Safe Church Policy

Safe Church Policy

A Plan to Protect Children, Youth and Adults




The purpose of this document is to ensure that Faith Mennonite Church (FMC) is a safe place for all people.  The intent of the policies and procedures outlined herein is to protect children and youth from harm and abuse, adults who work with them from false allegations and the church from unnecessary litigation.

Basis of this Policy

The church has spiritual, moral, legal and societal obligations to ensure a safe environment for children and youth participating in church programs.

Spiritual and moral obligations are reflected in various scriptures[1].

It is clear that God embraces children with love and places their nurture and care in our hands.  As a congregation, we accept this call, but recognizing the human capacity for evil, we also accept our responsibility to implement clear policies and procedures to minimize the risk of abusing those who are vulnerable.

There are also legal and societal obligations which demand that we protect children and youth.  As secular organizations are called to clarify and enforce procedures to ensure safe environments, so too must the church.  Indeed, the church can provide positive testimony to the community by adhering to standards that are equal to or exceed society’s requirements.

Beyond these obligations, the faith and practices of FMC are also shaped and guided by the following documents:

– Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective[2]

– Mennonite Church Canada Vision Statements, Vision: Healing and Hope[3]

– Congregational Guidelines for Leaders in Youth and Children’s Ministry, May 2000[4]

– A Mennonite Policy for Ministerial Leadership[5]

– Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, A Plan to Protect our Children, Youth & Leaders[6]


FMC hereby adopts a policy of zero tolerance of behaviours as defined below.  Further, all workers and volunteers should be aware that Ontario law requires, through the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA)[7] that abuse and neglect of children[8] must be reported to civil authorities.

  1. ABUSE: to use wrongly, to maltreat, to injure.  It is the misuse of power by a person in a position of trust.  Abuse may take various forms[9].
  2. Physical Abuse: deliberate physical force or action that results, or could result, in non-accidental injury to a child or youth.  It can include punching, slapping and beating, shaking, burning, biting or throwing a child.  It is different from what is considered reasonable discipline.
  3. Emotional Abuse: a pattern of behaviour that attacks a child’s emotional development and sense of self-worth.  It includes excessive, aggressive or unreasonable demands that place expectations on a child beyond his or her capacity.  Examples include constantly criticizing, teasing, belittling, insulting, rejecting, ignoring or isolating the child.

iii.  Child Sexual Abuse:  any sexual exploitation of a child, whether consensual or not, by an adult or older child.  Physical, psychological or emotional coercion is intrinsic to sexual abuse.  It is against the law to touch a child for a sexual purpose; to encourage or force a child to touch another person in a sexual way; to encourage or force a child to participate in any sexual activity; to tell a child to touch him or herself for an adult’s or older child’s sexual purposes.  Sexual abuse can take many forms.  For example:  sexual intercourse, exposing a child’s private parts, indecent phone calls, fondling for sexual purposes, watching a child undress for sexual pleasure, allowing a child to look at, or perform in, pornographic pictures or videos, or to engage in prostitution.

  1. Sexual Abuse & Assault: According to the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres, sexual abuse and assault happens to all people, regardless of age or sex. However, women are the primary victims of this type of abuse.  Sexual abuse and assault are seen to be acts of domination, violence and aggression perpetrated through forced physical intimacy against a person’s will and without their consent.[10]
  2. Spiritual Abuse: Occurs when a person uses his/her position of leadership to control, manipulate or dominate another person.  Using knowledge of scripture is a common way for an individual who is abusive to have power over others.  Using shame in order to manipulate someone to support an idea or belief, or to distract others from asking uncomfortable questions aimed at the controller, is spiritual abuse.  When words and actions demean, attack or weaken someone else, or when an individual uses power-posturing as a way to manipulate or control another person, is spiritual abuse.
  3. Elder Abuse: Is defined by the World Health Organization as “a single, or repeated, act or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person”.  Elder abuse can take various forms such as financial, physical, psychological and sexual. It can also be the result of intentional or unintentional neglect.[11]  Elder abuse occurs when there is an imbalance of control.  The abuser either limits or takes control over the rights and freedoms of the senior person.  The abuse/violence is used to intimidate, humiliate, coerce, frighten or simply to make the senior person feel powers.  Elder abuse or elder mistreatment is a multidimensional phenomenon that encompasses a broad range of behaviours, event and circumstances.  Unlike random acts of violence or exploitation, elder abuse does not always occur as an isolated incident.  It is often recurrent and ongoing.
  4. CHILD NEGLECT: the failure to meet a child’s basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, sleep, medical attention, education and protection from harm.  Young children should never be left unattended
  5. HARASSMENT: repeated subtle or overt action, particularly by a person in a position of authority, which causes the recipient to feel attacked, demeaned, intimidated or manipulated.
  6. IMPROPER TOUCHING: touching which creates feelings of violation, confusion and/or isolation.  It may include kissing a child, coaxing a child to give a kiss, extended hugging or tickling, or touching a child in any area that would be covered by a swim suit, carrying older children or having them sit on an adult’s lap
  7. IMPROPER DISCIPLINE: Inappropriate and harmful attempts to control a child.  Improper discipline includes yelling or screaming at children, threatening them or physically hurting them.  By contrast, proper discipline involves establishing clear boundaries of acceptable behaviour and maintaining such behavioural expectations with firm and kind expressions of authority.
  8. ASSAULT: occurs when a person applies force intentionally to another person, directly or indirectly; when a person attempts or threatens, by an act or a gesture (including spitting), to apply force to another person, if s/he has, or causes that other person to believe s/he has the present ability to effect his/her purpose; while openly wearing or carrying a weapon or imitation thereof, s/he accost or impedes another person.
  9. BULLYING: occurs when a stronger, more powerful person hurts, frightens or threatens a smaller or weaker person deliberately and repeatedly.  It is a series of repeated, intentionally cruel incident, involving the same children or youths or persons of lesser status, in the same bully and victim roles.  It can also consist of a single interaction.

Section 3 – SCREENING

Faith Mennonite Church will:

  1. Screen all children’s and youth ministry workers to a degree that is appropriate with their interaction with children.[12]
  2. Do background checks, by consulting a former pastor or supervisor, of new attendees who wish to work with children or youth.
  3. Record and file a summary of information received from the background checks.
  4. Require all person in high and medium risk positions to sign a Volunteer Registration Form and a Police Criminal Record Check.  Those who serve in high risk positions will be required to have a Police Vulnerable Sector Check every two years.

High Risk Positions:                                    Medium Risk Positions:

– pastors                                                         – Sunday School superintendents

– pastoral care givers                                   – Christian Education committee members

– youth sponsors                                          – music directors for children’s programming

– nursery helpers

– youth mentors

– teachers of children’s & youth Sunday School

Low Risk Positions:

– church administrative assistant/secretary

– custodian

– other positions within the congregation not included above

  1. Require all persons who participate at an event, at the last minute, to fill out Last Minute Volunteer Registration Form. The final decision to allow a volunteer to participate is left up to the discretion of the person in charge of the event.
  2. Keep Volunteer Registration Forms, reference check reports and police check reports on file.
  3. Not allow any person with a child abuse conviction to serve in any capacity where s/he could be involved with children or youth.


To minimize the risk of harm coming to children in the care of Faith Mennonite Church, programs and personnel will abide by the guidelines outlined below. Also see Appendix G for Guidelines for Healthy Relationships with Children and Yout

  1. A team approach is to be used in children’s and youth ministries. Normally, there are to be at least two adults present for all children, junior youth and youth activities.  The ratio for adult to child for off-site activities is 1-5, and for activities at the church, 1-7.
  2. Consent Forms wherein parents give written permission for their children or youth to participate in off-site FMC group activities will be gathered and kept on file.
  3. During children’s and youth activities at the church, only one entry door is to be unlocked.
  4. Sunday school superintendents or a member of the Christian Education Committee shall circulate throughout the halls during Sunday school.
  5. Corporal punishment is prohibited. Corporal punishment is defined as any kind of punishment that is inflicted on the physical body.
  6. Activities that could easily lead to allegations of abuse or harassment are to be avoided, such as unsupervised internet access, improperly supervised sleepovers, or vehicle transportation in which adults are alone with unrelated youths. (The mentoring program is exempt from this and also are the cases in which a parent has requested or approved such contact.)
  7. Out-of-program activities or off-premises contact between children and adult workers is normally discouraged. See f (above) for exceptions.
  8. There will be at least two volunteers in the nursery when FMC is providing childcare.

A sign-in/out sheet will be used in the nursery.

  1. Children will be released from the nursery only to a parent or a known, pre-arranged caregiver.
  2. when a person suspects abuse or harassment, s/he will follow procedures set out in Section 7 of this document.

Section 5 – PREMISES

Facilities at Faith Mennonite Church, which discourage abuse, include:

  1. windows in all doors to classroom, offices and the nursery
  2. appropriately designed washrooms
  3. adequate lighting inside and outside the church building.

Section 6 – TRAINING

FMC will:

  1. distribute copies of this policy to all households in the congregation
  2. distribute copies of this policy to new members and attendees
  3. introduce this policy at an initial workshop for all youth and adults of the congregation
  4. train key members such as the Christian Education committee so they have a thorough understanding of their responsibility to maintain this policy.
  5. have the Christian Education committee conduct staff meetings at the beginning of each new Sunday School year to review this policy and to educate workers about the signs and symptoms of abuse
  6. keep a copy of this policy in the church office and library for easy accessibility
  7. have other educational resource materials available in the church library.

Section 7 – RESPONDING

Suspicion of abuse must be taken seriously.  If suspicion arises from conversations with a child, be sure to avoid intrusive or leading questions, since questioning could interfere with an investigation and/or cause undue stress.  (example of “leading question”:  Did Mom or Dad hit you?  Did Mom or Dad leave you by yourself again?) Children are particularly susceptible to leading questions. Studies have shown that children are very attuned to taking cues from adults and tailoring their answers based on the way questions are worded. [13]

Ontario law requires that anyone who suspects, on reasonable grounds, that a child is in need of protection, must forthwith report the suspicion and information on which it is based, to the local child protection agency.

FMC further requires that, if such suspicion involves personnel or programs under the auspices of FMC, it shall also be reported to the senior pastor and/or safe church committee.

Upon receiving a report, the pastor and/or the safe church committee will:

  1. follow procedures as listed in detail in Mennonite Church Eastern Canada’s A Plan to Protect Our Children, Youth and Leaders
  2. adhere to guiding principles of safety, accountability, truth, justice and restorative healing
  3. ensure that an Abuse Incident Report form has been completed.
  4. ensure that statutory reporting obligations are met (In Ontario, “everyone, including members of the public and professionals who work closely with children, is required by law to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect. If you have reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is or may be in need of protection, you must report it to a children’s aid society (CAS)” [14]
  5. commit to assisting in the investigation
  6. assure confidentiality for the benefit of both the alleged victim and the alleged offender
  7. express FMC’s concern to the complainant
  8. coordinate care and support of all persons directly involved
  9. suspend the alleged offender from duties, pending outcome of the investigation
  10. refrain from admitting liability or making public statements to the media or from the pulpit without obtain formal legal counsel
  11. contact FMC’s insurer to satisfy the statutory conditions or our liability policy and to avoid jeopardizing any available coverage response.




[1] For example:  “…Whoever welcomes a child welcomes me…” Matt. 18:2-6; “…Let the children come to me and do not hinder them…” Mark 10:14; Luke 17:1-2; Micah 6:9; Ephesians 5:3; I Thess. 5:22p; II Cor. 8:9

[2] Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, Herald Press, 1995

[3] Vision:  Healing & Hope – God calls us to be followers of Jesus Christ and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to grow as communities of grace, joy and peace, so that God’s healing and hope flow through us to the world.

[4] Congregational Guidelines for leaders in Youth and Children’s Ministry, May 2000

[5] A Mennonite Policy for Ministerial Leadership

[6] A Plan to Protect Our Children, Youth & Leaders,  Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, Appendix K

[7] especially see Section 72(1)

[8] The terms “children” or “child” refer to any person under the age of eighteen



[11] – World Health Organization

[12] Screening is done by whichever group has authority to appoint and supervise a particular position.