nurture wholesome ministry practice. It promotes nurturing relationships, genuine care and Christian fellowship.
Parents want to know that when they bring their children to the church, we will care for them, nurture and nourish them. The policy reflects the church’s commitment to the safety of children.
Each person who leads or helps with children’s ministries is asked to sign a statement of personal commitment; and to behave within the range of acceptable behaviours. Each year we encourage leaders, helpers and volunteers to reflect on how things are going, and to reaffirm this commitment. Every congregation and presbytery conducting activities for children is required to have a statement of commitment as well, and to reaffirm it annually. They do this by formally adopting the Safe Ministry with Children policy every year, and following the procedures that this policy brings.
What are we committing to?
To provide the children within our care with adequate protection against harm, and all reasonably foreseeable risk of injury, using Safe Ministry with Children as our guiding set of documents.
Who does this apply to?
The policy applies to all people conducting child-related activities as part of the ministries of a Uniting Church congregation, for example Sunday School, day camps and other activities where children and parents are separate. The policy and subsequent procedures emphasise our collective responsibilities to provide a culture of shared guardianship, and to care for those who may be vulnerable to the risk of harm, injury or abuse. The policy is to be implemented using the procedures and tools that have been developed to support congregations.
Exclusions: This policy is not intended to apply to the agencies, regulated businesses, colleges and schools of the church, including services such as child care centres and outside school hour case services run by congregations. These entities are required to ensure that they comply with their statutory obligations and maintain policy, processes and resources relating to child protection and safety which are specific to their context. Regulated businesses include (but are not limited to) child care and outside school hours care programs. Congregations conducting these regulated businesses must ensure statutory compliance in addition to compliance with the applicable church policy and process.
Issues about child safety may need to be discussed in different ways in different cultural contexts. The Synod is keen to ensure that Safe Ministry with Children resources are culturally respectful and relevant. However, there is no room for cultural variations in the requirement that every congregation and church group must adhere to the policy and meet its requirements. Leaders and ministry agents in multicultural contexts are asked to help build appropriate bridges of understanding and compliance between the policy and this training, and the communities in which it will be implemented.
Each faith community is required to follow the policy and processes and will be supported by their respective presbytery and/or the church council of the congregation overseeing them. The presbytery council or church council may delegate authority to carry out tasks in relation to some of the tasks and responsibilities.
The resources section has a list of document that have been created for use by Queensland Synod workers and volunteers.
Model minute for church councils:
To comply with the Act, each church council is required to annually formally adopt (or reaffirm) the Queensland Synod Safe Ministry with Children policy and processes, and to record a statement of commitment in church council meeting minutes. Here is some suggested wording:
“The Uniting Church is committed to providing safe places where people are cared for, nurtured and sustained and commits itself to the care, protection and safety of all people, particularly those who are vulnerable. We commit to ongoing compliance with requirements of the Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) Act 2000 and the Working With Children (Risk Management and Screening) Regulation 2011, and adopt the Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod Safe Ministry with Children Policy. We will ensure the implementation of procedures and resources to assist our congregation to meet and demonstrate its responsibilities under the Act.”
This meets the requirements of the Act to have a statement of commitment to the safety and protection of children, and a child and youth risk management strategy which is reviewed annually. In addition, you must ensure that the approved processes are adhered to in the conduct of all activities and ministries within your jurisdiction.