APPENDIX 1: MANDATORY ACCOUNTABILITY IN LEADERSHIP

Note: This appendix is written with the laws of Australia in mind. Readers from other countries need to check the mandatory requirements of their own country.

Out of concern for the well-being of the people, state and federal governments have established standards in relation to:

Child protection and child safety issues
Privacy laws
Workplace health and safety issues
Duty of care
Anti-discrimination issues

As Christians we can do no less; indeed, we should be demonstrating a higher level of concern and compassion than the secular authorities.  Leadership within the local church or Christian organization has an obligation to familiarize themselves with these standards and expectations, to conduct all activities within their area with respect for these standards, and to ensure that all leaders and assistants within their team are aware of and conform to these standards.  


A. CHILD PROTECTION AND SAFETY – OUR RESPONSIBILITY

In the context of our contemporary culture with its high rate of child abuse and with its litigation climate, it is the way of wisdom for every church and organization that has any involvement with children and teenagers to have in place a Child Protection Policy. [Note: ‘child’ is anyone under eighteen years of age.]

To implement Child protection and Child Safety within your church/organization, the following points need to be considered:

[1] Acknowledge that the welfare and best interests of the child or young person are a paramount concern of the church/organization.

[2] Uphold the right of children and young people to be protected from physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual harm.

[3] Prioritise the establishment and facilitation of strong, supportive and stable families as the Biblically preferred environment for the safety, well being and development of the child or young person.

[4] Implement holistic programs for the nurture of children and young people from the church and the local community within their families and within the church community or organization.

[5] Respect each individual child or young person irrespective of individual, racial, linguistic or cultural diversity.

[6] Provide an environment and programs where children, young people and their families can feel safe and supported.

[7] If applicable, sustain and make known the availability of a professional counsellor to work with families and children or young people.

[8] Implement a system of checks and boundaries to minimize the potential of harm to children and young people on the church/organization premises. These checks and boundaries will include:

Suitability to work with children check [as per state government requirements],
church/organization-based application procedure to work in children and youth ministry teams in the church/organization,

On-going training of teams and leaders working with children and young people,

Maintenance of workplace health and safety standards

Identification of potential risk situations [either physical or psychological]

On-going process to ensure presence of qualified First Aid person at all times

Commitment to privacy in relation to personal information/details

Confidentiality in relation to privileged information given by child or young person

Establishment of protocols in relation to rolls, parental permission for off campus excursions, inappropriate touching of children or young people, appropriate adult/child ratio in a variety of situations.

 

B. PRIVACY

As a volunteer or paid employee of your church or organization you must observe the Privacy Policy of your church/organization. Again, because of the society in which we live, even if your church or organization does not have a Privacy Policy, it should, and regardless, you need to be aware that the federal government of our land does have privacy laws in place.

Questions you need to ask and answer:

Does your church/organization have a privacy policy?
    
Have you read it?
    
What strategies for maintaining privacy does your specific ministry team have in place?
    
Why is privacy important?


    
C. HEALTH AND SAFETY

Workplace Health and Safety, and as a flow-on, health and safety in the ministry venue, is a government requirement which all churches and organizations are obliged to fulfil. If you are involved in a local church ministry, ask to see a copy of the Workplace Health and Safety policy of your church/organization. If no such policy exists, make sure that you, your ministry team and your ministry participants, where applicable, maintain the following:

Maintenance of acceptable standards of hygiene and cleanliness in the ministry area and in ministry activities

Maintenance of acceptable standards of tidiness of the ministry area

Appropriate care and maintenance of equipment and furniture

Safe and proper storage of equipment and furniture

Safe and proper use of equipment and furniture

Furniture and equipment appropriate to the age and ability of the people involved in the program/activity

Adequate instruction in the proper and safe use of equipment

Alertness to potential hazards, for example, power leads, children running in a crowded area, children climbing on furniture and/or equipment, frail elderly negotiating crowded areas

Allocation of volunteer roles appropriate to the experience, skills, ability and training of the volunteer

Clear definition of expectations, roles and responsibilities within the ministry teams

No sexual or other harassment, no verbal or emotional abuse, no physical abuse


Answer the following questions:

Does your church/organization have a Workplace Health and Safety policy?

If not, what can you do to ensure appropriate standards are maintained in your ministry area?

Who is responsible for Health and Safety in your church/organization?

What obvious failures in Health and Safety are evident in your church/organization, or ministry area?

What are you going to do about it?

 

D. DUTY OF CARE

The concept of ‘duty of care’ is very broad and covers anything from people to animals to the environment. Within the ministries of the church or Christian organization ‘duty of care’ refers primarily to people. Government legislation requiring ‘duty of care’ should not be a problem for the followers of Jesus Christ for he has commanded that we love and care for each other. From Genesis 4 onwards the Bible teaches the concept of our responsibility before God for the well-being of our ‘brother’. Contrary to Cain’s arrogant attitude, we are, in fact, our ‘brother’s keeper’.

The Australian government summarizes ‘Duty of Care’ as follows:

'The principle of duty of care is that you have an obligation to avoid acts or omissions, which could be reasonably foreseen to injure of harm other people. This means that you must anticipate risks for your clients and take care to prevent them coming to harm. Remember that harm encompasses both physical and emotional harm.' [Source: http://www.health.gov.au/ ]

The concept of Duty of Care parallels Old Testament case laws regarding loss, injury or death caused by negligence [for example, Exodus 21:28-36].

 

E. DISCRIMINATION ISSUES

As followers of Christ we should be committed to the equality and fair treatment of all people regardless of nationality, colour, ability, sex or religion. However, Christians need to be aware that in our contemporary culture the terms 'discirmmination' and 'tolerance' have rather different definitions than in previous generations. You can find a study exposing the nature of contemporary 'tolerance' here.

 

F. INSURANCE AND LIABILITY ISSUES

Check with your church or organization’s business administrator to identify:

[1] The list of activities that are not covered by the church/organization’s insurance policy. [Leaders need to be aware that some high-risk activities and some off-site activities may not be covered.]


    

 

[2] The policy of your church/organization re payment for accidental or careless breakages or loss of property and/or equipment.

    

[3] Where you as a volunteer or paid employee [and your ministry team members] stand in the event of litigation.



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