Safe Ministry Practices

MISSION CHURCH

SAFE MINISTRY PRACTICES POLICY



Relationships are at the foundation of Christian ministry and as such are central to the life of the church. Defining healthy and safe relationships through policies and codes of conduct is not meant in any way to undermine the strength and importance of personal interaction in our ministries. Rather, policies assist in more clearly defining behaviors and practices that allow the church to more fully demonstrate its love and compassion for children and students in sincere and genuine relationships.

The safety and well-being of children and students involved in and serving in our ministries is of utmost importance. Based on our commitment to providing a safe and loving environment for children and students to grow in their relationships with Jesus, we have established these policies and procedures to not only protect children and students but also volunteers and the mission of Mission Church.

Individuals who have been arrested for, charged with, are on deferred adjudication or regular probation for, or have been convicted of sexually-oriented or sex-related crimes, either misdemeanor or felony, cannot serve in any area of ministry with minors.


SAFE MINISTRY PRACTICES

The Safe Ministry Practices Policy includes the following areas:

  • Volunteer Screening
  • Policy Against Child Abuse
  • Volunteer/Minor Protection

I. VOLUNTEER SCREENING

Mission's screening process helps identify whether or not an individual has anything in his/her background that would pose any danger to minors (i.e., anyone under 18). This screening process will apply to any person who serves with minors as a part of Mission Church. All applications, references, and other information are kept confidential and in a secure environment. The application and background check processes are handled through Protect My Ministry, a secure online service used by hundreds of churches and faith-based organizations. All potential Mission Church volunteers must complete Mission’s Serve Process and satisfy all Core Requirements prior to serving. Some ministry teams have additional requirements, referred to as Ministry Specific Prerequisites, that may include interviews, test drives, Ministry Safe sexual abuse awareness training, and reference checks. 


CORE REQUIREMENTS

Partnership: Partnership is required for every volunteer opportunity at Mission Church. Potential volunteers can become partners of Mission Church by completing the following steps: 1) attending the Partnership Class, 2) meeting with an elder and 3) signing the partnership agreement. During the Partnership Class, attendees hear from the Mission Church pastor and learn more about the church’s mission, vision and values; the Gather, Grow, Give & Go ministries; gospel centrality and discipleship; and governance and finances. After completing the class, attendees have the opportunity to schedule a meeting with an elder where they can share their testimony and sign the partnership agreement to complete the membership process. People who previously attended Growth Track and became partners are not required to attend the Partnership Class in order to complete the partnership process.

Serve Class: After becoming a partner, potential volunteers must attend a Serve Class in order to volunteer at Mission Church. During the class, attendees have the opportunity to learn why we serve the Body of Christ, how we serve as gospel-centered believers, and where to find opportunities for serving at Mission.

Background Check (BGC)/Volunteer Application: Potential adult volunteers must submit to a background check and complete a volunteer application.


MINISTRY SPECIFIC PREREQUISITES

Observation/Test Drive: Observations and Test Drives are a great opportunity for the volunteer prospect to see and feel what happens on the ground within a ministry team. At an observation, a volunteer prospect is provided a detailed on-site look at the overall ministry specific mission, vision and operations. At a test drive, a volunteer shadows a trained volunteer or staff person in a particular serve role and is taught policies and procedures for serving in that capacity.

Reference Checks: Ministry staff may send reference forms to at least 2 references.

Ministry Safe/Sexual Abuse Awareness Training: For some ministry areas or roles, the potential volunteer completes a 65-minute Ministry Safe/Sexual Abuse Awareness Training video or in-person training.

Interview/One-on-One with a Ministry Leader: An interview provides an important opportunity to learn more about the person. Prior to the interview a volunteer prospect may be asked to complete a ministry-specific application.


STUDENTS SERVING WITH MINORS

Students may serve in Mission Kids beginning in the 6th grade through an apprentice process with an approved Mission Kids leader. Mission Church may revoke the right for that student to serve at any time for any reason.

Students will undergo a student screening process similar to the adult process, which requires an application, training, parental permission, and reference checks. These additional guidelines apply to students:

  • Students must follow the instruction and leadership of adult leaders at all times.
  • There must be at least a five year age difference between the age of the student volunteer and the age of children they are serving.
  • Students must be 16 years old to serve with children 15 months through 2 years old.
  • Students must be 18 years or older to serve with children ages 14 months or younger.
  • Students should not bring unapproved friends to volunteer with them.
  • Students do not count as an adult when following the Two-Adult Rule. (The Two-Adult Rule states that a minimum of two trained, non-related, screened adults should supervise minors at all times.)

II. POLICY AGAINST CHILD ABUSE

Mission Church supports and maintains a zero-tolerance policy concerning child abuse and neglect. It is a violation of both state law and Mission policies for any volunteer or staff member to physically, sexually, or emotionally abuse or neglect any child or student. We will make every effort to ensure that all minors are safe from any kind of abuse while in our care. The following information is from the Tennessee Department of Children's Services.

Definition of Abuse: Child abuse happens when a person (whether an adult or a peer) exerts his or her power over a child in ways that harm and/or exploit the child. Generally, child abuse is categorized in five primary forms: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, psychological harm, and emotional abuse.

Types of Abuse:

  • Physical Abuse: Non-accidental trauma or physical injury of a child, or failure to protect a child from harm.
  • Neglect: Failure to provide for a child's physical survival needs to the extent that there is harm, or risk of harm, to the child's health or safety.
  • Sexual Abuse: When a child is involved in intentional sexual acts that produce sexual arousal and/or gratification for the perpetrator or sexual behaviors/situations in which there is a sexual component.
  • Psychological Harm: A repeated pattern of caregiver behavior or extreme incident(s) that convey to children they are worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, or endangered. May include both abusive acts against a child and failure to act.
  • Emotional Abuse: Mental or emotional injury to a child or student that results in an observable and material impairment in the child or youth's growth, development, or psychological functioning.

Possible Indicators of Abuse and Neglect:

  • The child has repeated injuries that are not properly treated or adequately explained.
  • The child begins acting in unusual ways, ranging from disruptive and aggressive to passive and withdrawn.
  • The child acts as a parent toward his or her brothers and sisters or even toward their own parents.
  • The child may have disturbed sleep (nightmares, bed wetting, fear of sleeping alone, and needing a nightlight).
  • The child loses his/her appetite, overeats, or may report being hungry.
  • There is a sudden drop in school grades or participation in activities.
  • The child may act in ways that are developmentally inappropriate, such as sexual behavior that is not normal for his/her age group.
  • The child may report abusive or neglectful acts.

Note: The above signs can indicate something is wrong but do not necessarily indicate abuse or neglect.

Reporting Procedures: Everyone in Tennessee is a mandated reporter under state law. Any person with reasonable cause to believe a child is being abused or neglected must, under the law, immediately report to the Tennessee Department of Children's Services (877-237-0004) or to local law enforcement. Reports of child abuse should be made promptly, thoroughly, and taken seriously. WHEN IN DOUBT, REPORT. (The reporter has the right to remain confidential and anonymous.)

No permission is needed from Mission Church before reporting to the Child Abuse Hotline, but we as a staff are available to walk through the reporting process with you. If you need to talk to a staff member, please reach out to:

  • FAMILY PASTOR - Drew McCalla : 901-552-6363; or
  • DISCIPLESHIP MINISTRY LEADER - Amber Ware : 901-413-7658.

Tennessee law mandates reporting by any person who has knowledge of physical or mental harm to a child if: (1) the nature of the harm reasonably indicates it was caused by brutality, abuse, or neglect; or (2) on the basis of available information, the harm reasonably appears to have been caused by brutality, abuse, or neglect.

Tennessee law also mandates reporting by any person who knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been sexually abused, regardless of whether it appears the child has sustained an injury as a result of the abuse. The Tennessee mandatory reporting laws define a child (minor) as a person under 18 years of age.

While not required for state law reporting purposes, please report all suspicions of child abuse or neglect, or any inappropriate behavior or “grooming behaviors,” to the Mission Ministry Team leader over the area in which you are serving. This request is intended to assist the church in protecting minors across all Mission Church ministries. Mission Church will immediately follow up on reports of abuse or suspected abuse. Appropriate action will be taken, including contacting authorities, if necessary, and assisting in filing a report with the Tennessee Department of Children's Services. Mission Church will not deny, minimize, or blame any individual involved in allegations. Mission staff will minister to all involved, and will cooperate with authorities.

Treat any incident of abuse and all information about it with strict confidentiality and privacy. Do not discuss any incident of abuse, and all information about it, with anyone else except law enforcement and appropriate church leadership. The situation should not be the subject of gossip or discussed with friends or others.

III. VOLUNTEER/MINOR PROTECTION

Mission Church desires to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of everyone involved in ministry with children and students, whether supervising or serving alongside. The following rules are set up to protect minors, volunteers, and the Mission Church. As a precaution and to ensure strict accountability from one adult to another, these rules must be followed:

Two-Adult Rule: The Two-Adult Rule states that a minimum of two trained, non-related screened adults should supervise minors at all times. If one supervising adult needs to leave a group of students, another volunteer or staff member must be notified so that the Two-Adult Rule can be upheld. The purpose of the two-adult rule is to ensure that the actions of any one leader are known to at least one other leader and to support leaders in ministry. If only one supervising adult is present temporarily, the student and adult should move to a visible and public location and communicate with the supervising ministry leader.

Bathroom: Students may go to the restroom without adult supervision. Be aware if a student repeatedly leaves to use the restroom and stays there for unusual periods of time. Report this behavior to a supervisor.

Sexually Oriented Conversations/Materials: Do not engage in any sexually oriented conversations with any student, or discuss inappropriate or explicit information about personal relationships, sexuality, dating or sexual activities with any student. Sexually oriented materials (magazines, cards, images, videos, films, clothing, etc.) are prohibited on church property or in the presence of students participating in any ministry program.

Confidentiality: Serving alongside students may allow you the opportunity to minister to them while serving together. Building trust with students is a huge thing, and pastoring them through difficult situations can come up. While confidentiality is important, never promise this to students because there may be times when you will need to share information with the ministry staff, parents, or even authorities. Students should always know that some things they tell you can’t be kept confidential such as:

  • abuse to student (sexually, verbally, physically)
  • student abusing others
  • student intention to harm self, or others
  • any illegal behavior or situation that’s illegal
  • sexual activity

Please make sure to communicate any of the above to the appropriate Mission Ministry Team Leader.

Appropriate Touch: Appropriate physical affection is part of a positive, nurturing environment in a healthy ministry. Physical contact in any form should be above reproach, for the benefit of the student, and never based upon the emotional needs of a staff member or volunteer. A student’s preference not to be touched must be respected. Do not force physical contact, touch, or affection on a reluctant student, except in cases of necessary restraint for the protection of the child or others. Physical contact and affection should be given only in observable places or when in the presence of others. It is much less likely that touch will be misinterpreted when physical contact is open to observation.

Guidelines for Positive Displays of Affection:

  • Adopt a posture of listening well.
  • Pat a hand, shoulder, or back when encouraging him/her.
  • Allow the minor to initiate side hugs or brief hugs.
  • Share fist bumps, hand shakes, high fives.
  • Place an arm around the shoulder.

Guidelines for Actions You Should Never Take:

  • Never touch in anger or disgust.
  • Never touch in a manner that may be construed as sexually suggestive.
  • Never touch a student between the navel and the knees.
  • Never touch private parts.
  • Never have a student sit in your lap, and never sit in a student’s lap.
  • Never carry a student piggy-back or on your shoulders.
  • Never kiss a student.
  • Never place hands beneath a student’s clothing to play, rub, or comfort.
  • Never engage in any type of massage.
  • Never engage in playful but inappropriate touch (tickling, wrestling, wedgies, pantsing, towel pops, ‘cup checks’ , etc.).
  • Never touch a youth who has requested (verbally/non-verbally) NOT to be touched.
  • Never be alone and unsupervised in a non-public location with a single child.

Discipline: Physical discipline in any manner should not be used for behavioral management of students participating in ministry programs. No form of physical discipline is acceptable, including spanking, slapping, pinching, hitting, biting, or any other physical force as retaliation or correction for inappropriate behaviors. Unacceptable verbal discipline includes yelling, put-downs/embarrassment, and the silent treatment. If a student is unruly or fails to comply with verbal warnings or instructions from staff/volunteers, that student will be asked to leave (if not endangered by doing so) or the student’s parent will be contacted to pick up the student. Uncontrollable or unusual behavior should be reported immediately to parents and the appropriate Mission Ministry Team Leader.

Verbal Interactions: Verbal interaction with students should be encouraging, constructive, and mindful of our mission of aiding parents in the spiritual growth and development of students. To this end, do not talk to students in a way that is or could be construed as harsh, threatening, intimidating, shaming, derogatory, demeaning, or humiliating. Do not swear in the presence of students. Interaction between students and adults should occur in a location where others can observe what is happening for safety and accountability purposes. At no time should a student and adult disappear behind a closed door or interact in an area which cannot be seen by others.

Social Media/Photos: Volunteers should not post pictures of children on social media. Mission staff are the only approved people to take photos in the classroom and post these on the Internet. This practice is for legal reasons, protecting the church and the children, because some parents do not wish for their children to be photographed. Unless you are a Mission Student Ministry Volunteer, you should not interact with students on any form of social media and/or networking sites outside of public Mission Church and Mission Staff pages.

Parents of Students: Parents have an open invitation to observe all programs and activities in which their child is involved. However, parents who desire to participate in or have continuous, ongoing contact with their child’s ministry programming will be required to complete the volunteer application and screening process for that team. Parents will be contacted if a child becomes ill, injured, or has a severe disciplinary problem while participating in ministry programs.

Nudity/Semi-Nudity: A volunteer should never be nude or semi-nude in the presence of students during ministry programming, nor should the volunteer be present should a student have to be nude or semi-nude. Examples of this are changing into a specific volunteer shirt, changing clothes for the going public tank, etc.

Tobacco Use: Please abstain from the use or possession of tobacco products, including vaping, in church facilities while in the presence of students and/or their parents and during Mission Church ministry activities or programs, whether on campus or away. Mission Church is a tobacco-free facility.

Intoxicants: Staff members and volunteers are prohibited from the use, possession, or being under the influence of alcohol or any illegal drug while in any church facility or while serving with or supervising minors during any Mission Church program or activity.

Medication: Do not administer medication of any kind to any minor while serving in ministry programs, including over-the-counter drugs.

Communication: Mission Church desires to promote a safe and healthy environment for texting, electronic/online/digital communication, and social media between its staff, volunteers, and students who serve in ministries. No electronic communication should occur with students unless via a public or group platform initiated and overseen by Mission staff and/or its designated Ministry Team Leaders. Except in an emergency, staff and volunteers may not transmit any personal information pertaining to a minor without the written permission of a student ministry participant and his/her parents or guardians. This applies to group texting, group email, or any other public method of electronic communication. Personal information may include such items as a minor’s name, phone number, email address, or photograph. No social media, phone, texting or other electronic communication should occur between a volunteer and a student of the opposite gender.

Transportation: Volunteers should never transport students. If a student reaches out asking you to help provide transportation, please direct him/her to the Ministry Team Leader for assistance.