Safe Church Policy
- Harold Shenk (2023)
- Erika Metzler Sawin (2023)
- Roveen Yoder, chair of Faith Formation Commission (2023)
- Joyce Peachey Lind, pastor rep
Our Theological Framework for Creating this Policy
We are called to be active followers of Jesus Christ, who recognized the inherent worth of every person. In living and worshiping in covenant with one another, we strive to keep Christ at the center of our daily lives, to treat others with respect, and to ensure all who enter our buildings are welcomed, shown hospitality, and offered grace within a nurturing, safe environment that respects and protects personal and communal/congregational boundaries. As part of this covenant we strive to prioritize the needs of survivors and other vulnerable people in the congregation.
Community Mennonite Church recognizes that child sexual abuse is a serious criminal offense and an egregious violation of trust. This policy is primarily written to ensure the safety of children and youth against all forms of abuse, especially sexual abuse, while in these buildings or at a church-sponsored activity. It also serves to protect our pastors, staff, and volunteers who interact with children and youth against unfounded allegations and to protect CMC from scandal and liability. Allegations of sexual abuse or child abuse will be taken seriously and dealt with in a spirit of compassion and justice. Although this policy has been created primarily for the worshiping body of CMC, it is also applicable to any congregation, organization, or group using our facilities.
Though the issue of abuse is an unpleasant one, we believe that God can use our response to these concerns for good (see Romans 8:28-29). Instead of viewing this policy as a necessary evil, we see it as an opportunity to promote teamwork (I Cor. 12:12-31), to demonstrate mutual submission (Eph. 5:21), and to enhance our community by practicing what we recite at each parent-child dedication: to care for each child as they enter the life of this congregation.
Section 1. Definitions of Important Terms Used in this Policy:
Child or Youth
Any person under the age of 18 years of age who is considered a minor under the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
An employee of Community Mennonite Church who ministers to the congregation.
An adult 20 years of age or older who has attended CMC for a minimum of 6 months and who has satisfied the requirements found in Section 3 of this policy.
Child Protection Committee
Implements and enforces this policy. See Section 2 for further information.
Anyone 19 years or younger who works, under the supervision of two approved adults, with youth or children up to the age of 12.
Occasional Care Volunteer
An adult CMC member or regular attender who works occasionally under the supervision of an approved adult with children or youth.
Known Sexual Offender
A person who has been adjudicated by a court or child protective services findings as a sexual offender and/or has admitted to past sexual abuse.
Section 2: Child Protection Committee and Administration of the Safe Church Policy
The Child Protection Committee (CPC) is a subcommittee of the Community Mennonite Church Faith Formation Commission and reports to the Faith Formation Commission once per year. The CPC will consist of four members: an associate pastor, the Faith Formation Commission chair, and two members-at-large. The members-at-large must be approved by Church Council. The CPC will choose its own chair or co-chairs; however, the associate pastor cannot serve as chair. The church administrator, while not a member of the CPC, may have some duties in support of the CPC.
The CPC will:
- Implement and enforce this Child Protection Policy.
- Review and make recommendations to Church Council for revising this policy at least every three years.
- Arrange for required training for all staff and approved adults.
- Maintain a list of approved adults.
- Ensure that approved adults are following this policy.
- Be kept apprised of investigations.
- Prepare an annual report to Church Council and Allegheny Mennonite Conference.
- Identify and communicate with the liaison from each long-term rental group or agency to assure compliance with CMC policy.
The associate pastor on the CPC will:
- Review, along with the CPC chair, all approved adult applications.
- Receive and review all reports.
- Manage record keeping clearances and reports, which are subsequently stored in a locked safe.
The associate pastor and/or the church administrator will:
- Forward requests for clearances to Safe Hiring Solutions (for national criminal background check) and Virginia Department of Social Services.
- Ensure security and background clearances are on file for staff who work directly with children or youth.
- Securely maintain all clearances, reports, and associated documents in a locked safe in the church office. The associate pastor maintains the key to the safe. The pastoral team has access to these records through the associate pastor.
- Make available, upon request of an individual, his or her clearance reports.
The CPC chair will:
- Ensure that required forms are received for all applicants and records are securely maintained.
- Call meetings as needed, but no less than once per year.
- Keep Church Council apprised of all activities of the CPC.
Section 3. Becoming an Approved Adult
People in the following positions are required to become approved adults.
- All employed staff
- Children’s faith formation coordinators, teachers, music leaders, and helpers
- Venture Club leaders, Jr MYF leaders, and MYF leaders
- Vacation Bible School teachers, helpers, and volunteers
- Children's choir director and helpers
- Bible Quizzing volunteers and chaperones
- Nursery volunteers
- Anyone else working directly with children or youth in a CMC facility
- Child Protection Committee members
Application and Eligibility. A person who is at least 20 years old and who has attended Community Mennonite Church for at least 6 months is eligible to become an approved adult. The application process to become an approved adult requires the submission of forms and completion of activities as shown in Table 1.
Table 1. Forms and Activities Required To Become an Approved Adult
|Form or Activity||Form Required For…|
|Pastors||Other Approved Adult Applicants|
|Approved Adult Application Form||Yes||Yes|
|National Criminal Background Check Request||Yes||Yes|
|Virginia Department of Social Services Background Check Request||Yes||Yes|
|FBI Fingerprint Clearance||Yes||No|
|Standard Training (see Section 8)||Yes||Yes|
Application Process. The applicant will complete the information on the application form, background check requests, and FBI fingerprint clearance (as applicable). CMC pays the filing fees for the clearances.
Applicants who have already obtained one or more of the clearances elsewhere may submit copies of such clearances to CMC as long as the background checks were performed within five years of the application. Prospective CMC employees must obtain new background checks as a condition of employment. Note that under Virginia law, church volunteers are not required to obtain background checks. However, CMC has chosen to be proactive in this regard, and to require both the National Criminal Background Check as well as the Virginia Department of Social Services Child Protective Services Background Check. The latter check will include child sexual abuse reports that are considered "founded," but which may not appear in the National Criminal Background Check for various reasons.
Submitted application materials are received by the associate pastor on the CPC, and then sent to the relevant authorities. The associate pastor and/or the CPC review the clearance reports when they are received, and the church then stores and maintains the files confidentially. When all documents have been received and processed the Associate Pastor will confirm approval to CPC and inform the applicant of approved adult status.
Recordkeeping. Applications and related forms for staff and volunteers will be maintained in a confidential file under the jurisdiction of the associate pastor on the CPC. Clearances are confidential and will only be made available to the Associate Pastor and to the chair of the CPC. Forms that highlight child protection concerns will be passed along to the CPC.
Associate Pastor and/or church administrator will:
- Maintain a master list of all personnel and approved adults, including the date of application and dates of completed clearance reports.
- Implement a process by which to notify a staff member or approved adult sixty days before that new clearance reports will be required.
- Clearance reports are valid, for approved adult purposes, for ten years.
- An applicant for approved adult status who already has the required clearance reports, and those reports are less than five years old, must apply for new clearance reports within ten years of the existing reports' dates.
- An approved adult who has a break of five years or more in congregational participation must apply for new clearance reports.
- Retain copies of all reports indefinitely, even ones that have been superseded by renewed reports, in confidential locked files under the jurisdiction of the Associate Pastor.
Record Retention. Records pertaining to children and youth staff or volunteers will not be part of any automatic records destruction plan by the church. This includes child and youth registration and permission forms, as well as staff and volunteer clearances. Such records will only be destroyed with the written approval of the CPC and in accordance with the state statute of limitations related to sexual abuse of minors. (In Virginia, there is no statute of limitations for filing criminal and civil charges for certain types of sexual abuse of a minor.) Records may be digitized and stored via electronic means.
Section 4. General Guidelines for Protection of Children and Youth
To ensure a nurturing environment for children and youth is maintained within the congregation; to protect children and youth who participate in CMC-sponsored activities from any form of abuse; and to protect the pastors, staff and members from false allegations of abuse, the congregation has adopted the following general guidelines.
- Child Abuse Is Prohibited. Those who accept the special responsibility of working with the congregation's children/youth shall not violate that responsibility by causing physical injury (that is not accidental); mental injury (that is not accidental); sexual abuse or serious physical neglect of children or youth; or any other act described as child abuse in this policy or the laws of our state. (Child abuse is defined in Virginia Code Section 63.2-100.)
- Sexual Abuse Is Prohibited. Those who accept the special responsibility of working with the congregation's children or youth shall not violate that responsibility by having any interaction with a child or youth where the child or youth is being used for sexual stimulation of the adult or a third person regardless of whether the behavior involves touching, or any other act described as sexual abuse in this policy or the laws of our state.
- Two Approved Adults Rule. Two approved adults will be present during each church-sponsored child or youth activity, whenever that is possible. The only exception to this rule is in the Mentor/Mentee program, described below. When unforeseen circumstances result in only one approved adult being present (e.g., an unexpected absence of a teacher on a Sunday morning), a designated approved adult will be within easy reach to provide assistance if needed. In a mixed-gender group of children or youth, at least two approved adults will be present. In the event of unforeseen circumstances during off site activities that result in only one approved adult remaining, the remaining approved adult will call a pastor in order to ensure transparency. Youth volunteers or occasional care assistants may work under the supervision of two approved adults
- Visibility. Activities with children or youth will be conducted in a way that allows visibility from outside the room. For example, glass areas of doors should not be obstructed; curtains should be open; or an open door or a window should allow easy observation of the room. Where possible, conduct activities in a public place, with another person within sight and sound of the activities.
- Bathroom and Diapering. Parents should encourage younger children to use the bathroom before and after classes or other activities so that parents can assist as needed.
- Diapering. A parent will be contacted to change a diaper. If a parent cannot be reached, two approved adults must be present when clothes or diapers are being changed.
- Toddlers, Preschoolers. Generally, two approved adults should accompany the child to and from the bathroom. If that is not possible, one approved adult can accompany the child, and they must inform the other approved adult when this takes place. The adult is to assist the child only when necessary. If assistance is required, the approved adult must leave the door open.
- Bathroom. Because abuse is sometimes perpetrated by an older, stronger child or youth, do not send two children or youths with an age difference of four or more years to an isolated setting such as a restroom, tent, or empty classroom.
- Empty Room Policy. After an activity, check rooms to ensure that all participants have vacated the room. Turn off lights and close the door.
- Guidelines for Expressing Affection. True expressions of affection toward children or youth can be a manifestation of Christ's love for all of us, and CMC encourages and appreciates meaningful relationships between adults and children or youth. A kind word of encouragement, a pat on the back, or an appropriate embrace can be a small but significant act for both the adult and the child or youth. That being said, CMC relies on adults to gauge the relationship established with the young person and to use common sense when physically expressing affection.
- Be sensitive to personal space. Respect a child's or youth's refusal of affection.
- Be aware of appropriate hand placement. A child or youth or an observer could interpret a pat on the bottom or an overly long hug where the child is attempting to pull away. Note that a body-to-body embrace, a touch on private areas (those covered by a bathing suit), holding a child older than three on the lap, or a kiss on the mouth is inappropriate.
- Tickling or wrestling with children is often part of the grooming process and is not permitted.
- Discipline: Discipline involving any type of physical contact is not permitted.
- Virtual Gatherings: Two designated adults must be present during virtual gatherings with children or youth (such as Zoom). The private chat function should be disabled so that private messages cannot be sent. When this is not possible, hosts will notify participants at the beginning of the gathering that chats will be saved and will be read.
- Electronic Communication with Youth. Text messaging should generally be used for communicating information about events, rather than for personal conversations. One-on-one communication should be avoided. When possible, staff and volunteers will include parents in group texts with youth. When parents are not included in direct communication with youth, there should be notification to the parents that direct communication has occurred.
Group texts sent from staff or other adults should include all youth in an applicable category (i.e. all youth in JYF, all youth in a prayer group, all youth attending a particular event, etc). Youth workers should not be singling out only some youth from a group for communication that pertains to the whole group. All group texts should include two approved adults.
All electronic communication with youth and older congregants of CMC should take place between the hours of 9 am and 9 pm.
All forms of contact used should be traceable; disappearing forms of communication such as Snapchat, Kik, Pictures in Instagram DM, etc. should never be used.
Adults should not initiate direct messages (DMs) with youth on social media. If there are specific concerns rising from social media posts, conversation should take place in person if possible or via text with a parent or other approved adult. If a youth initiates a DM, adults should include another adult in the conversation by using the “add” feature in a DM.
Further Guidelines for Specific Programs
- Parents or guardians will complete the Nursery Medical Information Form when the child first enters nursery care.
- Parents will sign children in and out of the nursery. The Nursery Sign-in Sheet will be filed regularly with the church administrator.
Junior High and High School Age Group Event Guidelines
- All children or youth participating in youth groups or going on a field trip with either a youth group or a class must have a Medical Release Form on file before they will be allowed to participate. These forms must be updated each year. The original will be kept in a file by a leader of the event and must be taken along to the activity. A copy of the completed forms will be kept on file in the church office.
- Children and youth will be transported with at least one approved adult in each vehicle. The driver must be at least 20 years old, and his or her license must not have been revoked or suspended in the previous five years.
Youth mentors are adults chosen by youth and approved by the youth's parents, and must be approved adults. They provide friendship and companionship throughout the youth's teenage years and facilitate the youth's spiritual growth and maturity. Because of the nature of these relationships, the two-approved-adult rule does not apply to mentor/mentee activities. The mentor will keep a log of the times and places the mentor and youth meet. Logs are subject to review by the Child Protection Committee and the youth's parent or guardian. CMC encourages mentors to plan activities in public places. Mentors may not engage a mentee in counseling on a topic that requires professional help (e.g., drug or alcohol addiction, sexual assault by a dating partner, severe problems with parental relationships, sustained depression or chronic anxiety, eating disorders, suicidal tendencies, etc). While the mentor will hopefully provide support during such a crisis, concerns about the possible need for professional counseling for the mentee should be shared with a pastor.
Section 5. Church Access Policy
Church council will establish building access policies for staff, church members, and other building users.
Section 6. Providing Community for Known Sexual Offenders
My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:12 (NRSV)
CMC is hopeful that people who have offended are experiencing renewal: not only remorseful for past actions but truly repentant, striving for behavioral change and desiring healthy relationships. In order to determine an individual's place on his/her healing journey and to best support offenders, CMC utilizes a team approach for inclusion of offenders. CMC will partner with local professionals and the offender, entering into a process of frank discussion and wise discernment for the safety of the entire congregation. Grace and mercy will be extended to the offender in the context of repentance, accountability, and justice.
Known sexual offenders who are willing to abide by the guidelines in this policy are welcome to attend worship services and adult activities at CMC, and with approval, other agency activities on the premises of CMC. The minimum guidelines described in this policy will be incorporated into a covenant specific to the offender; this covenant must be signed by the offender prior to participation.
At the discretion of the CPC, additional restrictions may be incorporated into an individual's covenant. If an individual is on probation or parole, permission by the supervising county office to include the offender in the life of the church may be required. On occasion, an exception to a "no church attendance" provision of probation or parole may be made by an officer of the court, based on the church's capacity to manage the offender in a way that keeps him or her from contact with children. These are the minimum guidelines under which a known sexual offender may participate in congregational life at CMC or other activities that are held on CMC premises:
- Offenders are expected to comply fully with all restrictions and requirements placed upon them as a result of any legal actions, and provide the CPC chair with copies of any judgments, conditions of parole, or other documents in which restrictions on or requirements as a result of convictions or judgments are stated. If the offender is on probation or parole, the contact information for the supervising officer is also required. The CPC will review all available legal and other information in regards to a conviction, utilizing professionals and authorities on the issue to make educated and informed decisions about levels of participation and supervision required. In some states, certain crimes unrelated to child sexual abuse could have sex offender registration requirements.
- In the rare instance the CPC believes that a legal adjudication is in fact unrelated to child safety, the CPC may make a recommendation to Church Council for implementation or exception. Where there are pending charges but no adjudication, the CPC may, in consultation with the person or family, decide to implement part or all of the policy on a temporary basis.
- Offenders are expected to participate in a professional counseling program (sexual reactive therapy) with a therapist certified in the treatment of sex offenders, specifically addressing their abusive behaviors. Offenders will provide the name of the agency and mental health professional to the CPC chair at the time of request for participation. The offender will be asked to sign a limited disclosure authorization for the therapist to verify to the CPC that the individual is in treatment. If the individual’s therapy is complete, the individual will be asked for verification from the therapist directly. In a case of extreme financial hardship where the offender cannot afford counseling (and is not required by the court to be in counseling) the CPC will work with the offender to create an alternative plan that may include regular participation in a community-based group for sexual offenders or other affordable venues.
- While undergoing the process of covenant creation, the offender will be asked to participate in disclosure meetings with the CPC and their supervisors. The supervisors will be made aware of the offender’s restrictions and limitations, with the understanding that details of the offender’s case beyond what has been shared with the congregation will not be disclosed. The names of supervisors and CPC members who participated in the disclosure meetings will be documented and attached to the covenant.
- Offenders will not accept any leadership or representational position within or on behalf of CMC unless given approval by the CPC. A known sexual offender can never become an approved adult.
- The CPC will assign supervisors to any offender participating in the life of the congregation. Outside rental agencies at CMC will be required to do the same, since these activities are on the CMC premises (see Use of Facilities by Outside Organizations below). These supervisors will be adults who are not related and do not have a close relationship with the offender. Supervisors should remove themselves if there is a conflict of interest or an appearance of a conflict of interest. Supervisors shall receive training by a professional agency that will include information on sexual offender dynamics, the long-term impact of sexual abuse on victims, and conditions related to participation under the covenant established. If the offender is on probation or parole, the training may need to be approved by the officer of the court handling the case.
- The CPC will assist in identifying a small group of "covenant partners" for offenders. This small group will provide spiritual, emotional, and practical support and will meet with the offender on a regular basis. Covenant partners will not be parents of young children. The supervisors and covenant partners will not be the same individuals. If the group is deemed by either the offender or the covenant partners as ineffective in supporting the offender, the CPC may designate a new group of covenant partners if agreed to by all involved.
- The offender may participate in worship in the sanctuary in a designated area and attend adult-only Sunday school classes. Any other activities the offender is permitted to participate in will be detailed in the covenant.
- A supervisor must accompany the offender at all times when on church property.
- At no time will the offender deliberately place himself or herself in or remain in any location in or around the church facilities which would knowingly cause undue distress to others.
- At least twice each calendar year and as otherwise requested, the offender shall meet with and report to the associate pastor on the CPC and CPC chair regarding status of adherence to these guidelines.
- If the offender should decide to relocate membership (or substantially attend) another congregation, the designated pastor will seek to inform the leadership of that congregation of the conditions of these guidelines.
- The CPC will inform membership of the inclusion of a known sexual offender and the agreed upon guidelines. The notification to the congregation will include categories of offense, against whom, and known extent of offense.
Section 7. Reporting Suspected Child Abuse
All of us who seek to live out our commitment to Jesus Christ have a moral and ethical responsibility to protect the weak and the vulnerable. Anyone may report suspected child abuse by contacting the Child Protective Services Hotline (1-800-552-7096; www.dss.virginia.gov/family/cps/index.cgi). The Code of Virginia provides legal immunity to any individual who, in good faith, makes a report of suspected child abuse.
Mandated Reporters. The Code of Virginia imposes a reporting mandate, or requirement, on any individual who comes into contact with children in the course of his or her work or professional practice and has "reasonable cause to suspect" that the minor has been abused. These individuals are known as "mandated reporters." The mandate to report states that a person, who in the course of his or her duties with the organization, has "reason to suspect that a child is an abused or neglected child" (Code of Virginia 623.2-1509A) will report this matter immediately. A mandated reporter need not make a first-hand observation of the suspected child abuse victim. Second-hand reports of abuse must be reported to the proper authorities if the mandated reporter has "reasonable cause to suspect" that child abuse has occurred. The mandate to report applies to all suspected child abuse, not just abuse that has been perpetrated by someone within the church. Possible abusers could include parents, relatives, older siblings, neighbors, coaches, school teachers, family friends and other children. Failure to report suspected abuse by a mandated reporter can result in fines or a Class 1 misdemeanor. Church pastors and staff are not considered to be mandated reporters in Virginia. However, for the purposes of this policy, we will consider pastors the equivalent of mandated reporters. Likewise, approved adults under this policy are not mandated reporters under Virginia law. However, approved adults will immediately report any suspected abuse to a pastor or to the CPC chair who, in turn, will make the report.
Reporting Guidelines. An employee, church member, or church attender who has reasonable cause to suspect that a child or youth under their care, guidance, or supervision; or that a child or youth not directly under their care, guidance, or supervision but involved in any church program or activity, has been abused by anyone, he or she shall:
- If a child is injured or in pain, call 911.
- Immediately inform a pastor, who will in turn inform the associate pastor on the Child Protection Committee and the CPC chair.
- Document the suspected abuse by completing a Suspected Child Abuse Incident Report. If an incident is reported that does not rise to the level of making a mandated report, the CPC chair will inform the child's parents or guardians of the concern and document the meeting.
- A pastor or the CPC chair will immediately make a verbal report by calling the Virginia Department of Social Services. In Harrisonburg, call the Harrisonburg Rockingham Department of Social Services (DSS) at 540-574-5100 or the Child Protective Services (CPS) Hotline at 1-800-552-7096. DSS will contact the local law enforcement agency immediately upon receiving a report of suspected child abuse.
Followup, Investigation, and Documentation. CMC and its leadership are not responsible for investigating or determining whether or not abuse has occurred. It may be necessary to ask the child or person alleging the abuse has occurred for some clarification solely in order to determine if there is cause to believe abuse may have occurred. Beyond that, detailed interviews and questioning with the child or the alleged abuser will be conducted by legal authorities, not CMC. The congregation will cooperate fully with government authorities in the investigation. While allegations are treated in strict confidence, all reporting and cooperation will be documented in a log of phone calls, personal visits, and written reports. The log and associated documents will be kept in a secure file in the church office. All communications regarding the report of suspected child abuse shall attempt to protect the dignity and privacy of those persons affected by the report including the alleged victim and the person suspected of abuse, while at the same time ensuring that investigation authorities remain fully informed.
- Following the report of suspected abuse to DSS or the CPS Hotline, a pastor will inform the parent or guardian of the alleged victim of the suspected abuse, unless a parent or guardian is the alleged abuser. If a parent or guardian is the alleged abuser, DSS or law enforcement will make the first contact about the allegation.
- CMC personnel will not enter into discussion with the alleged abuser after a report has been filed or during the course of the legal investigation about the details of the complaint. The alleged abuser will be removed from any position in which he or she has supervisory authority over children or youth pending the completion of the investigation. In addition, the CPC will consider and enact additional steps to ensure that children are safe while the matter is under investigation.
- The insurance company and Allegheny Mennonite Conference will be contacted after the report is filed if the alleged abuse involves a staff person, if the abuse occurred on church property, or if the abuse involved a volunteer caregiver. The alleged abuser will have his/her ministry restricted to exclude contact with children immediately; and if employed by the church, may be placed on paid leave during the investigation.
Continuing the Ministry of the Church. Pastoral support will be offered to all parties involved, including those who have made the complaint, the alleged abuser, the families of both, and the congregation. Decisions about how this support will be given will be made by pastoral team.
- The extent to which information about the report will be shared with the congregation will be determined by church council, pastoral team, and others as appropriate. The input of the conference minister of Allegheny Mennonite Conference may be sought. Church council will authorize the pastor or a designee to act as the official spokesperson for the congregation. Only the authorized person or persons may speak for the congregation to the news media, government agencies, or others.
- If pastoral staff is allegedly involved in the reported abuse, the conference minister of Allegheny Mennonite Conference will be consulted on how ministry of the church can be maintained while the issue is being addressed. Decisions regarding how this will be accomplished will be made by church council.
Response to Allegations, Admissions, or Adjudications of Abuse. Persons who admit to or are convicted in a court of law of any form of physical or sexual abuse of a child or youth will be immediately, permanently, and completely disqualified by the CPC from working with children or youth at CMC. Further attendance at CMC or participation in the congregational life of CMC would be under the terms described in Section 6.
Persons who admit to a pastor or member of the CPC any type of physical or sexual abuse of a child or youth but who have not appeared in a court of law will be disqualified from working with children or youth in the congregation. Allegations of sexual or physical abuse of anyone will disqualify any person from working with children or youth until an investigation is completed. If charges have been filed for any violent crime, including any physical or sexual abuse of anyone, the volunteer or staff person will be immediately removed from environments with children, youth, or other vulnerable populations until the legal process is complete. This serves not only as protection to children and vulnerable others but also as protection for the person alleged to have transgressed, as such a person is often highly vulnerable to accusations of inappropriate conduct based on perception of risk that may or may not be well-founded.
If someone is accused of poor judgment in relation to actions taken in the presence of children or youth, but these allegations do not rise to the level of abuse as described in this policy,
- The Pastoral Team will hold the person responsible and accountable for the behavior. Grace and mercy are extended in the context of repentance, accountability and justice.
- Education or counseling will be expected to correct unhealthy behavior patterns. The church may consider helping with the cost of sessions as an extension of the church ministry.
- The person will be removed from susceptible environments for a stated period of time, and not function in any direct care or supervision over children and youth for at least one year, after which an evaluation determining fitness for this ministry will be made by the pastoral team. The second such occurrence of demonstration of "poor judgment" will result in the individual being precluded from any future ministry with children/youth.
- Communicate action taken with the person in non-compliance and the congregation as needed.
Allegations of Noncompliance with this Policy. Alleged noncompliance with the policy, other than abuse, will be immediately reported to the CPC chair or a pastor, who will report it to the lead pastor and church council chair. At council's direction, the CPC will investigate the allegation. If a person is found to be not in compliance with the policy, the council in conjunction with the CPC will determine what disciplinary action, if any, is necessary. This could be determined to be a breach of the covenant, in which case the covenant would be nullified.
Section 8. Training and Education
This Safe Church Policy will be available to the entire congregation in a manner and at a web-based and/or physical location where easily accessible. New members and attenders will be directed to the website or physical location and/or given a copy of the policy.
Policy on Education and Training
In order to be an approved adult, a volunteer or staff member must participate in an initial training that covers recognizing and responding to child abuse, mandated reporting requirements, and church guidelines and practices. Both initial and refresher courses will be held yearly. Volunteers or staff who cannot attend sessions in person will be required to review a video of the training prior to serving with youth. Adults will not be approved to take care of children until after they have completed the required training.
Procedures for Education and Training
Staff and Volunteers:
- Initial training will be offered at least once each year for new staff and volunteers, including new members of Church Council. The initial training for each new staff person and volunteer will be approximately 2.5 hours.
- Once an individual has participated in the initial training, a refresher training of at least 1 hour will be required every two years to ensure that the individual's knowledge is current and accurate.
- The Associate Pastor and/or the church administrator will maintain a record of who has received training and the dates of that training.
- Training will include materials on child abuse, including specific information about child sexual abuse, behavioral signs, and how to respond to a disclosure; the grooming process sexual offenders often use to engage children; a review of policies and procedures that are specific to CMC and pertinent to the work in which the employee or volunteer will be involved; and instruction in the use and completion of the various forms.
Parents and Other Congregants: Child abuse awareness education will be offered at least once each year for parents and other congregants and will include information about the spiritual, as well as psychological and physical, impacts of abuse. The education session will be at least 1 hour long and may be provided in various formats such as an adult education class, a whole-congregation meeting, a workshop, etc.
Children and Youth: Christian education curriculums on healthy physical, emotional, and sexual boundaries, including sexual abuse prevention, shall be offered periodically. The purpose is to provide our children and youth with the opportunity to receive age-appropriate information in a faith-based context to help them to recognize inappropriate conduct on the part of an adult or older child, and to empower them to say "no" and tell a safe adult at church, home, or school.
Supervisors to Sexual Offenders: Should the church decide to welcome a known sexual offender into fellowship in accordance with the guidelines established in this policy in Section 6, a group of supervisors will receive supervisor training through The Collins Center or another professional agency. If the offender is currently on probation or parole, approval of the organization providing the training and the curriculum may be required by the probation and parole office. The training will include the following items:
- Dynamics of sexual offending (blame, impulsiveness, denial, deception; role of fantasies); information about different types of offenders; general characteristics of a pedophile, lifestyle issues, access to victims, orientation; the grooming process; sex offense therapy; use of polygraph
- Dynamics of victimization (shame, secrecy, trauma symptoms); the definition of child sexual abuse according to the Code of Virginia; long- and short-term consequences of child sexual abuse
- Role of the Supervisor—Close accompaniment of offender while on church property; assure no contact with children including verbal and physical; monitor offender compliance with policy and covenant guidelines
- Specific information about the particular offender—Any terms of probation or parole, guidelines agreed to by covenant with the church
Use of Facilities by Outside Organizations:
Outside groups and organizations using CMC's facilities on a recurring basis will be made aware of this policy and review it annually. They must adhere to this policy, or must provide evidence of their own policy and procedures, subject to review and acceptance by the CMC Child Protection Committee and/or CMC church council. If the organization has its own policy, at a minimum it must include: a "two adult" rule at all times for children's programming; sexual abuse awareness training for volunteers (for resources contact CMC); procedures for immediate reporting of suspected child abuse to CPS Hotline (see Section 7); and a prohibition on adults being alone in the facility with a child not their own. Organizations are strongly encouraged to do background checks on all volunteers directly working with children. A representative of an outside group will be required to sign a Statement of Compliance for Outside Organizations before use of the facilities will be granted. This Statement of Compliance for Outside Organizations must be reviewed and signed each year with the CMC rental manager and a representative of the Child Protection Committee when the rental agreement is renewed. The Statement of Compliance for Outside Organizations will then be stored with the rental agreement itself.
If a known sex offender is part of an outside organization, the policies for Section 6 apply, or the organization must provide evidence of their own policy regarding known sex offenders to CPC and/or CMC Church Council.
Informal groups of CMCers who regularly meet in the building must follow the two adult rule when children are present. If a child is meeting with an adult at the church building for any reason (e.g. a music lesson, rehearsal, etc.) a second adult must be present at all times.
- Child Abuse as Defined in Section 63.2100 Code of Virginia
- Medical Release Form
- Nursery Medical Information Form
- Nursery Sign-in Sheet
- Statement of Compliance for Outside Organizations
- Approved Adult Application
- VA Dept of Social Services – Child Protection Services Background Check
- Suspected Child Abuse Incident Report
Updated August 2022
Approved by Community Mennonite Church Council, August 11, 2022