by Laura Sellakandu
Children and Family Ministry Coordinator
Lorne Park Baptist Church, Mississauga, ON
As the associate pastor of children’s ministry and pastoral care, I consistently work with the vulnerable sector and subscribe to the safe practices policies. We live in an era where safe practices should not be taken lightly or sheepishly. At Lorne Park Baptist Church, we have a Risk Management coordinator who promotes, advocates and enforces the safe practices of Plan To Protect. In support of his role I inform and encourage my team to adhere to the requirements of receiving training to serve in their capacity.
Staff and volunteers who interact with the vulnerable sector are required to complete the Plan To Protect training modules which covers a variety of topics like best practices for children’s programming, best practices for disability initiatives, best practices for youth programming, abuse prevention and volunteer care. I am a firm believer that one protects through awareness of physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect. Additionally, we protect our children through implementation where screening personnel happens even if they are members of the church, with the completion of a face to face interview, submission of background interview form and police check.
This procedure renders support for ensuring children, youth, those with disabilities and vulnerable adults are all protected. These are essential training tools that benefits all parties. The vulnerable sector receives care, support and ministry from someone who has been trained to uphold policies and standards that ultimately seeks their best interest. Volunteers and staff can protect themselves by implementing training tools and furthermore receive legal protection from the church insurance. (The legal coverage from the church insurance is binding only if the individual has taken the trainings.) Hence, I do not take this training lightly! In addition to protecting vulnerable people, these procedures are in the best interests of volunteers and staff in the event of a lawsuit. I feel it is very important to build awareness through training in my church, and endeavour to reduce any occasion for accusations.
2 thoughts on “Keeping Kids Safe in the Church”
“Don’t you trust me?”
Sometimes volunteers express the feeling that the church’s screening program is an expression of distrust regarding their character and trustworthiness. While this may seem to be the case (particularly for a person who has been serving in Sunday School for more than 40 years), in reality the implementation of a vulnerable sector policy doesn’t have anything to do with that particular individual. The purpose is to protect children, youth and other vulnerable persons and the only way to do this effectively is to have a rigorous screening and training program in place. In a way, it’s like putting on your safety belt when you get into the car. Technically, you only need to wear the safety belt on the day you have an accident. But since we don’t know when or if that day will come, we wear it every day.
No church can entirely eliminate the risks but it is irresponsible to engage in ministry to vulnerable persons without taking the steps necessary to reduce the risks.
Thank you so much, Laura, for this great blog entry. I love your commitment and enthusiasm. I truly believe that abuse prevention is not something that we do in order to do ministry, but that it is a ministry in itself. Thank you for incorporating Plan to Protect into your programs and activities. Thank you for your ministry of protection.