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Guidelines for activities with children and
young people
Adopted by Elders & Administration Team on 21/04/2020
This document is provided to assist local churches as they make decisions about
specific situations related to ministry with children and young people. In most
instances, there are many variables to be considered and it would be
inappropriate to formulate a single rule for application across our movement.
Please take the time to consider the underlying principles and consider the guidelines
in light of those principles. Your church may choose to have a defined policy
about some or all of the matters considered in these guidelines.
Principles
Risk management
It is not possible to eliminate all risk from activities. However, we have a
responsibility to be aware of possible risks and to take appropriate action in
response. This is what risk assessment involves. Identify possible risks and
consider how likely they are, how serious they are and how difficult they are to
avoid. For example, a risk of minor injury or inconvenience does not require as
much precautionary action as a risk of serious injury.
Never alone
As a general rule, Church staff and volunteers should never be alone in private (outside
of line of sight of another person) with any child or young person unless they are
family members. This protects the child or young person from risk of harm, and it
also protects the leader. This rule is applicable for Church programs and social
contact outside of Church programs. Exception may be made for family or domestic
arrangements which are distinct from any role at the Church, such as babysitting, if
this is authorised by the parent or guardian responsible.
Accountability
Procedures and systems help staff and volunteers to avoid difficult situations with
children and young people. This protects the children and young people and also
protects the leaders. When making decisions about activities involving children and
young people it is important to maintain accountability, this often takes place
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through visibility (for example clear panels in doors) and communication (for
example documented reporting procedures). Documenting any potential incident as
soon as possible provides both accountability and protection for those involved.
Awareness
Although your church will need to have procedures in place, it is important for everyone
involved in ministry with children or young people to maintain an awareness of
potential risks and issues.
Ministry with children and young people involves building relationships of trust, but staff
and volunteers should also be aware of the potential for healthy relationships to be
misunderstood as an inappropriate grooming relationship. Similarly, staff and
volunteers should remain alert to potentially dangerous grooming behaviour by any
other staff or volunteer.
Particular issues
Attendance, permission and roll keeping
The two main principles to be worked out are firstly, how you will get permission from
parents or carers for children/young people to take part in programs and secondly
how you will record who was present (including leaders) at an activity.
Permission could be gained by a registration process at the beginning of each year or
when a child/young person joins the program and updated as needed. Additional
permission can be requested for specific events. Alternatively, you could ask parents
to sign their children into the program each week.
Attendance could be recorded by parents/ carers signing children/young people into an
activity or program or where permission has already been given by the marking of a
role by program leaders. The leaders who were present at an activity also need to be
recorded. Some larger churches have the parents record that the child has arrived at
the church service and then when the kid’s program begins the children are gathered
in the foyer and a role marked before they walk together to their program space.
Both permission/ registration forms and attendance records for every activity/event need to
be held on file for at least 45 years.
It is also important to make clear to everyone (children, parents and leaders) the process
for children re-joining parents/ carers. (Eg all children are returned to the auditorium
at the end of the service, parents come and collect their children, parents need to
sign their children out.) This procedure may vary according to the ages of the
children.
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It is important to use a sign-in/ sign out process where there are legal orders around
custody of children.
Leader / participant ratios
When determining how many leaders are required for an activity, you should begin by
considering how many leaders are needed to build relationship and provide good
discipling of children/ young people.
Once you have considered those factors, you can then answer the questions around what
is an adequate number of leaders to provide supervision and protect young people
from harm. The exact number of leaders will depend on your setting. How old are
the children/young people? What size is the group? What activities are part of the
program? What is the layout of your space?
Enough leaders are needed to make sure a space is safe for both the leaders and the
children/young people. As a general guideline, you will need a minimum of two fully
screened and trained leaders on-site and participating in all programs. If you have
more than 16 participants, you should have additional leaders to provide a minimum
ratio of 1:8 (one leader for every eight participants). This is a starting point, you will
definitely need to adapt this ratio to your specific context. You will need more leaders
the younger the children are or if there are children with additional needs or if you are
doing a lot of activities outside. For older teens, you may need less leaders
depending on the activity/program.
There are other questions to ask as well, like how well do we know these children?’, How
familiar are the children with the space and the leaders?’ For example a weekly kids
club compared with a holiday kids club. For Sunday programs, where is the room for
the children’s program in relation to where the adults are listening to the sermon? If
one leader gets hurt and the other leader has to go for help, who will supervise the
children? You may find you need a lot more than one leader per eight children.
These leadership ratios do not prevent breaking up into smaller discussion groups with
one leader or assistant leader in each group, provided there are enough responsible
people (who have been screened and trained) in the room to look out for each other,
the leaders and the children/young people.
Junior leaders, those who are under 18 years old, can be a wonderful and key part of the
team! Junior leaders can take responsibility for many facets of the program -opening
the Bible with the kids, planning activities, and leading small groups. However,
typically leaders under 18 will be assistants and not count towards the ratio of
leaders to participants. You may decide that a particular 16 or 17-year old has
outstanding maturity and is able to take on full leadership responsibilities. In such
instances, the individual should be screened and trained (including Creating Safe
Spaces training) as though they were an adult volunteer (see the Procedure for Staff
and Volunteers). Even if they are fully screened and trained, leaders aged 16 or 17
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should not lead groups of their own peer group and there should always be at least
one adult (over 18 years) leader involved in any program or activity.
Driving
Licences and Drivers
Your church should consider a consistent policy with regard to people who are permitted
to provide transport in relation to church activities. You may wish to institute a ‘No P
Platers’ policy or you may wish to require specific parental consent for travel with
young and or P Plate drivers.
You should also be aware of the relevant restrictions on P Plate drivers, such as:
Between 11 pm and 5 am, P Plate drivers may not have more than
one passenger under 21
detailed restrictions on the cars they are legally allowed to drive
P Plate drivers may not use mobile phones while driving, even if the
phone is connected via Bluetooth or a hands-free device
Time alone in cars
No staff member or volunteer should be in a car alone with a child or young person (unless
they are family members). Exception may be made for family or domestic arrangements
which are distinct from any role at the Church, such as babysitting, if this is authorised by
the parent or guardian responsible.
If there are extraordinary circumstances where no one else is available, and the child or
young person may be at greater risk of harm if they were not transported in the car, then
the time spent alone in the car should be minimized as far as possible and some additional
measures may be taken, for example
the staff member or volunteer receives express permission from the
child’s parent or carer for the specific occasion;
a phone call is placed to another leader and maintained throughout
the journey (where legal to do so)
If it has been necessary for a staff member or volunteer to spend time alone on a care
with a child or young person then the situation and the circumstances giving rise to
the situation should be recorded and the Safe Church Team and/or Ministry Leader
should be notified.
Overnight activities
Where there are activities involving overnight accommodation, consideration should be
given to some of the additional risk factors involved, including
o transport arrangements
o sleeping arrangements
o bathroom configuration
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o safety and instruction on activities
o third parties involved
o physical safety of external locations
Decisions regarding these issues will depend on various contextual factors such as the
physical location and facilities of the campsite. It is important that a thorough risk
assessment, including consideration of the items listed, is conducted and recorded.
The list of activities, leaders and sleeping arrangements should also be recorded.
These records should be stored, along with permission and attendance records for the
event, for a minimum of 45 years.
Social contact
In person communication outside Church programs
Fruitful Christian ministry with children and young people involves healthy,
appropriate relationships. This can at times involve contacting them outside of
Church programs and can include meeting in person. While some
conversations are private it is important that relationships between staff and
volunteers and children and young people are transparent, and that parents,
families and program leaders are appropriately informed and have given
permission for this contact.
Staff and volunteers, when meeting with a child or young person, should:
have parental or guardian consent, where practicable;
meet with them in a public place (for example, a café) in line of sight of other
people;
not have children or young people alone in your home, or visit children or young
people alone in their home when no other adult is present; and
make a record of the time, location, duration and circumstances of any face to
face meetings with any child or young person.
Telephone and online communication outside Church programs
For many Church programs, telephone and online communication are a useful tool
for building community and pastoral care and support. However, telephone and
online communication may be used by those seeking to harm children, young
people and vulnerable people. Telephone and online communication may be
used to test or step over relational boundaries. We need to be mindful of the
positional power dynamic that exists between staff and volunteers and the
children and young people under their care.
Contact with all children and young people
where possible and practical, parents will be informed of any possible
telephone or online communication with children and young people;
staff and volunteer leaders must not call, send, or post any telephone or
online communication that:
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constitutes unlawful discrimination;
is harassing, threatening or derogatory;
is obscene, sexually explicit or pornographic;
that attempts to hide the identity of the sender or represent the sender
as someone else; or
is defamatory.
Contact with primary-aged children
Telephone contact: staff and volunteers should first contact parents and
then, if appropriate, speak with the child. If the child answers the phone the
staff member or volunteer should ask to speak to the parent first and explain
to the parent why they are calling. Staff and volunteers should never call a
primary-aged child on their mobile phone (unless there is a serious
emergency relating to the safety and wellbeing of the child).
SMS (or other messaging service) contact: must be limited to conveying
information about Church programs.
Online contact: must be limited to conveying information about Church
programs. Staff and volunteers should never communicate directly (privately
or one-or-one) with primary-aged children on a social networking site.
Email contact: must be limited to conveying information about Church
programs. More significant conversations should be held in person.
In-person contact outside of programs: It is never appropriate to meet
primary-aged children socially without written or verbal permission from their
parents or carer. It is also important to ensure that a leader is never alone
with a child (see the principles above).
Contact with children in Years 7 and 8
Phone contact: staff and volunteers should first contact the parents or carer
of the child and then, if appropriate, speak with the child. If the child
answers the phone the staff member or volunteer should ask to speak to
the parent first and explain to the parent why they are calling. Staff and
volunteers should never call a child in Year 7 to 8 on their mobile phone
(unless there is a serious emergency relating to the safety and wellbeing of
the child).
Email contact: should be limited to conveying information about Church
programs and basic encouragement. More significant conversations should
be held in person.
In person contact outside of programs: It is never appropriate to meet
children in Years 7 & 8 socially without written or verbal permission from the
parents and discussing it with your ministry supervisor first.
Private video calls (skype/facetime) are not appropriate for children in years
7 & 8.
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SMS (or other messaging service) contact: must be limited to conveying
information about Church programs.
Online contact: Caution must be used when participating with children on
social networking sites. You must maintain transparency and be
accountable for what you say. You must also take care with the message
you intend to communicate through both the words and images you use as
it may be perceived differently by those who view it. Staff and volunteers
should consider limiting social media contact with children in years 7 & 8,
however, if social media contact is made with children in years 7 & 8 the
following guidelines are recommended:
Limit contact to group discussions that can be read by others.
Consider gender dynamics. For example, you should never have a
group discussion where the group of students are all of the opposite
gender (for example a male leader should not have an online chat
with four of the year 8 girls).
The history of the chat should be kept. Staff and volunteers should
not communicate using social media which cannot be retained.
Consider privacy settings which prevent personal contacts from
seeing or interacting with child contacts connected to your ministry.
Ensure any text is beyond reproach and cannot be misconstrued.
Ensure all photos are beyond reproach and cannot be
misconstrued.
Private contact or conversations with children in years 7 & 8 should
be limited to conveying information about Church programs and
basic encouragement.
Contact with young people in years 9-12
Phone contact: Phone contact is permissible.
SMS (or other messaging service) contact: is permissible and can include
conveying information about Church programs and encouragement (e.g.
praying for you this week). Messages should be retained for accountability.
Email: can include logistics and private conversations. If possible, more
significant conversations should be held in person. Messages should be
retained for accountability.
In person contact outside of programs: Leaders may meet with same
gender students or in mixed groups in public places (eg/ café). Parents and
the relevant ministry leader should be informed of this meeting occurring
ahead of time.
Private video calls (skype/facetime) are not appropriate, however, group
video calls may be appropriate in some circumstances (eg small group bible
study context).
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Online contact: Caution must be used when participating with young people
on social networking sites. You must maintain transparency and be
accountable for what you say. You must also take care with the message
you intend to communicate through both the words and images you use as
it may be perceived differently by those who view it.:
If social media contact is made with young people in years 9 12 the following
guidelines are recommended:
Ideally, communicate through group discussions that can be read by
multiple other people.
Consider gender dynamics. For example, you should never have a
group discussion where the group of students are all of the opposite
gender (for example a male leader should not have an online chat
with four of the year 8 girls).
The history of any chat should be kept. Staff and volunteers should
not communicate using social media which cannot be retained.
Consider privacy settings which prevent personal contacts from
seeing or interacting with child contacts connected to your ministry.
Ensure any text is beyond reproach and cannot be misconstrued.