Safe Ministry Practices

HIGHPOINT CHURCH
SAFE MINISTRY PRACTICES


STATEMENT OF NEED FOR POLICY

Relationships among people are at the foundation of Christian ministry and as such are central to the life of the church. Defining healthy and safe relationships through policies and codes of conduct is not meant in any way to undermine the strength and importance of personal interaction in our ministries. Rather, it is to assist in more clearly defining behaviors and practices that allow the church to more fully demonstrate its love and compassion for children and students in sincere and genuine relationships.

The safety and well-being of children and youth is of utmost importance. We recognize our responsibility of endeavoring to protect children and youth while they are involved in church-sponsored activities.

Therefore, based on our strong commitment to providing a church environment for children and youth that is loving and safe, we have established these policies and procedures whose purpose is to:

  1. Protect children and youth from potentially abusive opportunities while they are involved in church-sponsored activities.
  2. Protect volunteers from unfounded allegations of child abuse.
  3. Protect Highpoint Church by minimizing the extent of legal risk and liability as a result of child abuse issues.

SAFE MINISTRY PRACTICES

Thank you for taking the time to read this important document, which includes the following:

  • Volunteer Enlistment and Screening
  • Policy Against Child Abuse
  • Volunteer/Minor Protection

VOLUNTEER ENLISTMENT AND SCREENING

This enlistment and screening procedure will apply to any person who serves with minors as a part of Highpoint Church. All applications, references, and other information are kept confidential and in a secure environment. The application and background check processes are handled through Protect My Ministry, a secure online service used by hundreds of churches and faith-based organizations. There are several steps in the process:

  1. Application: Adults (18 and older) must complete the Volunteer Application, provide personal references, and consent to a background check. 
  2. Reference Checks: The application requires that three personal references be provided by the applicant. Highpoint staff will contact these references to verify that the applicant is a good fit for serving with minors.
  3. Interview: Everyone who serves with minors meets with a ministry leader for a personal interview. 
  4. Background Check: Using the information provided through the online application, Protect My Ministry conducts the background check including the National Criminal Database Search and National Sex Offender Search, which is then reviewed by a Highpoint Staff Leader.
  5. Test Drive: An important part of the enlistment process is learning about the various service roles and environments. Test Drives are opportunities to observe a specific ministry in action. The online application must be completed prior to the initial Test Drive.
  6. Training: All new volunteers receive basic policy and procedure training. If a training meeting is not available immediately, a copy of the policy and procedure manual will be given to the volunteer for review prior to serving. The volunteer may also meet with a ministry leader to review this information. Additional training is also provided as new volunteers serve with experienced leaders.
  7. Revocation: Highpoint Church reserves the right to revoke any volunteer’s ability to serve with minors with or without notice at any time for any reason or without cause.

SPECIAL SITUATIONS

Highpoint's screening procedure helps identify whether or not an individual has anything in his/her background that would pose any danger to minors. Applicants are encouraged to share anything that may show up on the background check with the ministry leader prior to completing the online application. 

If a person had an addiction to alcohol or drugs in their past, we require they have been clean from the addiction for at least one full year. If the person is involved in Celebrate Recovery, we require one reference from a Celebrate Recovery leader. If the person is not involved in Highpoint’s Celebrate Recovery program, one reference must be able to vouch for at least one year of sobriety.

Individuals who have been arrested for, charged with, are on deferred adjudication or regular probation for, or have been convicted of sexually-oriented or sex-related crimes, either misdemeanor or felony, cannot serve in any area of ministry with minors. Highpoint will screen background checks when necessary and will rely upon the truthful answers of its reference checks and volunteers for this information.

Convictions or issues must be reviewed on a case-by- case basis by Highpoint Leadership. Decisions for serving will be soley at the discretion of Highpoint Leadership.

STUDENTS SERVING WITH MINORS

Students may serve in Highpoint Kids beginning in the 5th grade through an apprentice process with an approved Highpoint Kids leader. If at any time the student is no longer helpful to the adult leaders in the room, we may revoke the right for that student to serve at any time for any reason. 

Students 13-17 years old will undergo a student volunteer application process similar to the adult process, which requires parental permission and reference checks. These additional guidelines apply to students:

  • Students must follow the instruction and leadership of adult leaders at all times.
  • There must be at least a five year age difference between the age of the child or student volunteer and the age of children they are serving.
  • Students must be 16 years old to serve with children under 2 years old.
  • Students should not bring unapproved friends to volunteer with them.
  • Students should not escort children to the bathroom alone. 
  • Students may not change diapers in the nursery.

POLICY AGAINST CHILD ABUSE

Highpoint Church will make every effort to ensure that all minors are safe from any kind of abuse while in our care. We train our volunteers on how to recognize abuse and report it properly. The following information is from the Tennessee Department of Children's Services

Definition of Abuse: Child abuse happens when a person exerts his or her power over a child in ways that harm and/or exploit the child. Generally, child abuse is categorized in five primary forms: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, psychological harm, and emotional abuse.

Types of Abuse:

  • Physical Abuse: Non-accidental trauma or physical injury of a child, or failure to protect a child from harm.
  • Neglect: Failure to provide for a child's physical survival needs to the extent that there is harm, or risk of harm, to the child's health or safety.
  • Sexual Abuse: When a child is involved in intentional sexual acts that produce sexual arousal and/or gratification for the perpetrator, or sexual behaviors/situations in which there is a sexual component.
  • Psychological Harm: A repeated pattern of caregiver behavior or extreme incident(s) that convey to children they are worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, or endangered. May include both abusive acts against a child and failure to act. 
  • Emotional Abuse: Mental or emotional injury to a child or youth that results in an observable and material impairment in the child or youth's growth, development, or psychological functioning.

Possible Indicators of Abuse and Neglect

  • The child has repeated injuries that are not properly treated or adequately explained. 
  • The child begins acting in unusual ways, ranging from disruptive and aggressive to passive and withdrawn.
  • The child acts as a parent toward his or her brothers and sisters or even toward their own parents. 
  • The child may have disturbed sleep (nightmares, bed wetting, fear of sleeping alone, and needing a nightlight).
  • The child loses his/her appetite, overeats, or may report being hungry. 
  • There is a sudden drop in school grades or participation in activities.
  • The child may act in ways that are developmentally inappropriate, such as sexual behavior that is not normal for his/her age group.
  • The child may report abusive or neglectful acts. 

Note: The above signs can indicate something is wrong but do not necessarily indicate abuse or neglect.

Reporting Procedures: Everyone in Tennessee is a mandated reporter under state law. Any person with reasonable cause to believe a child is being abused or neglected must, under the law, immediately report to the Tennessee Department of Children's Services or to local law enforcement. The reporter can remain anonymous. (Highpoint Church will assist in filing the report.) 

Tennessee law mandates reporting by any person who has knowledge of physical or mental harm to a child if: (1) the nature of the harm reasonably indicates it was caused by brutality, abuse, or neglect; or (2) on the basis of available information, the harm reasonably appears to have been caused by brutality, abuse, or neglect.

Tennessee law also mandates reporting by any person who knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been sexually abused, regardless of whether it appears the child has sustained an injury as a result of the abuse. The Tennessee mandatory reporting laws define a child as a person under 18 years of age.

Highpoint's Responsibility and Response: Volunteers should contact the Highpoint Staff Director/Minister over the area in which they are serving to report abuse, suspected abuse, and/or any other potential abuse, questionable behavior, and/or concerns: 

  • Global Highpoint Kids Director: Anne Clay (901.277.1624)
  • Administrative Pastor: Jim Pritchard (901.277.4182)
  • Highpoint East Memphis Campus Pastor: Dustin May (901-647-6753)
  • Highpoint Collierville Campus Pastor: Lance Scarbrough (940-447-3585)

Highpoint Church will immediately follow up on reports of abuse or suspected abuse. Appropriate action will be taken, including contacting authorities, if necessary, and assisting in filing a report with the Tennessee Department of Children's Services. Highpoint Church will not deny, minimize, or blame any individual involved in allegations. Highpoint Church staff will minister to all involved, and will cooperate with authorities.

Guidelines for Volunteers

  • Reports of child abuse should be made promptly, thoroughly, and taken seriously.
  • In addition to contacting the appropriate Law Enforcement, please immediately contact the Highpoint Director/Minister listed above, or the Chief Operating Officer. It is important that we protect any other area of ministry that might be affected.
  • Treat any incident of abuse and all information about it with strict confidentiality and privacy.
  • Do not discuss it with anyone else except law enforcement and the appropriate church leadership. The situation should not be the subject of gossip or discussed with friends or others until law enforcement has completed their investigation.
  • Discuss your concerns, observations, or information you receive with the Highpoint Director/Minister of the area in which you are serving.

VOLUNTEER/CHILD PROTECTION

Highpoint Church desires to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of everyone involved in ministry with and for children and students. The following rules are set up to protect minors, volunteers, and the church. As a precaution and to ensure strict accountability from one adult to another, these rules must be followed:

Two-Adult Rule: The two-adult rule states that there must always be two non-related adults present when supervising one or more children/students. This rule is designed for the safety of the adults as well as the minors, and is required across all ministry areas with few exceptions (see guidelines for these cases below). Compliance with the two-adult rule includes the following:

  • There must always be two adults present when supervising one or more children/students.
  • The adults must not be related family members (such as a married couple).
  • The adults should be in sight of each other at all times.

Exceptions to the Two-Adult Rule: The purpose of the two-adult rule is to ensure that the actions of any one leader are known to at least one other leader and to support leaders in ministry. Guidelines for exceptions to the two-adult rule follow this intent — that even if only one leader is present temporally, the actions of that leader are known and visible to others. This is accomplished by the adult choosing to be in visible and public locations, and by communication with other ministry staff.

Classroom doors should remain open at all times. Baby gates are provided for younger preschool classrooms to prevent children from leaving the classroom unattended.

Bathroom Rules

Young Children: Volunteers should help young children use the restroom only if the child is three years or younger. If a child is three years or younger, the volunteers should leave the outer door of the restroom open at all times. 

Children: If a child is over the age of three, a class should go to the restroom together with two volunteers accompanying the children. Check the restroom before child/children enter and then wait outside.

Students: Students may go to the restroom without adult supervision.

Extracurricular Church-Sponsored Activities or Events: The Highpoint Kids/Students Director must approve all extracurricular activities. Special attention will be given to planning and carrying out church-sponsored activities that involve children and/or students, on or off church property. Adequate adult supervision, appropriate separation of sexes, and other precautions will be taken. Adult chaperons must be Highpoint staff or volunteers who have completed the Enlistment and Screening Process. On overnight events, sleeping arrangements will be made to avoid one adult and one child being in a room alone except for family members. Minors participating in overnight church-sponsored activities will be required to furnish a parent or guardian consent and release form.

General Guidelines

  • Private conversations should take place in public settings where others can observe but not hear.
  • Leaders are prohibited from possessing any sexually-oriented materials (magazines, cards, videos, films, clothing, etc.) on property or in the presence of children or youth except as expressly permitted as part of a pre-authorized educational program.
  • Physical punishment is prohibited for discipline of children and students, including but not limited to spanking, slapping, pinching, hitting, or any other physical force.
  • Physical force may only be used to stop a behavior that may cause immediate harm to the individual or to a child, youth, or others.

Appropriate Touch: Appropriate touch is part of a healthy ministry. These are the guidelines for when, where, and how to use appropriate touch. Using good judgment, the following are examples of appropriate touch:

  • An arm around the shoulder
  • Walking hand in hand with small children
  • Carrying small children (no piggy back rides or carrying elementary-aged children)
  • Short congratulatory or greeting hugs
  • Brief, assuring pat on the back or shoulder
  • Handshakes and high-fives

The guidelines for actions you should never take as a volunteer are listed below.

  • Never touch a child in anger or disgust.
  • Never touch a child in any manner that may be construed as sexually suggestive.
  • Never touch a child between the belly button and the shins.
  • Never touch a child’s private parts (with exception of diaper changes following the diaper policy).
  • Children over the age of first grade should not sit in the laps of volunteers.
  • Playing rough with children or letting children play rough with each other is not appropriate. The safety of everyone is of utmost importance.

Social Media/Photos

Volunteers should not post pictures of children on social media. Highpoint staff are the only approved people to take photos in the classroom and post these on the Internet. This is for legal reasons protecting the church and the children. Some parents do not wish for their children to be photographed.