- For Parishes
Ministry to children is vibrant and exciting work that is greatly significant to the life of the church. Teaching children about Jesus is kingdom work. It is a service to the children, the church family, and to God himself. Ministry to children offers great opportunities and also carries significant responsibilities for the wellbeing of those in our care. If we as church leaders take the teaching and leadership of children seriously then we must provide an environment which is safe from any form of harm.
This booklet sets out the guidelines and Code of Conduct for leaders involved in children’s ministry, whether paid or unpaid. This includes crèche leaders, playgroup leaders, Sunday School teachers, kids club leaders and camp leaders.
For the purposes of this booklet, children’s ministry refers to ministry to children up to and including Year 6. There is a separate booklet for the person with overall responsibility in the parish for children’s ministry. There is also a separate booklet for leaders engaged in ministry to youth.
Children have the right to be safe and well looked after when they are in our care. They have the right to be protected, listened to and their particular needs addressed in all church activities, whether mixed age or child specific.
All those exercising a pastoral ministry involving children in the church have responsibility for the safety and welfare of the children in their care.
Leaders have authority over children because of their positional power and because of their greater age, maturity, physical size and life experience. Abuse arises from the misuse of authority or power. Any form of abuse is always wrong.
As a children’s ministry leader, it is your role to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety and welfare of the children in your care.
This will involve:
Sadly, many children have been abused physically, sexually and emotionally by trusted members of their communities, including people in churches. As a result, there are requirements for people involved in any kind of work with youth and children that we as leaders must comply with, both under NSW law and the Anglican Church’s ordinances.
Any person involved in child-related work (including all volunteers) must get a Working With Children Check (WWCC) clearance (subject to some exemptions).
Your church must verify the WWCC number with the Office of the Children’s Guardian to determine whether the person has been cleared or barred.
A person who wishes to volunteer or work in a children’s ministry position must usually:
In addition, it is recommended that all volunteers are a member of a parish for at least 6 months before entering into a children’s ministry position in that parish.
A “children’s ministry position” means any paid or unpaid position to which a person is appointed by or on behalf of the minister or the wardens that involves activities primarily related to, and physical or face-to-face contact with, children. Examples include Sunday School teachers, crèche helpers, etc.
In our parish system, the Senior Minister has the ultimate responsibility for appointing people to children’s ministry positions, even though in practice that responsibility is often delegated to other leaders.
You must provide your full name, date of birth, WWCC number and details of the Safe Ministry training you have undertaken to your parish’s Safe Ministry Representative, as they are required to keep these records.
The Code of Conduct is written to protect both the children in our churches, and you as a leader from situations where your integrity or actions might be questioned.
In the exercise of your ministry you must:
Sexual abuse of a child often starts with something relatively minor, but can then gradually build up to more involved behaviors through a process of grooming. It is often characterized by secrecy.
This is why there must always be more than one adult leader present, and that no opportunities present themselves for a leader to engage in one-to-one activity with a child away from the presence of other adults.
A breach of this Code of Conduct may raise issues concerning your fitness to continue as a leader.
You are to inform the person responsible for children’s ministry in your parish, or the Senior Minister or the Safe Ministry Representative if you observe another leader acting in a way that may be contrary to this code of conduct.
The guidelines that follow cover a wide array of issues for children’s ministry activities, such as the supervision of activities and their appropriateness, the physical safety of those involved, the importance of parental consent, transportation and trips away, forms of communication with children, as well the issue of meeting up with children outside of programmed events. However, there are three golden rules that are relevant to all of the guidelines.
There must always be two leaders aged 18 years or over present for all children’s ministry events.
Leaders must not be alone with a child during an activity, and should make sure, as far as possible, that other leaders are not left alone with a child.
Leaders should be on the alert for people wandering around – a person unknown to the leaders or not part of the children’s ministry should not be allowed access to children.
One of the ways that we can protect children in our churches is to make sure that they are meeting in a physical environment that is appropriate and safe for them.
Consider particularly the suitability of the space, the safety of the space, and the safety measures in place by asking the following questions. Ideally it is preferable if you are objectively able to tick all the following boxes ‘yes’.
In regard to areas used by toddlers and preschoolers:
An important part of providing a safe environment is making sure you have enough leaders present to adequately supervise the activities taking place.
The degree of supervision required will vary according to the nature and environment of the activity, the age and maturity of the children and the size of the group. In considering the number of leaders required, take into account:
The suggested supervision ratios for low risk onsite events would be: crèche and preschoolers 1:5 (one leader for every five children) and primary age 1:7 (one leader for every seven children) after the minimum requirement of 2 adult leaders is met.
Where the risks in the activity increase, the supervision should also increase. For example, if you were to take primary-aged children offsite to indoor rock climbing, it would be appropriate to reduce the ratio to 1:4 (one leader for every four children). This is to account for the high-risk nature of the activity and the fact that it is off-site.
Please note that a junior leader (under the age of 16) does not count as a leader for the purposes of supervision.
You should thoughtfully consider what message children may learn from the way events are organised and conducted. Games or activities that could in any way emphasise gender, physical, intellectual or ethnic differences should be assessed for their appropriateness.
To minimise the possibility of children being harmed, you should give careful consideration to any activities or games that require children to act alone or in pairs independent of leaders.
You should review in their entirety any DVDs, youtube clips, computer games, graphics, photographs and lyrics that you intend to show children. In assessing whether something is appropriate you should be governed by the age of the youngest child present. Censorship ratings should be kept to ‘G’ or ‘PG’, unless specific permission is granted by the senior minister. Though note that some G or PG material may still not be appropriate due to the themes it contains. If in doubt, seek the advice of your Senior Minister.
You must have the written consent of a parent or guardian before taking children away from church premises, and you must keep them informed of the place and timing of the event. If you can, include parents or guardians in the leadership team.
Ask parents or guardians for information about any physical needs (eg, allergies), mental health needs (eg, depression) or safety needs of the children in your care.
And never administer medications to a child without the written consent of a parent or guardian.
It is the responsibility of parents and guardians to arrange transportation to and from children’s ministry events for their child, unless another specific arrangement is in place.
You must have written permission from a parent or guardian before a child can be driven anywhere by someone other than the parent for the purposes of a church activity.
When making transport arrangements, take reasonable steps to ensure that:
Leaders should avoid being alone with a child in a motor vehicle or driving a child home unaccompanied, even with parental permission. If such a situation is unavoidable, inform another leader of the trip and the reason for it.
It is not usually appropriate to have children under the age of Year 5 sleeping over at events. When events involve children aged Year 5 and above sleeping over, you should ensure that the sleeping accommodation (where possible) is:
and ensure (where possible) that those supervising the sleeping accommodation:
You should take care that your communication with a child or children is appropriate and above reproach. Be aware that those who wish to abuse children may use electronic communications to try to cultivate secretive or exclusive relationships.
Leaders should not contact children by email, mail, social media, video calls, using chatrooms or by any other form of electronic communication. Leaders should not call or text a child on the child’s mobile phone.
All electronic communication must be with the child’s parent or guardian. On the rare occasions when a leader might need to speak to a child on the phone for ministry purposes, the leader is to call the child’s parent to explain why he or she is calling. Only then, with the parent’s permission, should the leader speak with the child. The leader should be conscious of keeping the conversation with the child short.
Type of contact
(approx ages 5 to 12)
Calls to home phone or via parent’s mobile
Only after speaking to parent then, if the parent gives permission, with the child and only for ministry purposes.
Calls to a child on their own mobile phone
(Facebook, Instagram, etc)
Video calls/streaming &
Leaders should not take photos of children without parental consent, and should only use photos in accordance with the purposes for which that consent was given.
Do not photograph any child who has asked not to be photographed.
Photos of children should focus on small groups rather than individuals:
Embarrassing or offensive photos or videos must not be either taken or shared.
Parental permission must be sought before posting photographs or videos of children online. Privacy is of utmost importance and care should be taken to protect children from having their personal information being displayed on a social networking site or Church website.
Generally, videos should only be used to showcase/advertise ministry-related events and activities.
When video of services or activities is distributed or streamed on the web or via other broadcast media, signs and/or notifications should be posted that indicate the service is being or will be broadcast.
It is not appropriate for leaders to meet up with children socially, unless it is in the context of socialising with the child’s family.
Children should never leave the crèche area unless accompanied by the adult responsible for them.
Be aware of issues of hygiene. If a child vomits or soils an area of the crèche, that area should be cleaned and disinfected as soon as possible. Toys and equipment should be cleaned regularly.
Ensure that no furniture or other items could topple or drop onto a child.
Where parents are readily accessible, they should be asked to change nappies and undertake toileting. If parents are not available, experienced female leaders should carry out these tasks, but always with another child or leader present.
Very young children are highly dependent on touch for their proper development. This means that in dealing with them, we must be very aware of their needs at particular ages and stages.
Physical contact is primarily for the purpose of assisting/comforting a child for a short period of time. Leaders should not continue physical contact for longer than necessary to achieve this purpose. All physical contact should be in the open and able to be seen by others, for example, sitting on a leader’s lap to be comforted should occur in view of others.
Inappropriate physical conduct for this age includes:
Children should never leave the preschool area unless accompanied by the adult responsible for them.
Children of this age are generally toilet-trained. A leader should accompany a child to the toilet with another leader or child, but should assist the child only where necessary.
Except in circumstances of physical danger or medical emergency, children have the right to refuse touch. In general, physical contact should be initiated by the child or occur with their permission.
Appropriate physical contact for this age includes:
Inappropriate physical contact includes:
Have clearly thought out procedures for the conclusion of the program and advise parents of them. Infants will generally need to be collected by parents. Will primary-aged children be dismissed or will they need to be supervised until parents collect them?
If Sunday School is held offsite, there should be clear guidelines and procedures to follow. The following issues need to be thought through:
Parents should be kept informed of details of the ministry, including the names of leaders, current and future curriculum, and upcoming special events, etc.
Be considerate of parents by being careful about children’s clothing, eg, wearing paint shirts when painting and avoiding extra rough games.
Appropriate physical contact for this age includes:
Inappropriate physical contact includes:
It is your responsibility to ensure that any child abuse that you become aware of is reported to the relevant authorities. You may become aware of abuse because you have observed indicators of abuse, another person has informed you of their concerns for a child or a child has told you they are being abused.
If a child tells you about any abuse, you should –
As soon as possible after the disclosure you must
Keep to the facts about what was said and don’t express your opinion. Be aware that this document must be signed and dated and could be subpoenaed in court proceedings.
|Issue or concern||Report to:|
|General Suspicions||• Head ministry leader|
|Child or young person currently at risk of significant harm||• FaCS
If possible discuss with your head ministry leader or Senior Minister* first and use the Mandatory Reporters Guide.
Contact the police first if the situation requires emergency assistance.
• Professional Standards Unit
Contact the PSU where the alleged perpetrator is a church worker.
|Knowledge of relevant criminal offences||• Police
• Professional Standards Unit (regarding a church worker)
|Child abuse by a church worker**||• Senior Minister*/church worker’s employer
• Anglican Abuse Report line (1800 77 49 45)
Contact the Professional Standards Unit if you are unsure of what to do in any circumstance or
where an allegation is regarding the Senior Minister
* Do not report to the Senior Minister if the allegation is regarding the Senior Minister
** A church worker includes a minister, any ministry volunteer or leader (eg, Sunday School teacher, youth group leader, organist, etc), warden, parish councillor, parish Synod representative.
Do not undertake an investigation, and do not disclose the allegations to the alleged offender at this initial stage.
You must treat any suspicion, knowledge or disclosure of abuse with the utmost confidentiality. Apart from reporting it to the relevant authorities and to your ministry leader or Minister, you must not ordinarily share the information with anyone else.
A victim of abuse may require immediate specialist counselling or other support. When a report is made to the Professional Standards Unit, the Professional Standards Unit Chaplain can provide advice on care for victims and their families. Victims often need ongoing contact and support and the Minister should ensure that an appropriate person is appointed to follow up with them.
If you have had someone disclose abuse to you, you will also need to be appropriately cared for and supported. You may need to debrief about how the experience has affected you.
Professional Standards Unit
Director of the Professional Standards Unit
(02) 9265 1514
Anglican Abuse Report Line
1800 774 945
Professional Standards Unit - Anglican Church Diocese of Sydney
© 2017 Professional Standards Unit
Anglican Diocese of Sydney