The Safe Church Health Check and the Safe Church Package
Baptist Churches of NSW & ACT are committed to modelling the love of Christ by promoting physical, emotional and spiritual safety in all that we do. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommended 10 Child Safe Standards. The Child Safe Standards collectively show that a child safe organisation is one that creates a culture, adopts strategies and takes action to promote child wellbeing and prevent harm to children and young people.
In addition to potential legislative implementation of the Child Safe Standards, churches have existing legal obligations when it comes to providing activities and services to children and young people, including:
- Common law and statutory duties to take reasonable precautions to prevent child abuse
- Requirement to ensure that people doing certain defined work hold relevant clearance checks;
- Reporting to government authorities in accordance with their obligations, if any, under:
- Mandatory Reporting Legislation
- Reportable Conduct Legislation
- Criminal Legislation
- WWCC Legislation in NSW
- WWVP Legislation in ACT
The Safe Church Health Check is a comprehensive review tool which will assess your church’s Safe Church Practices against identified minimum standards for compliance with these various legal duties.
Of course, mere legal compliance is not our aim, rather we hope to promote a culture that reflects the love of Christ, loves and protects individuals, and fosters missional engagement with local communities.
How do we start?
Our heart is to equip and support local churches for ministry and so we have sought to provide suggested structures and resources to reduce the burden on you as much as possible. However, your local church leadership will need to take some steps to implement these Safe Church practices as appropriate to your local church context. We encourage each local church to delegate this important task to appropriate individuals. The church pastor is not necessarily required to undertake these tasks themselves.
- Begin by committing to Safe Church practices
We recommend that the governance body, along with staff and other significant leaders, gather to watch the Information Session video (link) in order to better understand their responsibilities.
- Appoint a Safe Church Team
The governance body of your church should appoint a small team to champion Safe Church issues in the church. This work is partially administration, partially communication and will require maturity and confidentiality. The Safe Church Team must have at least one male and one female member. It is important that the Safe Church Team is aware of all Safe Church issues. Pastors may be on the Safe Church Team, but this is not required. However, it is important to note that the pastor and governance body still have legal responsibility for ensuring that reasonable precautions are taken for church activities.
- Adopt relevant policies and procedures
The Safe Church Team should consider the model policies and procedures in the Safe Church Package (link) and recommend any necessary changes for your context. The governance body should then adopt the relevant policies and procedures. This includes making a decision about managing and supporting Persons of Concern in the church community.
- Communicate and implement the policies
Decide how to communicate the policies and procedures to the church. This may include regular notices, a short video, a sermon series and/or explanation at a members meeting. Consider how children and visitors would be aware that the church was committed to Safe Church practices, perhaps you could display posters or offer copies of the Safe Church Policy to at any registration or information desk. Consider how people would know who to go to if they had a concern, child-friendly posters or announcements might help. Make sure that the church has a WHS team with appropriate training. Check that all ministries are completing risk assessments appropriately. Ensure all staff and volunteers (including existing staff and volunteers) have completed the necessary screening, induction and training and that the church has appropriate records (for example a Safe Church Register).
- Read through the questions in the Safe Church Health Check to see if there are any other issues that may be relevant in your context.
For example residential property, overseas ministries, affiliated ministries, ensuring children have a voice, offering translated documents.
- Complete an application for the Safe Church Health Check
If you have any further questions you could: