A safe church is one where all volunteers have been trained and checked. Safe Ministry Check recommends that all volunteers be cleared before being allowed to work with vulnerable people and children. In some instances, it’s against the law the allow a person to work with vulnerable people without having done the proper checks.
This means there will be times where we have to remove volunteers from their roles until they’ve done the proper training & screening. These kinds of conversations are never comfortable, as communication can be tricky, and the relational and emotional toll can sometimes be high.
These conversations will usually need to occur when one of two things happens. Either someone’s training or working with children check information will expire or the Safe Ministry Check system has recently been implemented in your church and volunteers have not yet been trained or checked.
So what are some ways to make sure we take the right actions in the most loving way to make sure that our churches are safe places for all?
When thinking about how to best address this situation, we need to make sure that our convictions are right.
Seeking proper care for others is the primary motivator and conviction we hold as we have these conversations. This applies both to vulnerable people in our church and those we are speaking to. As we seek to best care for vulnerable people by making sure only appropriate people are established as volunteers, we also best seek to care for those we are having the conversation with so make sure that as we do what is right, we do it in a kind and loving way.
It’s important that we have these conversations as soon as possible. But how will you know when you need to have these conversations? In some ways, these conversations are avoidable if we keep make sure we’re always up to date with the our dashboard (here’s how to keep everything sorted in an hour a week). If we’re constantly checking to see when training or Working With Children Checks will expire, this will mean that we can get a move on things before slightly more serious conversation needs to take place.
If someone does happen to have their training or screening expire, or they haven’t completed it in the first place, it’s incredibly important to move fast. By doing so, you are putting people in your church at risk, and our key conviction is to make sure that all people are cared for. The longer you wait to have the conversation, the longer your put your church at risk, as well as making it harder to convince the person that removing them from their role is the right thing to do. The longer they execute their role without training and screening, the more normal the mindset of thinking they don’t need training or screening becomes.
It’s crucial that as you’re having conversations with people about removing people from their roles that you communicate things clearly. It might be helpful to think about your conversation in three stages; Why, What, When. Why are we having this conversation? What will the result be? When can you start in your role again?
So why are you having this conversation? Well, it’s because as an organisation, you’re committed to establishing a safe culture. You want to make sure that all vulnerable people are cared for, and one of the ways you do that is by training and screening volunteers to make sure they’re appropriate people to work with possibly vulnerable people. This is something your church takes seriously, and so because this volunteer hasn’t completed their training and screening, they’re no longer able to be involved in this role.
What will the result be? The person you’re speaking to will no longer be able participate in their current role and activity. You’ll need to remind them that this is not an evaluation of their worth, but a precaution taken to ensure the safety of the members of your church. You’re not making any accusations, it’s just a measure you’re putting in place until they have completed their screening and training. Which brings us to the next question.
When can they start in their role again? Once they have completed their training and screening to ensure they are an appropriate person, they should be able to start acting in their particular role unless there are any issues with their screening results. Once they’re cleared on the system, they’ll be able to keep going.
The way you speak will have a profound impact on the person you’re speaking with, so take the time to slow down, be kind and gentle, and communicate from a place of love. As alluded to above, these kinds of conversations may lead people to think they’re not valued, or that they’ve done something wrong. It’s important to remind people that this is about caring for the vulnerable, as well as making sure your church obeys the law. In the way you communicate, you need to let people know that this isn’t a judgement of their value to you or your church, but just one of the things you need to do to ensure a safe culture.
These conversations won’t always be easy, but hopefully these tips will allow you to communicate effectively to take care of your church and the people involved.