Safe Sanctuaries is a series of guidelines, policies and procedures initiated and implemented in order to create and maintain a safe environment for children, youth and the volunteers who work with them. Safe Sanctuaries is also “an overt expression of a congregation in making a congregation a safe place where children and youth may experience the abiding love of God and fellowship within the community of faith”. (GBOD Safe Sanctuaries)
Being a Safe Sanctuaries congregation means our church has established appropriate guidelines, policies and procedures to promote safety and that we are diligent in our responsibility to follow them.
What can you expect to find as a parent?
- At least 2 volunteers with every group of children and youth, except in specific situations related to mentoring or child care during discipleship opportunities. (If there is ever only one adult with a single child or youth or a group, that individual will have undergone a background check for the specific type of situation)
- Volunteers who have been trained in our Safe Sanctuaries procedures and are committed to ensuring safety for children and youth
- Adequate ratios of volunteers to students in all situations to ensure that active supervision can be provided
- Ministries that are open to unannounced visits from church staff, parents, or other volunteer church workers at any time
- Classrooms that are physically “open”, meaning that there is a window or open door that keeps the activities of a group in plain view
History of Safe Sanctuaries at First Presbyterian
First Presbyterian Church has had a history of maintaining a policy to protect children, youth and the volunteers that work with them since the mid-nineties. This was at the front end of a national push for churches to devise a procedure for reducing the risk of abuse, neglect, or misconduct of any sort. The policy has been a living document since it’s creation, as the need for additional requirements and clarifications have surfaced. In 2008, the policy underwent more significant revision to add additional requirements for the screening of volunteers and staff, providing tri-annual trainings for every certified volunteer, and greater clarification of the procedure for reporting.
Purpose of our Policy
First Presbyterian Church, Winchester seeks to establish reasonable procedures to reduce the risk of physical, emotional and sexual abuse of children as they participate in church ministries, and to protect staff and volunteers from false allegations of misconduct.
How can I become a certified volunteer?
Once you have been part of our congregation as a member or regular attendee for at least six months, contact one of our staff for children’s or youth ministry to let them know of your interest in serving. They will be able to inform you about an upcoming safe sanctuary training and help pair you with an opportunity that meshes well with your gifts and talents.
Any allegation of child abuse, whether arising at the church or elsewhere, shall be taken seriously and must be reported to the Pastor/Head of Staff. All procedures which occur in the handling of the allegation shall be documented from its earliest stage.