D. GUIDELINES FOR THE PROTECTION OF CHILDREN, YOUTH,
AND VULNERABLE ADULTS
The South Indiana Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church is a spiritual
community which takes seriously its responsibility to provide a safe and nurturing
environment for children, youth, and vulnerable adults who participate in our ministries.
All volunteers and paid staff who are in leadership roles in these ministries are living out
the vows we take in baptism to nurture each other in the Christian faith. Every church
worker plays a key role in fostering the spiritual development of individuals and families
in our church community.
I. Conference responsibilities
In an effort to help our local churches protect our most vulnerable members from harm
and their leaders from possible misunderstanding, the South Indiana Conference urges
every local church to adopt a child protection policy. The essential elements of a local
church child protection policy are:
1. defining what and who are covered by the policy;
2. a method of screening for all who work with children, youth, and vulnerable
3. regularly renewed training in the area of child protection and in each local
4. guidelines for the proper conduct of ministry with children, youth, and vulnerable
5. procedures for responding to an allegation of abuse.
6. Pastors shall report to the Annual Charge Conference each Church’s actions
regarding the Conference Policy Guidelines for the protection of children, youth,
and vulnerable adults during the current calendar year. This shall be part of each
Charge Conference beginning in 2000 and each Charge Conference thereafter.
7. Copies of the report shall be included in the Conference Coordinated Mailing.
To further assist our local churches in formulating and implementing their respective
child protection policies, the Annual Conference offers these guidelines as minimum
standards for such policies. Churches are free to adapt and extend their guidelines to
cover situations not addressed here; however, no local church should enact a policy with
less stringent guidelines than these, and in any case where action is governed by more
than one set of rules (e.g., State law, The Book of Discipline, local church policy, BSA or
GSUSA rules, etc.) the stricter requirements shall take precedence.
Conference agencies which regularly conduct ministry with children, youth, and
vulnerable adults (Board of Discipleship, Board of Youth Ministry, Division of Outdoor
Ministries, Committee on CYSA/Scouting Ministries) will maintain appropriate policies
incorporating these guidelines for their programs. Conference and District COMs will
maintain appropriate policies incorporating these guidelines for other Conference and
District agencies and programs that conduct programs involving children, youth, and
The Conference Council on Ministries will also offer the following assistance to local
1. Consultation services by CCOM staff, including examples of well-written local
church policies from churches of different sizes and with different sorts of
2. Training resources and certification: CCOM will produce and/or approve training
resources to be used by local churches. Training will be offered regularly by
BOD, CBYM, DOM, and Conf. Comm. on CYSA/Scouting Ministries. Districts
are encouraged to offer training regularly; in addition, local churches may obtain
training resources from the Conference media library. Upon completion of
training and filing of a Training Attendance Report Form with the CCOM,
CCOM will issue cards indicating the date of completion of training.
3. CCOM receives a periodically updated offender database from the Indiana State
Police; in addition, the CCOM will maintain a database of those who have been
dismissed for cause from any child, youth. or vulnerable adult ministry position
by any local church or Conference agency which will communicate the same to
the CCOM on a confidential form to be provided by CCOM. Local churches
which desire to make use of these resources as part of their screening process may
send lists of potential workers to CCOM, and CCOM will reply in a timely
manner, indicating whether any of the names submitted appear on either of our
Sexual Abuse is any sexual contact or interaction (i.e., indecent exposure or liberties,
communication for immoral purposes, fondling, rape, etc.) between an adult or
significantly older youth and a child, youth, or vulnerable adult. Force, threats, bribery,
dissemination of pornography, misrepresenting right and wrong are some of the ways this
crime is perpetrated. Even if a child, youth, or vulnerable adult, out of ignorance,
innocence, or fear does not resist, it is still abuse.
Physical Abuse is any physical force applied by an adult or older youth in a position of
care of authority to a child, youth, or vulnerable adult. Physical force (hitting, spanking,
shaking, shoving, etc.) is not to be used by leaders in our programs.
Emotional Abuse is belittling, hateful, or angry words and/or actions directed toward a
child, youth, or vulnerable adult. Discipline by humiliation is also emotional abuse.
Neglect of Basic Needs is a form of abuse. Denial of food, water, cleanliness, clothing,
and sleep are not appropriate means of discipline.
1. All ministries to children, youth, and vulnerable adults conducted or sponsored by
a local church are subject to these guidelines. Leaders of events and ongoing
programs in ministry to children, youth, and vulnerable adults should be formally
associated (e.g., paid staff, members, or constituents) with the local church
sponsoring the event or program.
1a. Groups renting facilities or granted use of facilities on a case-by-case basis
(e.g., a community youth rally, a series of Chrysalis team formations, a Service
Unit or Round-table meeting under its own leadership, or a group given overnight
shelter on a cross-country trip) are not the responsibility of the local church,
unless the local church is significantly involved in the planning or supervision of
their program; however, groups associated with and/or advertised by the church
should be considered part of the local church’s ministry, and need to be in
compliance with these standards (e.g., a Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop, a day care
operating at the church, a summer recreation program).
1b. Local church policy needs to address whether and how to cover leaders of
local church ministries who are not themselves formally associated with the local
church sponsoring the program (e.g., a member of another religious organization
who is also a Cub Pack Committee member, a Girl Scout Troop Leader, a 4-H
club leader, or volunteer day care staff person).
1c. Some activities that include children, youth, or vulnerable adults are of such
a general or open character (e.g., public worship, a church picnic) that the leaders
need not meet screening and training requirements, unless local church policy
addresses particular situations. Likewise, some activities designed for family
participation, where children, youth, or vulnerable adults attend as part of family
groups or parent-child pairings (e.g., a breakfast for men and boys, a
Mother/Daughter banquet) need not have leaders who meet screening and training
requirements, unless local church policy so specifies. However, all activities that
include children, youth, or vulnerable adults need to be properly conducted
according to local church guidelines.
2. All leaders of events and ongoing programs should be screened before being used
as leaders. Checking references should be part of this screening. Persons
convicted of any form of sexual, physical, or other abuse of children, youth, or
vulnerable adults, or who have a history of inappropriate behavior with children,
youth, or vulnerable adults, will not be approved for leadership,
2a. In introducing a policy, people who are acting as leaders or who have acted as
leaders before the policy takes effect may be approved for service without further
screening; this is a onetime only action.
2b. Some body or person(s) within the congregation needs to be responsible for
conducting screening and maintaining records of applicants. Records need to be
handled in a confidential manner.
2c. Local church policy needs to address the use of onetime helpers, drivers, and
hosts for activities. These may be exempted from screening procedures as long as
sufficient approved leadership is present to conduct the activity, and as long as the
definition of “onetime” is not interpreted in such a manner as to avoid submitting
to screening requirements.
2d. Local church policy needs to address the issue of other organizations,
screening procedures, which may meet or exceed the standards established by the
local church (e.g., BSA application procedures). Local churches may design
screening policies that avoid duplication of application procedures, so long as the
local church does not neglect checking references for itself.
2e. Local church policy needs to address the issue of the minimum age for
leadership in a given program or level of program, including baby-sitting in the
3. All leaders of events and ongoing programs should undergo training as a regular
part of their service as leaders. This training should include general information in
spotting and preventing abuse, as well as information on the specific guidelines
and procedures to be followed.
3a. Some body or person(s) within the congregation needs to be responsible for
conducting training and maintaining records of leaders’ training.
3b. Local church policy needs to address the need to keep training certification
current. Local church policy also needs to address the use of leaders or assistants
who have not yet had an opportunity to receive training, and the use of onetime
drivers, helpers, or hosts of activities who have not received training, under the
direction of sufficient trained leaders to insure the safety of the participants.
3c. Local church policy needs to either specify the training modules which will
qualify leaders under its guidelines, or charge some body or person(s) within the
congregation with the responsibility of examining and approving training modules
for leaders (e.g., Conference resources, commercially available resources, CYSA
4. All events and ongoing programs in ministry to children, youth, and vulnerable
adults shall be conducted according to the following guidelines.
4a. Every event or program must have at least two adults in leadership. When
there is multiple use of a facility (e.g., many classes meeting at the same time, or
two groups meeting in different areas of the building), there need not be two
adults in every room where program with children, youth, or vulnerable adults is
being conducted. In such cases, rooms should have doors with windows or remain
open. Adults avoid situations where they are one-on-one with a child, youth, or
vulnerable adult, away from other persons (this does not apply to parent-child or
4b. Local church policy should address when specific parental permission is
required (e.g., off-site meetings, pickup of children by non-parent adults from
meetings or nursery care, overnight programs). Local church policy should
address who may drive participants; no one may be transported in a vehicle
without wearing a seat belt. Specific, parental permission, including medical
release information, should be required for overnight or extended trips,
4c. On overnight or extended trips, adults do not share beds with children, youth,
or vulnerable adults. Adults do not share sleeping facilities (e.g., tents or hotel
rooms) in a 1:1 ratio with a child, youth, or vulnerable adult; adults may share
group sleeping facilities (e.g., cabin or bunkhouse) with children, youth, or
vulnerable adults, but only if two adults are present in the camp site. Parent-child
and sibling relationships are an exception to this guideline. Coed overnight trips
require at least one leader of each gender.
4d. Adequate personnel to supervise each activity will be provided in the
following ratios of leaders to expected attendance:
- Children (ages 0-2) 1: 4
- Children (ages 3-5) 1: 5
- Children (ages 6-11) 1: 6
- Youth (ages 12-17) 1:10
Local church policy should address how to seek additional help when expected
attendance is significantly exceeded.
4e. Leaders will not use or tolerate abusive actions (as defined, above) in the
conduct of activities with children, youth, or vulnerable adults. Youth in
leadership positions should be properly supervised by the adult leaders so that
they are not abusive in their leadership of their peers; hazing in any form is
5. When incidents of abuse are suspected, the local church will follow appropriate
5a. All adults involved in ministry to children, youth, or vulnerable adults need to
know their responsibility to report incidents of abuse according to law.
5b. Some body or person(s) within the local congregation needs to be responsible
for receiving allegations of improper conduct. Discretion and diligence are both
necessary for this responsibility. Early documentation of incidents is important.
5c. Some body or person(s) within the local congregation needs to be responsible
for cooperating with local authorities, with the Bishop or designee, and handling
the flow of information to the public. Advice of legal counsel will be followed.
One sole spokesperson will be appointed.
5d. Some body or person(s) within the local congregation needs to be responsible
for investigating allegations of improper conduct, and where necessary,
recommending removal of persons from leadership. Proper documentation is
important in all cases.