Safe Churches

Church Support Australia

In churches today, there is great emphasis on Safe Ministry programs, and depending on
your church or denomination, volunteers might be required to attend safe training courses,
complete extensive questionnaires, provide referees and state-based ‘Working with Children’
checks. Some will even need to get a full Police background check. Investigations such as
the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse have shown that
the church has experienced system-wide failures; failing to properly reduce the risk of harm
to vulnerable people and failing to respond appropriately to incidents of harm within church
programs and communities.

The Christian community must now do what we should have done all along and attempt to
rebuild some of the trust we have lost. These Safe Ministry programs and screening
processes offer us a way to distance ourselves from past mistakes and declare: “We will not
make the mistakes of the past. Never again will we allow people to be put at such risk. Never
again will we try to cover-up the abuse done in our churches.”

Even more so, caring for the vulnerable is an expression of our Christian faith and values.
It’s a gospel-shaped desire to want to help the helpless and protect the weak. It’s this desire
to truly protect people that has led to all the various policies, training programs,
questionnaires, checks, courses, forms and restrictions. All of these various things have
sprung up as multi-layered attempts to ensure our people and churches are safe for
everyone.

What is appropriate?

However, this emphasis on Safe Ministry has led to an increased demand on church admin
teams, and churches are needing to appoint safe ministry officers because the
administration load to oversee all the training and screening is so great. In the well-meaning
desire to stop any-and-all abuse, some churches have ended up pursuing every possible
option, to the most extreme level. The idea seems to be that, if there’s a more detailed or
extreme option, then it must be a better way to safeguard people. The result is that many
church volunteers are required to undergo more screening and training than almost any
other volunteer sector in Australia.

So how do we know what is an appropriate level of screening and training for various levels
of volunteers in our churches? How do we do more than the bare minimum, but avoid falling
into the trap of creating over-burdensome processes? This is of course a matter of wisdom,
but we are not alone in making these decisions (perhaps just as well given the church’s
blotted history!). There already exist various guidelines for all organisations (such as the
National Statement of Principles for Child Safe Organisations) and most churches now have
insurance providers who have clear standards in this area.

Safe Ministry Check

In partnership with Ansvar Risk, Safe Ministry Check has developed a system of training
and screening volunteers that’s comprehensive and achievable. We wanted to help
churches appropriately train and screen volunteers without the hours and hours of training
and administration.

We have developed four levels of online training courses, ranging from an awareness
course for the everyday church member to a Board Member’s course. This training is
designed to embed a culture of safety in churches from the top down. Courses are 15-30
minutes long, and because they’re completely online, they can be done anywhere, anytime.
Safe Ministry Check also screens volunteers. Our system automatically verifies
state-based checks, records referee checks, and records volunteer’s agreement to your
code of conduct.

All your volunteer training and screening records are then easily accessible through a simple
online database, where you can keep up to date with who has completed training, who still
needs to start their training, and expiry dates for state-based checks.

While we all hope for zero incidence of harm— we live in a sinful fallen world and want to be
prepared. Churches need to be communities that take responsibility for vulnerable people,
and Safe Ministry Check provides a comprehensive and yet achievable way to do this.
To check out the Safe Ministry Check tool, head to www.safeministrycheck.com.au and sign
up for a free account!

Dave Moore
Executive Director
Safe Ministry Check

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