Suggestions For Developing Written Safeguards And Procedures For Your Ministry Employees And Volunteers

Assisting ministries with developing, perserving and restoring trust, with excellence.

Effective considerations for sexual misconduct, child abuse, sexual harassment embezzelment issues that can reduce issues of neglect and offer prudent protection from litigation and accusations.*  A "bomb" aspect in your ministry must have its fuse "lit" for an "explosion" to happen, thus it takes the bomb and someone to light it for the explosion.  Working to keep these aspects apart or having effective risk management may save your ministry the resulting harm that could result from missing or ineffective risk management.

As a person boards an airplane today, they may find the screening and checking which is required bothersome, but most would not think of boarding without it being done, because of their perceived view of the risk involved today. In like manor people are likely to avoid attending or working with your ministry when these are missing for the same reasons. We believe effective risk management is necessary for a ministry to be dynamic and growing today. We offer to assist your ministry with time saving up to date information, suggested safeguards and other written procedures, workshops at your ministry location, that are effective in bringing your risks into a more manageable position.

The need for risk management has always been present for ministries, but today it is even more critical. Without the completion of quality risk management studies and written safeguards which you develop and apply for the realized risks of your ministry, there is little left to protect your ministry leaders or those that you minister too. Early in my career and until the latter seventies litigation for ministries did not present itself as a significant risk. Today our post-modern culture which was ministry friendly, has not only become intolerant but usually very hostile toward ministries.  Apart from the church our culture does not desire to offer the concept of forgiveness or restoration, but has a goal of prosecution and restitution for all issues of felt injustice, violations of rights, or trust. Litigation has become the American way of life for most presented issues as the first choice for satisfaction. The understanding of today's cultural process of operation is critical as you review risks and develop effective "safeguard", procedures to wisely navigate the minefields of today's cultural litigation.

Your ministry written safeguards and procedures are the critical secuirty of relolve as per the courts that stands between the possible destructive accusations and actions against the ministry and its staff, as well as the loss of trust important for the ministry and those within it both attendee and staff.

There is a critical need for checks and balances to be included elements for effective risk management to protect your staff as well as those who attend. This can provide an effective environment for developing, preserving, and restoring trust, without ministry compromise. Dynamic and growing ministries today must have as one of their core values of excellence, unwavering trust. This enviroment must offer a balanced set of standards, safeguards and procedures for both ministry leaders and those who attend. We believe a little higher expectation should be in place with accountability for leaders but parents and children who attend should also be accountable for their deeds as well, agreeing to support the safeguards and procedures by their actions and expectations so as not to place an undue burden on ministry leaders. This balance can provide an enviroment in which all involved persons can feel the security that is necessary for a dynamic and growing ministry today.

Here are some important elements that should be dealt with effectively to properly protect your staff. These risk areas encompass the top four litigation issues facing ministries today and which the ministry choosing to do effective risk management should provide for their reduction or elimination.

  1. Element deals with the possible litigation presented for the neglect of background screening checks, hiring procedures and other prudent aspects to protect against perpetrators.
  2. The treatment of the accused and the possible violated or victimized persons.
  3. Data privacy and safety which should be kept indefinately, including proper data backups that meet privacy requirements. Only those that need to know should know details.
  4. Quality and accuriate attendance records kept indefinately for all events formal or infromal (even those such as a Christmas practices or other).  For children events the adult to child ratio is critical with one of the adults doing the attendance and others also signing it.
  5. Remove an accused person from their position until the issue has been cleared or resolved.
  6. The prudent adult to child ratios to cover lack of proper adult supervision litigation issues.
  7. It is critical to have proper written procedures in place which all employees and volunteers have read, signed, and dated as read and understood annually. The signed and dated form should be kept indefinitely.
  8. It is important written procedures are explicitly practiced and followed to prevent and reduce possible risk factors as presented in your ministry for both the accused and possible victims.
  9. Proper timely reporting of required events by required persons to legally required enitities.
  10. It is prudent that known, accused, or convicted persons are not allow to be returned to the same position to reduce a possible repeating issue. Forgiveness and restoration is one thing within the ministry but not the culture or legal system. The hostility of the culture and legal system is very unforgiving should a repeating issue for the same person present itself. This could result in punitivge litigation and criminal charges agaist leaders and mounds of growing distruction.
  11. A knowledgeable watchful eye for persons of high accusation potential and its enviromental causes with possible effective diffusing plans.
  12. Effective embezzlement checks and balances require different unrelated persons for doing the differing easpects of handling funds with more then one counting offerings. Audits are a necessary check and balance factor. Outside audits should be done every several years.
  13. Appoint persons and establish procedures for inspecting walkways, handrails, parking lots for cracks and holes, and all flooring for slip and fall issues.
  14. Our suggested general guidelines for background checks, encourages background and criminal checks nationally for all paid staff, including clergy. For volunteers, those that should be screened are those who in the course of their volunteering are inclined to deal with persons one on one; other volunteers are at the ministry's discretion.
  15. Effective privacy statements should specifically state how you deal with people's personal data and your ministry procedures to keep that data secure. Effective privacy statements and their procedures are an often overlooked very critical element of ministries today.  Data should be kept indefinitely for only those that need to know and be protected for its integrity and security. The violations of people's data could develop into a real disaster. 


We believe you should also have a signed release form before checking employee and volunteer backgrounds and criminal records, suggested elements that you should consider including are below; 

Ideally this release should be included with your staff employment application and or volunteer application.

Employee & Volunteer Information To Include In Your Background and Criminal Records Release Form

I hereby give my permission and release from any and all for such to ____________________ for the purpose of obtaining a background and criminal records check as part of my engagement with ____________________________

I hereby give my permission and release from and all for such to ______________________ to ask for a character reference and job performance requested from a former employer and/or church that I was employed with or volunteer with before today.


When sexual misconduct, child abuse, sexual harassment, and embezzlement is not officially charged or accused it will not show in background or criminal record checks. Thus the questions below are suggested to show that the ministry is doing their best to avoid the neglect of prudent procedures and safeguards which can be the cause of unexpected litigation today. We believe the below questions and definitions should be included in your annual review form, employment, and volunteer applications with your other data requested for each employee and regular volunteer.  The verbage used and how these are asked is critical.  Our suggests are below:

Have you done sexual misconduct? Yes___ No ___

Have you been accused of sexual misconduct? Yes___ No___

Have you been convicted of sexual misconduct? Yes___ No___

Have you done sexual harassment? Yes___No___

Have you been accused of sexual harassment? Yes___No___

Have you been convicted of sexual harassment? Yes___No___

Have you done child abuse? Yes___No___

Have you been accused of child abuse? Yes___No___

Have you been convicted of child abuse? Yes___No___

Have you done any embezzlement? Yes___No___

Have you ever been accused or convicted of any embezzlement? Yes___No___

Have you ever had child abuse done to you? Y ___ N____

Have you ever had sexual misconduct done to you? Y____N____

Today it is critical that you define sexual misconduct, child abuse, sexual harassment and embezzlement specifically, and other terms used according to your church theology with quoted scriptural references supporting such in your printed material. If you neglect this, you will leave the definitions to the court, which may not be to your liking.

Since the courts today place volunteers in the same class as employees it is critical that your ministry defines what you believe to be a volunteer so that you do not leave that for the court to define. Your procedures for employees should be the same for regular volunteers.

* Your procedures for dealing with the persented issues that may present themselves should be reviewed by our office to be sure they meet your risk factors and proper possible premium discounts are applied. Please submit a copy of your "safeguards" for review when they are completed. If you need assistance with this, please feel free to contact us. Here are some items that should be included:

Below are other elements that should find a place in your strategies.

Known sexual predicator facts to review as you consider your ministry sexual misconduct safeguards and the possible risks factors of your ministry.

  1. It can include persons of any age, sex, faith, occupation, economical level, or educational level.
  2. It almost always involves a built relationship that has its foundation, the trust violated.
  3. A very high percentage of perpetrators been abused themselves.
  4. Perpetrators are usually loners needing a friend or have insecurities about themselves and look for victims dealing with the same.
  5. Because perpetrators take the time to build relationships for those in need, to often they are given a free pass with no accountability or supervision, usually they also have to much unaccounted for free time.
  6. Perpetrators can be any age, which is often overlooked or proper safeguards prepared for.

Known sexual accuser facts to review as you consider your ministry sexual misconduct safeguards and the possible risks factors of your ministry. There are two main ministry accusers.

  1. Those you may have offended may look for the ultimate revenge. A time when they perceive your safeguards are missing so they can use accusations to get "even".
  2. There are some who feel insecurities within themselves and or feel they are missing a perceived special value they feel they need to cope with life, may use an accusation to fill this need.

ØThe counselor: Special care should be given as mentioned above to those that counsel since they meet with individuals which are usually in great need and often in a venerable stage of life so that they are able to reduce their risk regardless of the age or sex of those being counseled.

Being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong person, doing the wrong thing can yield a painful result and last a life time. It is critical to understand that safeguards are written today as noted. I Thess. 5:22: Abstain from all appearance of evil. (KJV) This is the very best risk management advice for the above issues.

All employees and volunteers should continually ask themselves the following three questions:

  1. Is there anything that I am doing, or the way I am doing it, that is increasing my personal risk or that of the ministry?
  2. Are there changes that should be made to reduce the possible risk to myself, or that of the ministry?
  3. Are there some things that we should not do because they are potentially causing myself or the organization more risk than is necessary or wise, for litigation or safety of all persons and property of the ministry?

Today it is critical that the ministry's risk factor probability and consequences for their possible frequency and severity is balanced with possible financial and procedural prevention resources which fit the resources of the ministry.

Your ministry can bring effective control over the issues of neglect by being proactive and working with developing, preserving, and restoring trust, without ministry compromise and done with excellence.

* Please be reminded that we are not in the business of rendering legal advice, or safety advice, as such, all materials and suggestions should be reviewed with your legal adviser before use.

Revised 03/2012