Step-By-Step Guide

How to Begin Developing or Updating a Safe Sanctuaries® Policy

Originally published at General Board of Discipleship

The process of developing a Safe Sanctuaries® Policy in your congregation is not complicated. These 10 steps will guide you in reducing the risk of abuse and protecting children and youth in your congregation.

Step 1 – Find out

if your congregation has Safe Sanctuaries® Policies and Guidelines in place, when it was last updated, and when leaders, teachers, and staff last attended training. If a policy does not exist, make every effort to implement the following steps as swiftly as possible.

    Step 2 – Talk with

    the senior pastor, congregational leaders, teachers, parents, guardians, grandparents, and others who are concerned about the importance of keeping children and youth safe. As a group, discuss the existing policy or the process for creating Safe Sanctuaries® Policies and Guidelines. Meet as a group with the Church Council. Resources in Steps 3-6 will be helpful in this process.

    Who Needs to Be on the Team?

    • Pastor
    • Member of Staff-Parish Committee
    • Member of Board of Trustees
    • Lay Leader
    • Person(s) responsible for children and youth ministries
    • A representative from each group that works with children and youth (may include Sunday school, fellowship groups, choirs, and others)
    • A representative from parents of children and youth (have at least two parents from separate families as a minimum recommended number) 
    Step 3 – Visit

    our sample policies page to view examples of current policies provided by XYZ churches.

    Step 4 – Use

    the Discipleship Ministries Self-Evaluation Tool to assess your congregation’s policy and guideline needs for the prevention of abuse in your congregation’s ministry with children and youth. This tool helps identify the areas that require attention.

    Step 5 – Gather

    current resources necessary for planning and maintaining policies that protect children, youth, and the adults who serve them. Keep these in a place for church leaders and teachers to easily reference.

    Safe Sanctuaries®: Reducing the Risk of Abuse in the Church for Children and Youth and Safe Sanctuaries® for Children and Youth DVD: Reducing the Risk of Abuse in the Church were developed through Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church. The book includes information on recruiting, screening, and hiring workers with children and youth, guidelines for developing policies and procedures, training models, suggestions for congregational response to allegations of abuse, sample forms and guides. Also, view the recorded webinar Safe Sanctuaries - The Basics.

    Step 6 – Recommend

    that your pastoral staff read Safe Sanctuaries® for Ministers: Reducing the Risk of Abuse in the Church to gain a better understanding of the ministerial role in keeping children and youth safe in church and at church activities. This resource is written specifically for those serving as pastors in local church settings.

    Step 7 – Write or update

    Safe Sanctuaries® Policies and Guidelines for your congregation, making sure to address the unique risks in your congregational setting. Acquaint everyone in the congregation with the policy and guidelines, and its contents. View sample policies and guidelines.

    Step 8 – Know

    your legal responsibility. In many states, clergy members and those involved in the care of children and youth are considered "mandated reporters," meaning they have a specific obligation to report suspected child abuse. Updated information on these mandates can be found for your particular state.

    Step 9 – Contact

    your local hospital, police department, social service agency or public health department for names of people in your area qualified to speak with teachers, leaders, parents, and church staff on local resources and procedures for responding to potential abuse.

    Step 10 – In all you do

    remember that as part of His public ministry, Jesus committed the then-radical act of welcoming children. Our commitment to reducing the risk of abuse in the church for children and youth is one way that we live out Jesus’ act of love.