Appointing two or more Safe Ministry Contacts at your church is one of the important pieces of the Safe Ministry Check puzzle. A Safe Ministry Contact is someone who is ready to hear people’s concerns and responds appropriately – both personally and on behalf of the organisation.
It’s helpful if your Safe Ministry Contacts are available by phone, email or SMS to hear people’s concerns – when they arise. They should be approachable people that anyone in your church would be comfortable talking to.
Remember, if someone at your church has a real concern about someone’s well being, and especially if that concern is about the behaviour of a leader or volunteer… that person is going to feel any variation of fear, shame, concern and embarrassment. So we need to make it super easy and accessible for them to report their concern.
When a Safe Ministry Contact receives a concern or report about an issue, they are the ones who make sure the right process is taken to safeguard both your people and your church. That’s where the Ansvar approved Incident Response Process comes in.
Using the Incident Response Process your Safe Ministry Contacts will be equipped to respond to any incident or concern reported to them. Here’s some examples to show how a Safe Ministry Contact might use the Process when they receive an concern…
A youth Group Leader reports to a Safe Ministry Contact that one of the teenagers revealed that his Uncle, (who is not a member of the church) has been encouraging the teenager to watch pornographic videos with him.
After making a record of the concern, the Safe Ministry Contact would confer with the other Safe Ministry Contacts and, since the report concerns a child, the Safe Ministry Contacts would follow their State/Territory Mandatory Reporter Guideline. In this case it would recommend making a report to the appropriate authority, so the Safe Ministry Contact would help the Youth Group Leader follow that guidance. Also, it would be determined by the Safe Ministry Contacts that this is a concern external to the Church (because there was no incident that occurred as part of a church event or by a church leader/volunteer). Further, the Safe Ministry Contacts may determine to alert the Church pastoral team to this issue, such that the teenager can be appropriately cared for spiritually.
A small group leader has been constantly belittling a member of the group who regularly leaves the group visibly upset. One of the other group members contacts the Safe Ministry Contact.
The Safe Ministry Contact would listen to the group member and make a record of the concern. They would then meet with the other Safe Ministry Contacts and decide whether this is a concern worth pursuing. working through the Incident Response Process, it would seem this is an Internal Safe Ministry concern where the alleged inappropriate behaviour was performed by a volunteer who was acting as a church representative in that context. The Safe Ministry Contacts would follow the recommended process of appointing an external (un-biased) person to investigate the issue and submit a formal report to the church senior leadership. Based on the report the church leadership would decide what actions they will implement and any other relevant external agencies (such as insurance provider, State/Territory Ombudsman etc…) will be informed.
In each circumstance, the Safe Ministry Contact plays the role of
- Listening and recording the concern raised
- Conferring with the other Safe Ministry Contacts on the appropriate process to follow
- Instigating that process themselves, with others or through the church
By a Safe Ministry Contact taking responsibility for these roles, it means our focus can be on training volunteers and leaders to care for vulnerable people, knowing they have a support network behind them who can help them if and when they need it.