Safe Sanctuary Policy

The General Conference of The United Methodist Church, on April 1, 2000 adopted a resolution aimed at eliminating any potential for sexual abuse in the church.

God call us to make our churches safe places, protecting children and other valuable persons from sexual and ritual abuse. God calls us to create communities of faith where children and adults grow safe and strong. (The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church--1996, The United Methodist Publishing House, 384-386).

Thus, in covenant with all United Methodist congregations, The Conway First United Methodist Church (hereafter referred to as Conway FUMC) adopts this policy for the prevention of abuse in our church.


Our purpose for establishing this Safe Sanctuary Policy is to demonstrate our total and unwavering commitment to the physical, emotional and spiritual safety of all the children, helpers, certified volunteers, clergy and staff at Conway FUMC.

Covenant Statement

The Conway FUMC hereby pledges to conduct the ministry of Jesus Christ in ways that seek to protect the physical and emotional safety and spiritual growth of all our children as well as all of our clergy, staff, certified volunteers and helpers by creating a safe sanctuary during all church sponsored events, on or off the church campus. We will follow reasonable safety measures when selecting and recruiting staff, certified volunteers and helpers; we will implement appropriate operational procedures in all areas of programming and care; we will train our clergy, staff, certified volunteers and helpers with children on our procedures and policies; and we will have a clearly defined procedure for reporting a suspected incident of abuse consistent with Arkansas law.


Conway FUMC affirms that all children have the right to a safe sanctuary. Therefore, Conway FUMC is determined to provide an environment in which these persons are safe from neglect or abuse while on church premises or participating in the church's sponsored activities. The scope of this policy and its provisions applies to all adults who work with children in events sponsored by Conway FUMC. In general, we will 1) require that a minimum number of clergy, staff and/or certified volunteers are present when events are taking place; 2) adopt and take all reasonable steps to enforce policies which are designed to protect the safety of children, staff, clergy, certified volunteers and helpers; 3) develop and provide a program of training for the certification of volunteers; and 4) encourage all adult helpers who volunteer to work with children to take the steps to become certified volunteers.

  1. Definitions

    1. Definitions of abuse

      1. Arkansas Cocde 9-30-103 States:

        1. Child or children means a person(s) under the age of eighteen (18) years.

        2. Child abuse is any non-accidental physical injury, mental injury, sexual abuse, or sexual exploitation inflicted by those legally responsible for the care and maintenance of the child or an injury, which is at variance with the history given. The term encompasses both acts and omissions.

      2. General Abuse is categorized in five primary forms:

        1. Physical Abuse is abuse in which a person deliberately and intentionally causes bodily harm to a child.

        2. Emotional Abuse is abuse in which a person exposes a child to spoken and/or unspoken violence or emotional cruelty.

        3. Neglect is abuse in which a person endangers a child's health, safety, or welfare through negligence.

        4. Sexual Abuse is abuse in which sexual contact between a child and an adult (or another older and more powerful child) occurs.

        5. Ritual Abuse is abuse in which physical, Sexual, or psychological violations of a child are inflicted regularly, intentionally, and in a stylized way by a person or persons responsible for the child's welfare. The abuser may appeal to some higher authority or power to justify the abuse.

    2. Other definitions

      1. Clergy in The United Methodist Church are individuals who serve either fulltime or part-time as commissioned ministers, deacons, elders, and local pastors under appointment of a bishop, who hold membership in an annual Conference, and who are Commissioned ordained, or licensed.

      2. Staff includes any employee of Conway FUMC, who is charged with the care or supervision of a child at an event.

      3. Participants are children who are registered, enrolled, attending or otherwise involved in an event.

      4. Certified Volunteers are those adults charged with the care or supervision of children who have completed all requirements for certification.

      5. Helpers are any volunteers who are charged with the care or supervision of children at an event who have not completed the requirements for Certification.

      6. Events include all activities which are planned for children and intended to involve children and which are funded, in whole or in part, by Conway FUMC and which are planned and implemented by persons representing Conway FUMC, whether the activities take place on or off the campus of Conway FUMC.

      7. Sanctuary is a place of refuge, safety, and rest.

  2. Safe Sanctuary Committee

    1. Committee Members

      The Conway FUMC Safe Sanctuary Committee (hereafter referred to as the Committee) will be comprised of 11 members, 6 of whom are to be elected by the Charge Conference and 5 of whom are to be staff members including the following: Director of Children's Ministries, Director of Youth Ministries, a Director of Music Ministries, a Director of Weekday Childcare, and the Business Manager. In addition to these 11 members, a clergy member will serve as an ex-officio member.

    2. Policy Review

      The Committee will be responsible for reviewing and updating the Safe Sanctuary Policy. Any revisions require the approval of the Church Council. The policy will be reviewed on an annual basis Or as needed.

    3. Application Process and Confidentiality of Records

      Program staff will be responsible for asking and assisting helpers with the application process and the completion of the Certified Volunteer Packet. The Business Manager will be responsible for processing all criminal background checks. After processing, all records will be kept in locked storage under the care of the Business Manager. The Business Manager will be responsible for the confidentiality and safe keeping of all records.

      Access to these records will be limited to the members of the Committee to determine the certification of a volunteer after initial processing. Under special circumstances, access to the records can be granted by the Committee to law enforcement officers, mental health professionals, and legal advisors.

      All files will be kept indefinitely from the date of their receipt.

  3. Approval, Disapproval, and Revocation of Certification

    1. Approval of Certification

      After Submission, review and approval of the Certified Volunteer Packet, the interview with and recommendation of a program staff member, and the completion of training, a volunteer will be classified as a certified volunteer to serve in Conway FUMC events.

      Certification shall be for a period of three (3) years at which time it may be renewed, based upon the requirements and guidelines established by the Committee.

    2. Disapproval of Certification and Appeals

      Under no circumstances will an individual who is reported to have a criminal history be approved as a certified volunteer. (See page 4 D. 4. C.)

      In the event it is determined that an individual may be a registered sex offender under the Sex and Child Offender Registration Act, a pastor shall be immediately notified in order to insure compliance with the Conway FUMC's Policy and Procedures Regarding Community Notifications Pursuant to the Sex and Child Offender Registration Act.

      When a report is received that an individual has a criminal history the following course of action will be taken:

      1. The Business Manager will report to a pastor that a criminal background check has reported that the individual has a criminal history.

      2. That pastor will notify the program staff member who recommended the applicant.

      3. After a discussion between the pastor, the program staff member, and the applicant, the applicant may choose to appeal the disapproval of certification. Following a review of the information provided by the applicant the pastor may decide either to approve or disapprove the appeal or to refer the appeal to the Committee for its review of the information.

      4. After careful review of a documents and information, the Committee shall confer and a decision to approve or disapprove the appeal shall be made by a vote of at least two-thirds of the members of the Committee.

      5. The pastor and program staff member will notify the applicant of the determination.

      6. Written documentation of the appeal process and decision will be added to the applicant's file kept by the Business Manager.

    3. Revocation of Certification

      If an allegation of child abuse is brought against a certified volunteer, the following procedures will take place:

      1. The certified volunteer will be suspended immediately and removed from the service as a certified volunteer or helper until an investigation is completed.

      2. A pastor and program staff member will investigate the complaint or complaints.

      3. The pastor and program staff member will review all information and make a determination whether to dismiss the allegation or refer the allegation to the Committee for review.

      4. If the allegation is referred to the Committee, one of the following will happen:

        1. If the Committee, in its discretion, determines that the allegation has sufficient merit, certification will be revoked. Persons who have a "revoked certification" status will not be allowed to assist as a volunteer helper during events at Conway FUMC.

        2. If the Committee, in its discretion, has determined that the allegation has no merit, the suspension will be revoked and the volunteer will be allowed to continue working with children as a certified volunteer.

  4. Certified Volunteer Requirements

  5. In order to be approved as a certified volunteer, an applicant must:

    1. Be 18 years of age or older.

    2. Interview with the staff person in cahrge of the event or program. All appicants must be interviewed to determine their suitability for the work they desire to do. The interview will be conducted by the program staff or the department in which the applicant will primarily work or by the other persons designated by the program staff. Church policy, guidelines and job descriptions should be discussed during the interview.

    3. Receive the recommendation of a staff or clergy member to serve as a certified volunteer based on the interview.

    4. Complete a Certified Volunteer Packet. By completing these forms, the applicant will give Conway FUMC permission to undertake the inquireies necessary to complete the review of the application. The Packet shall consist of the following:

      1. Certified Volunteer Application

        Refer to Appendix A

      2. Safe Sanctuary Covenant

        Refer to Appendix B

      3. Criminal Background Check

        Annual criminal backgorund checks shall be completed for all applicants who are to be considered as certified volunteers. The background check shall include any criminal history involving offenses classified as felonies or class A misdemeanors under Arkansas law. If an applicant has already completed a criminal backgorund check for a United Methodist church, district or conference, the Committee may accept that report; however, the Committee reserves the right to requrest a more recent or comprehensive background check. Refer to Appendix C.

      4. Arkansas Department of Human Services Child Maltreatment Registry Check

        This check will allow for applicants' names to be checked in the Child Maitreatment Registry. This registry will notify Conway FUMC in writing if there have been any reports of child abuse, neglect or abandonment for the applicant. Refer to Appendix D.

    5. Complete Certified Volunteer Training Conway FUMC will be responsible for providing all training as designated by the Committee. The mandatory training must be completed prior to certification as a certified volunteer. Refer to Appendix E for the Safe Sanctuary Training Agenda.

  6. Operating Procedures for Events

  7. All events will be governed by the following guidelines:

    1. Two Adult Rule

      At least two unrelated adults who are either clergy, staff or certified volunteers, must be present at any event. When necessary, a helper may be used to move in and out of separate rooms in which an event is being held and where only one other staff, clergy or certified volunteer is present.

    2. Four Year Rule

      A certified volunteer must be at least four years older than the participants with whom they work. (This does not apply to staff or clergy).

    3. Nursery Checkout Procedure

      All parents utilizing the church nursery will observe the check-inscheckout procedure as outlined in the nursery policy.

    4. Open Door Procedure

      The parents of the children served, the clergy, and staff of the church have the right to visit and observe events, classrooms, or church-sponsored programs at any time, unannounced.

    5. Windows in All Classrooms

      It is recommended that all rooms used for children have a window in the door or to the side of the door or a dutch door. All windows viewing into rooms used for children must remain unobstructed at all times. No room decorations or signs are permitted to cover door windows.

    6. lndividual Counseling

      One-on-one interactions are sometimes necessary and appropriate but care must be taken that they be conducted in an environment that provides visibility by other adults. During counseling of children, doors may be closed if there is an unobstructed window viewing into the room. If there is no window, the door must remain open for the entire counseling session.

    7. Classroom Discipline

      All clergy, staff certified volunteers, and helpers will work to protect the dignity of a child. If a child must be corrected, this will be done privately. If necessary, time outs and other measures can be used at the discretion of the clergy, staff, certified volunteer, or helper while being in discussion with the child's parents about the necessary means to discipline. No physical punishment or verbal abuse is to be used at any time.

    8. Gifts

      No certified volunteer or helper should give gifts to individual children without the prior knowledge of the parent(s) or responsible staff. Because gift giving can be a form of buying loyalty or silence, gift giving should be done on a group basis, or for special occasions only. Gifts may not be elaborate but should be modest and appropriate to the OCCasion.

    9. Bathroom Procedures

      Only certified volunteers or staff members are permitted to diaper and/or assist children in the bathroom.

    10. Outings Away From Church Property
      1. All children participating in off-campus, out-of-town and over-night outings must have Written Consent and a medical release form.

      2. There must be access to a phone, cell phone, or pager when groups are away from the church property.

      3. There must be two (2) certified volunteers, clergy, or staff members on any overnight outing away from church property. An no circumstance is one adult to take a child or children on an overnight outing alone.

      4. Female certified volunteers will supervise female children in their sleeping quarters and male certified volunteers will supervise male children in their sleeping quarters. Married couples shall not stay together but shall observe the female/female and malelmale sleeping arrangements.

      5. With the exception of parent/child combination, an adult and child are not to occupy the same bed or sleeping bag.

  8. Responses By Clergy, Staff, Certified Volunteers, and Helpers to Allegations of Abuse

  9. Reporting abuse is a fom of ministering to the needs of those crying out for help. If abuse occurs, it is our intention to act as an advocate for all affected persons, providing support, information, assistance and intervention. We seek to provide a supportive atmosphere, offering both objectivity and empathy as we seek to Create a climate in which healing can take place. lf abuse is suspected by, observed by or disclosed to a certified volunteer, helper, clergy or staff member of the church, that person shall do the following:

    1. Ensure the protection of and tend to the immediate needs of the child, as the situation requires.

    2. IMMEDIATELY notify the proper authorities (immediate supervisor or the adult in charge of the event.) This person will:

      1. Notify the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-482-5964. This is a requirement of the Law. (Note: Do not attempt an investigation. This should be left to professionals who are familiar with these cases.)

      2. Notify a pastor at Conway FUMC. If a pastor or staff is the accused party, the chair of the Staff Parish Relations Committee should be contacted, who will then notify the District Superintendent.

      3. Give written documentation to a pastor and/or Chair of the Staff Parish Relations Committee.

    3. Have the pastor or chair of SPRC notify parents of the victim and take whatever steps are necessary to assure the safety of the child until the parent(s) arrive. It is important to emphasize that the proper authorities must be notified even if the parent(s) does not wish the incident to be reported. (Note: if one or both of the parents is the alleged abuser, contact the proper authorities listed above. Follow their advice about notification of the parents.)

    4. After having reported the suspected abuse to the proper authorities, the incident is to be reported immediately to the church's insurance Company if the incident occurred during a Conway FUMC Event. Then the incident must be reported to the district superintendent. The district superintendent will report the allegation to the bishop's office. Do not try to handle an incident without professional assistance.

    Other important information Regarding Allegations of Abuse

    1. lf the accused is a clergy (deacon or elder) member of an annual conference, local pastor, or diaconal minister, provisions of Paragraph 361 and Paragraph 2702 of The 2008 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church must be followed. (See Appendix G)

    2. A list of emergency numbers will be available to the staff at all times.

    3. If the accused is working in a volunteer position with children in the church, immediately, yet with dignity and respect for the Sacred worth of the person, remove the accused from further involvement with children.

    4. Any contact with the media will be handled by a pre-determined spokesperson determined by the Committee. Care will be taken to safeguard the privacy and Confidentiality of all involved. The spokesperson should generally convey that the matter is under investigation and any comments made prior to the conclusion of the investigation would be premature.

    5. A written report of the basic information will be kept to ensure on-going ministry to, and advocacy for, victims and others involved. A form for this purpose shall be available in the church office. The report will be brief and contain only factual information relevant to the situation. It shall be filed in a secure place in order to ensure confidentiality. It will be written in ink or typed to prevent it from being changed. If the incident involves a clergy or staff member, the church must also file a copy of the report with the bishop's office of the Arkansas Conference where it shall remain Confidential.

Conway FUMC Safe Sanctuary Policy - Print Version