At Safe Ministry Check, we like to envision your church as a united Safe Ministry Team. Every member plays a vital role in building a culture of safe ministry for the children and vulnerable individuals in your community.
Safe Ministry Contacts are key players on your Safe Ministry Team. If you haven’t appointed them yet, don’t worry. Keep reading to discover why they’re crucial, what their role entails, and the qualities to look for when selecting them.
Your Safe Ministry Contacts play two critical roles within your organisation:
- Championing safe ministry in your church
- Listening and responding to concerns
1. Championing Safety
While we encourage all church members to champion safe ministry, it is the primary responsibility of your Safe Ministry Contacts. But what does it mean to champion safe ministry?
To champion something means to actively support, promote, and advocate for it. For Safe Ministry Contacts, this translates to promoting safe ministry in every facet of your church’s activities.
Your Safe Ministry Contacts will promote safe ministry in their conversations. You might hear them say, “I’m grateful that all our children’s church leaders are screened and trained before working with our kids.” Their role may also involve discussing with ministry team leaders ways to maintain a safe culture in their ministries and reminding senior church leaders about the importance of safety.
In essence, your Safe Ministry Contacts are the champions of a culture of safety!
2. Listening and Responding to Concerns
Safe Ministry Contacts are designated to hear and respond to safe ministry concerns, both on an individual level (caring for the people involved) and on behalf of your church (addressing any legal or insurance responsibilities).
When a concern is reported to a Safe Ministry Contact, it’s their duty to listen to the person raising the concern and ensure that the correct procedures are followed to care for and protect the individuals involved and your church or organisation.
This is where your Incident Management Process (IMP) comes into play. If your church or organisation doesn’t have one, it’s essential to create one! The IMP equips Safe Ministry Contacts to respond to any incident or concern reported to them. As part of your Safe Ministry Check subscription, you have access to an Ansvar-approved template that can be customised to suit your organisation’s context and needs. You can find this template within your Administrator Portal under ‘View Example Policies’ or via this link.
The template outlines the purpose of an Incident Management Process, principles to follow, and an overview of the process, which is divided into three steps:
- Record details of the concern
- Work through steps related to the type of concern
- Record a summary and review regularly
Once a concern is raised with your organisation’s Safe Ministry Contacts, it’s their responsibility to identify the type of concern and follow the relevant action steps. This allows Safe Ministry Contacts to ensure that their response is suitable for the individuals involved and the nature of the concern, avoiding unnecessary steps.
Safe Ministry Contacts must be well-versed in your Incident Management Process and how to implement it in various scenarios. We recommend conducting scenario exercises as a team to allow Safe Ministry Contacts to practice and become familiar with the process.
Here are two scenarios that illustrate what implementing the Incident Management Process might look like:
A teenager attending your church’s youth group confides in one of the leaders, revealing that his uncle has been encouraging him to watch inappropriate content. The youth group leader, who has completed safe ministry training, knows to report this to their Safe Ministry Contact. They contact the Safe Ministry Contact and arrange a meeting.
Following the Incident Management Process, the Safe Ministry Contact records the concern (Step 1), thanks the youth group leader for reporting it, and checks on the leader’s well-being, as such disclosures can be distressing. The Safe Ministry Contact addresses any questions the leader may have and encourages them to seek counselling if needed.
The Safe Ministry Contact reminds the leader not to discuss the concern with anyone else to maintain confidentiality and privacy.
The Safe Ministry Contact then collaborates with other Safe Ministry Contacts to determine the appropriate steps based on the types of concerns. In this case, they identify that the concern falls under Type 1 and Type 5, as it involves a child, is not related to a church leader, participant, or program, and pertains to an incident outside the church.
Consequently, the Safe Ministry Contacts follow the action steps for these types of concerns. They report the incident to the relevant authorities, including the police, and notify the child’s parents or guardians. The decision-making process is documented, along with plans for further steps, assigning responsibility for each action.
A small group leader has been consistently belittling a group member who leaves the group visibly upset. Another group member contacts the Safe Ministry Contact to discuss the situation.
Following the Incident Response Process, the Safe Ministry Contact listens to the group member, records the concern (Step 1), and collaborates with other Safe Ministry Contacts to identify the type of concern and determine the appropriate steps. In this case, it is classified as concern type 2, involving a church leader (the volunteer acts as a church representative in this context).
The Safe Ministry Contacts initiate the process in Appendix 2 to investigate the concern further. Several outcomes are possible, such as temporarily removing the leader from responsibilities requiring substantial contact with the affected individual or reducing their responsibilities to ensure they are aware of appropriate leader behavior.
By following the Incident Management Process, Safe Ministry Contacts can identify the next steps and take action.
Appointing Safe Ministry Contacts
Given the sensitive nature of their role, it is important to take all possible steps to make sure they are mature and approachable people within your church. People should feel confident that their concerns will be treated with respect and integrity.
We recommend appointing at least two Safe Ministry Contacts to mitigate risk, enhance transparency, and provide an alternative contact if someone wishes to raise concerns about a Safe Ministry Contact.
We hope this information gives you the confidence to appoint Safe Ministry Contacts in your church and equip them for their vital role in maintaining a safe church environment. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.