Safe Sanctuaries Policy

     “This policy statement is superseded by The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church and is meant to support the disciplinary process where appropriate.”


 Table of Contents:



     The intent of this Safe Sanctuaries policy of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference is to prevent child abuse in local churches and within the Peninsula-Delaware Conference and to protect local churches, their staff and clergy from allegations of improper conduct. Further, the policy is intended to provide requirements for laity, clergy, and lay employees of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference and the local church in the adoption of Safe Sanctuaries policies and the implementation of operating procedures for each church and for Peninsula-Delaware Conference events. These policies and operating procedures must respond to the expectation that “children must be protected from economic, physical, emotional, and sexual exploitation and abuse” (The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2004, The Social Principles ¶162C, page 106, see Appendix I) and the requirements of local churches and Peninsula-Delaware Conferences adopted by the United Methodist Church in 2004 (The United Methodist Book of Resolutions 2004, 65. Reducing the Risk of Child Sexual Abuse in the Church, ADOPTED 1996, READOPTED 2004, see Appendix II.)

     In addition, this Safe Sanctuaries policy reinforces the commitment of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference and its laity, clergy and staff to the demonstration of the love and care of Jesus Christ affirmed in the Baptismal covenant, so that each child and youth will be ”nurture(d)… in Christ’s holy church…” (The United Methodist Hymnal, Baptismal covenant II, page39-43, see Appendix III.)

 Safe Sanctuaries Training Presentation


      "Whoever welcomes [a] child . . . welcomes me. If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones . . . it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea" (Matthew 18:5-6, NRSV.)
     “The Lord answer you in the day of trouble! The name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary, and give you support from Zion.”
(Psalms 20:1-2, NRSV)
     “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
(Micah 6:8, NRSV)


Policy Statement


     The Peninsula-Delaware Conference is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for all children, youth, adults, vulnerable adults and those with handicapping conditions, who participate in ministries and activities sponsored by local churches and within the Peninsula-Delaware Conference. Therefore, the Peninsula-Delaware Conference and each local church or charge shall adopt a Safe Sanctuaries Policy and Operating Guidelines and forms that are substantively based upon and conform to the materials presented in the document, “Safe Sanctuaries for Youth” written by Joy Thornburg Melton and published by Discipleship Resources (ISBN 0-88177-543-6.) These policies and operating guidelines will require that all adult clergy, staff and volunteers working with children and youth be trained in understanding and conformity to those policies and guidelines.




1.   The local church will adopt and implement a Safe Sanctuaries policy. This policy may be combined with the local church Sexual Ethics policy.
2.   The local church will adopt and implement a SAFE Team responsible for implementing the Safe Sanctuaries policy. This team should include the pastor and representation from Staff Parish Relations Committee, Trustees, and a person responsible for educational ministries.
3.   The local church Safe Sanctuaries policy will be reviewed annually by the SAFE Team. Modifications shall be made, as necessary, to the Church Council or Administrative Board.
4.   Annual training in Safe Sanctuaries Policy and Operations and first aid* and CPR* will be sponsored by the Staff Parish Relations Committee for every adult volunteer or employee interacting with children. Trainings are recommended to be held twice a year. (*First aid and CPR may be coordinated with other community groups such as Fire companies or the Red Cross or local health department.)
5.   Annual review of all church facilities accommodating children and youth activities will be made by the Trustees, including but not limited to Sunday school rooms & doors, age and activity appropriate equipment; first aid kits & fire extinguishers, and 9-1-1 postings by all telephones.
6.   The SAFE Team and will oversee Safe Sanctuaries Operations ensuring procedures are adhered to:
     A.    The six month membership rule advises newcomers that they must get to know us and we must get to know them before we offer them responsibility for our children. Safe Sanctuaries Operating Guidelines should be included in all new member orientations.
     B.    Each volunteer or employee must complete the following forms* and meet with the SAFE Team, or their designee, prior to assignment to a child or youth program: written application, personal reference forms, combined drivers license & criminal background check, participation covenant. (*Sample forms are found in Safe Sanctuaries for Youth.) These confidential records must be kept in a locked file in the church office.
     C.    Individuals who have been convicted of any crime against a child or teenager will not be accepted as a worker with children and youth.

1.   Appropriate Interpersonal Boundaries are to be maintained between adults and children so youth may experience relationships that are healthy physically and spiritually. Adults must role model respectful and nurturing behaviors that do not interfere with another person’s privacy. Examples include appropriate: dress, language, and demonstrations of affection. “If it is not yours, don’t touch it.”
2.   The Two- Adult Rule means no fewer than two adults [unrelated by blood or marriage] will be present at all times during any church sponsored program or event.
3.   The Five-Years-Older Rule requires adult volunteers to be at least 5 years older than the youth they lead.
4.   No Worker Under the Age of 18 may serve in an adult capacity. Younger youth willing to assist a teacher may serve as an extra set of hands, but may not replace the second adult and they must be at least 5 years older than the children.
5.   Windows in All Classroom Doors removes the opportunity for secrecy and isolation. Each room set aside for use by children and/or youth should have a door with a window or half-door.
6.   Open-Door Counseling is required for youth and other people must be present. Any counseling need of any youth or the youth’s family should be reported to the Pastor.
7.   Limited Counseling Sessions requires referral to a counselor with expertise in the need of the youth beyond two to three sessions.
8.   Advance notice to parents with full information about the event youth will be participating in is required. Before the event, parents must give written permission for their child to participate and must be notified if a worker will be alone with a child, such as on the last leg of a transportation route.
9.   Participation Covenant for All Participants and Leaders should be adopted for establishing behavior standards.
10.  Parent and Family Education about the local church’s Safe Sanctuaries plan to prevent abuse within ministry is required.
11.  Appropriate Equipment and Supervision includes transportation considerations such as ensuring that personal vehicles are properly functioning and properly insured; sleeping arrangements if an overnight stay is involved; and Youth Group Websites. Any activity that will take place away from the church must be brought to the SAFE Team for detailed planning before is it presented to the children or youth. 
12.  Bathroom procedures for children and youth include: children under five should be escorted to the bathroom. A buddy system for children should be practiced.
13.  Reporting Procedures for Allegations of Abuse. The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church (2004 ¶341.5) requires that Pastors report suspected abuse wherever it occurred and whether it is physical, sexual, psychological, ritual or neglect. Information about local child abuse/child advocacy services should be included in the church policy. Any suspected abuse identified in the church must be reported to the pastor or to members of the SAFE Team if it is alleged to involve the pastor.
14. If abuse is alleged to have occurred at a Peninsula-Delaware Conference or church event or on church property, the following steps should be taken by the pastor and/or SAFE Team:
     A. Notify parents of victims and assure the victim’s safety.
     B. Treat the alleged abuser with dignity, not anger and remove him/her from further involvement with youth.
     C. Report the alleged abuse to the local child abuse service or local police.
     D. Notify the District Superintendent, the church’s attorney, and the church’s insurance agent.
     E. Do not speak with the media. Refer the media to the Peninsula-Delaware Conference.
     F. Keep a written record of the steps taken by the church in response to allegations of abuse.
     G. The Pastor or District Superintendent will handle notification of the congregation as appropriate.
     H. Be prepared to cooperate fully with the investigation.
15.  Additional forms to be used in implementing Safe Sanctuaries which can be found in Safe Sanctuaries for Youth (Pages 75-94) are: Note to Outside Groups Using our Facility, Report of Suspected Incident of Youth Abuse, Accident Report Form.

     Each church shall be responsible for completing a Safe Sanctuaries Assessment and Statement of Compliance, developed by the Conference CARE Team, in consulatation with the Cabinet. The completed Safe Sanctuaries Assessment and Statement of Compliance shall be included in the Annual Charge Conference Report. Areas of non-compliance shall be noted with a time-frame by which compliance will be achieved.



¶ 162. III. THE SOCIAL COMMUNITY, C) Rights of Children
     The rights and privileges a society bestows upon or withholds from those who comprise it indicate the relative esteem in which that society holds particular persons and groups of persons. We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. We therefore work toward societies in which each person's value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened. We support the basic rights of all persons to equal access to housing, education,communication, employment, medical care, legal redress for grievances, and physical protection. We deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, or economic status…
C) Rights of Children—Once considered the property of their parents, children are now acknowledged to be full human beings in their own right, but beings to whom adults and society in general have special obligations. Thus, we support the development of school systems and innovative methods of education designed to assist every child toward complete fulfillment as an individual person of worth. All children have the right to quality education, including full sex education appropriate to their stage of development that utilizes the best educational techniques and insights. Christian parents and guardians and the Church have the responsibility to ensure that children receive sex education consistent with Christian morality, including faithfulness in marriage and abstinence in singleness. Moreover, children have the rights to food, shelter, clothing, health care, and emotional well-being as do adults, and these rights we affirm as theirs regardless of actions or inactions of their parents or guardians. In particular, children must be protected from economic, physical, emotional, and sexual exploitation and abuse.

Appendix II: The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church 2004, 65. Reducing the Risk of Child Sexual Abuse in the Church
     Jesus said, "Whoever welcomes [a] child . . . welcomes me" (Matthew 18:5). Children are our present and our future, our hope, our teachers, our inspiration. They are full participants in the life of the church and in the realm of God.
     Jesus also said, "If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones . . . it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea" (Matthew 18:6). Our Christian faith calls us to offer both hospitality and protection to the little ones, the children. The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church state that "children must be protected from economic, physical, emotional and sexual exploitation and abuse" (¶ 162C).
     Tragically, churches have not always been safe places for children. Child sexual abuse, exploitation, and ritual abuse1 occur in churches, both large and small, urban and rural. The problem cuts across all economic, cultural, and racial lines. It is real, and it appears to be increasing. Most Peninsula-Delaware Conferences can cite specific incidents of child sexual abuse and exploitation within churches. Virtually every congregation has among its members adult survivors of early sexual trauma.
     Such incidents are devastating to all who are involved: the child, the family, the local church, and its leaders. Increasingly, churches are torn apart by the legal, emotional, and monetary consequences of litigation following allegations of abuse.
     1. "Ritual abuse" refers to abusive acts committed as part of ceremonies or rites; ritual abusers are often related to cults, or pretend to be.
     2. God calls us to make our churches safe places, protecting children and other vulnerable persons from sexual and ritual abuse. God calls us to create communities of faith where children and adults grow safe and strong. In response to this church wide challenge, the following steps should be taken to reduce the risk of child sexual abuse:
     A. Local churches should:
     1. develop and implement an ongoing education plan for the congregation and its leaders on the reality of child abuse, risk factors leading to child abuse, and strategies for prevention;
     2. adopt screening procedures (use of application forms, interviews, reference checks, background clearance, and so forth) for workers (paid and unpaid) directly or indirectly involved in the care of children and youth;
     3. develop and implement safety procedures for church activities such as having two or more nonrelated adults present in classroom or activity; leaving doors open and installing half-doors or windows in doors or halls; providing hall monitors; instituting sign-in and sign-out procedures for children ages ten or younger; and so forth;
     4. advise children and young persons of an agency or a person outside as well as within the local church whom they can contact for advice and help if they have suffered abuse;
     5. carry liability insurance that includes sexual abuse coverage;
     6. assist the development of awareness and self-protection skills for children and youth through special curriculum and activities; and
     7. be familiar with Peninsula-Delaware Conference and other church policies regarding clergy sexual misconduct.
     B. Peninsula-Delaware Conferences should:
     1. develop safety and risk-reducing policies and procedures for conference-sponsored events such as camps, retreats, youth gatherings, childcare at conference events, mission trips, and so forth; and
     2. develop guidelines and training processes for use by church leaders who carry responsibility for prevention of child abuse in local churches. Both sets of policies shall be developed by a task force appointed by the cabinet in cooperation with appropriate conference agencies. These policies shall be approved by the Peninsula-Delaware Conference and assigned to a conference agency for implementation. It is suggested that the policies be circulated in conference publications and shared with lay professionals and clergy at district or conference seminars.
     C. The General Board of Discipleship and the General Board of Global Ministries should:
     1. cooperatively develop and/or identify and promote the following resources;
     2. sample policies, procedures, forms, and so forth for reducing the risk of sexual abuse and exploitation of children and youth in local churches, both in relation to their own sponsored programs and to any outreach ministries or other programs for children or youth that use church space;
     3. child abuse prevention curriculum for use in local churches;
     4. training opportunities and other educational resources on child sexual abuse and exploitation and on ritual abuse; and
     5. resources on healing for those who have experienced childhood sexual trauma.
See Social Principles, ¶ 162C.
Appendix III: The United Methodist Hymnal, Baptismal Covenant II, pages 39-43.
This service is … designed for use when the only persons being baptized are (1) children who cannot take their own vows or (2) youths or adults who have not reached the developmental stage of making decisions for themselves. It is not designed for the baptism of persons who take their own vows, or for confirmation or reaffirmation of faith.
     INTRODUCTION TO THE SERVICE Brothers and sisters in Christ: Through the Sacrament of Baptism we are initiated into Christ's holy Church. We are incorporated into God's mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit. All this is God's gift, offered to us without price.
     PRESENTATION OF CANDIDATES A representative of the congregation presents the candidates: I present Name(s) for baptism. 
     RENUNCIATION OF SIN AND PROFESSION OF FAITH On behalf of the whole Church, I ask you: Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin? I do.
     Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves? I do.
     Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races? I do.
     Will you nurture these children (persons) in Christ's holy Church, that by your teaching and example they may be guided to accept God's grace for themselves, to profess their faith openly, and to lead a Christian life? I will.
     Do you, as Christ's body, the Church, reaffirm both your rejection of sin and your commitment to Christ? We do.
     Will you nurture one another in the Christian faith and life and include these persons now before you in your care? With God's help we will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ. We will surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness, that they may grow in their service to others. We will pray for them, that they may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life.
     Let us join together in professing the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Do you believe in God the Father? I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
     Do you believe in Jesus Christ? I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, [who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.]
     Do you believe in the Holy Spirit? I believe in the Holy Spirit,[the holy catholic* church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.]
     THANKSGIVING OVER THE WATER The Lord be with you. And also with you. Let us pray.
     Eternal Father: When nothing existed but chaos, you swept across the dark waters and brought forth light. In the days of Noah you saved those on the ark through water. After the flood you set in the clouds a rainbow. When you saw your people as slaves in Egypt, you led them to freedom through the sea. Their children you brought through the Jordan to the land which you promised. **Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Tell of God's mercy each day.
     In the fullness of time you sent Jesus, nurtured in the water of a womb. He was baptized by John and anointed by your Spirit. He called his disciples  to share in the baptism of his death and resurrection and to make disciples of all nations. **Declare his works to the nations, his glory among all the people.
     Pour out your Holy Spirit, to bless this gift of water and those who receive it, to wash away their sin and clothe them in righteousness throughout their lives , that, dying and being raised with Christ, they may share in his final victory. **All praise to you, Eternal Father, through your Son Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns for ever.  Amen.
     BAPTISM WITH LAYING ON OF HANDS Christian Name(s), I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. .Amen.
     The Holy Spirit work within you, that being born through water and the Spirit, you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. Amen.
     Now it is our joy to welcome our new sisters and brothers in Christ. Through baptism you are incorporated by the Holy Spirit into God's new creation and made to share in Christ's royal priesthood. We are all one in Christ Jesus. With joy and thanksgiving we welcome you as members of the family of Christ.
     COMMENDATION AND WELCOME The pastor addresses the congregation: Members of the household of God, I commend these persons to your love and care. Do all in your power to increase their faith, confirm their hope, and perfect them in love.
     We give thanks for all that God has already given you and we welcome you in Christian love. As members together with you in the body of Christ and in this congregation of The United Methodist Church, we renew our covenant faithfully to participate in the ministries of the Church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our service, that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.
     The pastor addresses those baptized and their parents and sponsors: The God of all grace, who has called us to eternal glory in Christ, establish you and strengthen you by the power of the Holy Spirit, that you may live in grace and peace.