At Safe Ministry Check, we like to think of your church as being a Safe Ministry Team. Everyone is on the team and is working together in different roles and with different responsibilities to assist in building a culture of safe ministry for the children and vulnerable people in your community.
Safe Ministry Contacts are people who play a key role in your Safe Ministry Team. If you haven’t appointed any yet, that’s okay! Keep reading to see why they matter, what role they play in your church, and the kind of person you might appoint to take on this responsibility.
Safe Ministry Contacts play two key roles:
- Championing safe ministry in your church
- Listening and responding to concerns
1. Championing Safety
While we want all members in our churches to champion safe ministry, it is a primary responsibility for your Safe Ministry Contacts. This then raises the question, “what does it mean to champion safe ministry?”.
To champion something is to be an active supporter or promoter; to advocate for it and be an ambassador for it. This means that, for your Safe Ministry Contacts, ‘championing safety’ looks like promoting safe ministry in everything that your church does.
A Safe Ministry Contact will be promoting safe ministry in their conversations with others. For example, you might hear them say things like, “I’m so thankful that all our kids church leaders are screened and complete training before they take care of our kids”. Their role might also look like chatting with ministry team leaders about what they can be doing to maintain a safe culture in their ministries, and reminding senior church leaders of the priority of safety in church.
In short, your Safe Ministry Contacts are the culture promoters!
2. Listening and Responding to Concerns
Safe Ministry Contacts are the appointed people to hear safe ministry concerns and respond appropriately – both at the individual level (caring for the people involved) and on behalf of your church (any legal or insurance responsibilities).
When a concern is reported to a Safe Ministry Contact, it is their responsibility to listen to the person raising the concern, and make sure the right process is followed to care for and protect both the individuals involved, as well as your church or organisation. This is where your Incident Response Process (IRP) comes in and, if your church or organisation doesn’t have one, it is important to develop one! The Incident Response Process equips Safe Ministry Contacts to respond to any incident or concern reported to them. It should be reviewed regularly with your Safe Ministry Policy. Included in your Safe Ministry Check subscription is an Ansvar-approved template that you can modify to suit your organisations context and needs. You can view this within your Administrator Portal under ‘View Example Policies’ as well as the link provided here.
This template outlines the purpose of an Incident Response Process, some principles to follow, and an overview of the process. The process is broken down 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 organisations Safe Ministry Contacts, it is then their responsibility to identify what kind of concern has been raised before then following the action steps for that type of concern. This allows Safe Ministry Contacts to ensure that their course of action is suitable for the people involved and the type of concern, without having to work through fixed steps which may be unnecessary.
It is a responsibility of your Safe Ministry Contacts to know and understand your Incident Response Process as well as how to implement it in different scenarios. We recommend running through some scenarios as a team to give Safe Ministry Contacts a chance to practise and get familiar with the Incident Response Process.
Some Example Scenarios
Here are two scenarios and examples of what implementing Ansvar’s Incident Response process might look like:
A teenager attending your church’s youth group discloses to one of the leaders that his uncle has been encouraging him to watch pornographic videos with him. The youth group leader has completed their safe ministry training and knows to report this to their Safe Ministry Contact. They give the Safe Ministry Contact a call and arrange to meet with them.
In following the Incident Response Process, the Safe Ministry Contact makes a record of the concern (Step 1) and thanks the youth group leader for reporting it. The Safe Ministry Contact checks in on how the leader is feeling as it can be quite shocking to hear one of your youth kids experiencing this. The Safe Ministry Contact asks if the leader has any questions and encourages the leader to see a counsellor if they would like to talk it through with someone.
The Safe Ministry Contact reminds the leader not to speak with anyone else about the concern raised for the sake of confidentiality and privacy.
The Safe Ministry Contact would then meet with the other Safe Ministry Contact/s, share the details of the concern, and work together through the 5 types of concerns to determine next steps.
In this case, they would determine that the concern fits Type 1 and Type 5 – since the report does concern a child, is not a concern about a church leader, a church participant, or a church program, and is about an incident outside the church.
The Safe Ministry Contacts would then work through the action steps involved for those types of concerns.
Since the concern is about a child, the Safe Ministry Contacts would follow their State/Territory Mandatory Reporter Guidelines which would require them to assist the youth leader to make a report to the appropriate authority. They would also make a report to the police, and contact the parents/guardians of the child.
The Safe Ministry Contacts should record the decision making process, and record plans regarding any further steps, including the name of the person responsible for taking each of those steps.
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 reaches out to talk to the Safe Ministry Contact about the situation.
Following the Incident Response Process, the Safe Ministry Contact would listen to the group member and make a record of the concern (Step 1). They would then meet with the other Safe Ministry Contact/s, share the concern raised and work through Step 2 of the Incident Response Process to determine the type of concern and next steps.
In this example, the Safe Ministry Contacts would conclude that this is concern type 2 – about a church leader (the volunteer is acting as a church representative in this context) – and follow the process in Appendix 2 to investigate the concern further.
In this case there are a number of possible outcomes. It may be appropriate to remove the leader from responsibilities where they would be brought into any or substantial contact with the suspected victim, or it may be appropriate to reduce their responsibilities for a time to ensure they are aware of the appropriate behaviour of a leader in their role.
By following the Incident Response Process, the 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 suggest appointing at least two Safe Ministry Contacts. This is to reduce risk, increase transparency, and in the situation where someone wants to raise a concern about the Safe Ministry Contact, they have another Safe Ministry Contact to speak to.
We hope this gives you confidence to appoint Safe Ministry Contacts in your church and equip them for the crucial role they play in keeping your church safe. If you’ve got more questions, don’t hesitate to ask! Just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org