Safe Sanctuaries

Trinity United Methodist Church

Safe Sanctuaries

Policies & Basic Procedures


The General Conference of The United Methodist Church, in April 1996, adopted a resolution aimed at reducing the risk of child sexual abuse in the church. The adopted resolution includes the following statement:

Jesus said, "Whoever welcomes [a] child.  …welcomes me"  (Matthew 18:5). Children are our present and our future, our hope, our teachers, our inspiration. They are full participants in the life of the church and the realm of God.

Jesus also said, ''If any of you put a stumbling block before one of  these little would be better for you if a great millstone were  fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea"  (Matthew 18:6). Our Christian faith calls us to offer both hospitality and protection to the little ones, the children. The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church state that "children must be protected from economic, physical, emotional and sexual exploitation and abuse" (~ 162C).

Tragically, churches have not always been safe places for children.  Child sexual abuse, exploitation and ritual abuse ["ritual abuse" refers to abusive acts committed as part of ceremonies or rites; ritual abusers are often related to cults, or pretend to be] occur in churches, large and small, urban and rural. The problem cuts across all economic, cultural, and racial lines. It is real, and it appears to be increasing. Most annual conferences can cite specific incidents of child sexual abuse and exploitation within churches. Virtually every congregation has among its members adult survivors of early sexual trauma.

Such incidents are devastating to all who are involved; the child, the family, the local church and its leaders. Increasingly, churches are torn apart by the legal, emotional, and monetary consequences of litigation following allegations of abuse.

God calls us to make our churches safe places, protecting children and other vulnerable persons from sexual and ritual abuse. God calls us to create communities of faith where children and adults grow safe and strong. (From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church - 2000, pp. 180-181. Copyright @ 2000 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.)

Thus, in covenant with all United Methodist congregations, we adopt this policy for the prevention of child abuse in our church.


Our congregation's purpose for establishing this Child Abuse Prevention Policy and accompanying procedures is to demonstrate our absolute and unwavering commitment to the physical safety and spiritual growth of all of our children and youth and for the protection of the adults who perform these ministries.

Statement of Covenant

Therefore, as a Christian community of faith and a United Methodist congregation, we pledge to conduct the ministry of the gospel in ways that assure the safety and spiritual growth of all of our children and youth as well as all of the workers with children and youth. We will follow reasonable safety measures in the selection and recruitment of workers; we will implement prudent operational procedures in all programs and events; we will educate all of our workers with children and youth regarding the use of all appropriate policies and procedures; we will have a clearly defined procedure for reporting a suspected incident of abuse that conforms to the requirements of state law; and we will be prepared to respond to media inquiries if an incident occurs.


All paid employees and volunteers will be required to comply with the following:

Recruitment and Screening Practices:

1. Complete an application for a background check.

2. Pass the criminal background check (one time). All background checks will remain strictly confidential and will be reviewed by pastor, the lay leader and the Safe Sanctuaries team chair. The PPRC chairperson will review the pastor’s background check.

3. Sign a participation covenant outlining our congregation's commitment to preserving this church as a holy place for safety and protection for all youth.

4. Complete an orientation training session on identifying and handling child abuse in the church setting.

Standard Operating Procedures:

1. ''Two-Adult Rule" - requires no fewer than two non-related adults (immediate family) present at all times during any church-sponsored program, event, or ministry involving children and youth (i.e. Sunday school class, youth bible study, children's ministry).  This rule may also be met by use of adult "roamers" who move up and down the hall for Sunday School and in and out of different youth activities. 

  • Every room that is used for activates and teaching of children and youth should have a window (clearly visible) in the door or a half door that gives visibility to all areas of that room.  If there is no window, the door must be left open at all times.

2. "Five Years Older Rule" - there must be at least a five year difference in ages between the leading employee/volunteer and the children/youth.  (Example:19-year-old Jim may not lead the high school (15 to 17 years of age) Sunday school class.)

3. Six-month rule: employees/volunteers must have attended Trinity UMC on a regular basis for a minimum of six months before being allowed to lead any children/youth activities. Anyone with less than a six months 'track record' with TUMC will be paired with a seasoned volunteer that has met all recruitment and screening requirements. (Note: any person with a proven and verifiable record of working with children/youth at another church may be waived the six-month rule). After verification with the other church, the pastor must approve the wavier.

4. All employees/volunteers must attend an annual educational session for reducing the risk of child abuse in the church setting.

5. All suspected child abuse will be reported immediately to the pastor. This includes completing "Report of Suspected Incident of Child Abuse Form."

6. Any injuries or accidents must be documented on the accident report form and submitted to the Pastor.

7. Parental permission forms must be completed for specific off-site events involving travel for more than twenty-five miles.

8. General child information forms (including an emergency contact) must be completed and on file for all children and youth.

9. We do not engage in any physical or verbal punishment of children/youth.  If the child/youth becomes too disruptive, the parents will be notified immediately.

10. Safe Sanctuaries Committee members will be available to answer specific questions to policy. This committee will review policy and update policy at least annually.

11. Adult volunteers will be the sole drivers to/from church events unless the church is given permission by the youth’s guardians to drive themselves.

Responding to allegations and known incidents of child abuse:

1. First priority is to always protect the victim.

2. Trinity UMC will comply with the state laws on child abuse.  This includes NC State Law requiring the pastor to report suspected case. 

3. In the event that an alleged or known child abuse situation occurs, an incident report must be completed and submitted to the Pastor and Church Lay Leader.

4. In case of news media coverage, the Pastor will be the only individual to communicate with the media.

Safe Sanctuary Committee Members:

  • Judy Church
  • Uiyeon Kim
  • Zac Philyaw
  • Joy Philyaw
  • Will Osier

Approval Dates:

Safe Sanctuaries Committee:  August 26, 2013

Church Council:  September 15, 2013