Five questions to use for your congregation's Safe Sanctuaries policy checkup

July 11, 2022

For many churches, July is an ideal time to review their Safe Sanctuaries policy before a new school year begins. 

“In July, many churches have a slower pace that creates some time to work on things like Safe Sanctuaries policies,” says Rev. John Fleischauer, Associate Director of Connectional Ministries and Conference Safe Sanctuaries Coordinator. He adds, "In some cases, churches may be welcoming a new pastor who needs to get up to speed on the church’s policy.”

Below are five helpful questions churches can ask to help make sure their policy is in tip-top shape.
 

1. Who is on our Safe Sanctuaries team?

The most effective Safe Sanctuaries programs are led by a team that includes clergy, staff and lay leadership. Team members may include representatives from age-level ministries, the Staff/Pastor-Parish Relations Committee, Board of Trustees and others. This range of voices helps to ensure that there is buy-in to the policy from across the church. The team's variety of experiences and perspectives can also help not only in developing a policy but in implementing it.

For more details about establishing a team and getting started with Safe Sanctuaries, click here.
 

2. When was our policy last reviewed?

Safe Sanctuaries policies should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure they are appropriate for the church’s context. The most recent update to the Conference Safe Sanctuaries Policy was adopted in June 2021 - if the church’s policy hasn’t been reviewed since then, now is a great time to do so.

For guidelines on reviewing your church’s Safe Sanctuaries policy, click here.
 

3. When did we last hold a training for staff and volunteers?

Safe Sanctuaries training should be offered at least annually for new staff and volunteers. All staff and volunteers should complete refresher training at least every three years. If your church needs to schedule a training, now is a great time to do so as you plan for the fall.

To schedule a training, contact your district office to be connected with a trainer in your district.
 

4. Are background checks for all staff and volunteers up to date?

Background checks for volunteers and staff should be valid for no more than three years. If you have volunteers or staff that need updated background checks now is a good time to do so.

For more details about setting up a background check program through the Conference’s background check vendor, GHRR, click here.
 

5. Who are our background check administrators?

Particularly for churches that have had a change in clergy appointment, it is a good practice to make sure that the administrators on the church’s background check account are accurate. Accounts can have multiple administrators and a best practice is for at least one to be someone other than the appointed clergy.

Churches that have a branch account through GHRR (formerly ESS) and know who their account administrator is can have that person contact GHRR directly. For additional assistance, contact Rev. John Fleischauer at john.fleischauer@umcna.org.
 

By asking these five questions, your church will be better prepared to create a safe and welcoming environment as school starts back in the fall.

For more information about Safe Sanctuaries, including the online training, visit www.umcna.org/safesanctuaries or contact Rev. John Fleischauer at john.fleischauer@umcna.org or (205) 226-7963.

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