But it has not just been on social media. Websites like Etsy, GoDaddy, and WordPress have also been providing the same updates. Thanks to Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), which has been described as a massive overhaul of online privacy.
What about the church?
Since the 1996 General Conference in the United Methodist Church, local churches have been encouraged to develop and follow a Child Protection Policy (CPP). This ensures that practices are in place to protect children and teens, volunteers, staff, and the church.
Here are six ways to let members and visitors know that your Policy is up-to-date.
#1. Follow It
There is nothing worse than having a policy that you do not follow. Review your policy. If there are areas that are underdeveloped or not being followed, ask about it. Is it an old practice that no longer needs to be included? Or has there been a drop in accountability? Are parts of the policy underwritten? Review what the policy says about discipline and training of volunteers.
Whatever you discover, what needs to happen to update it?
If your church does not have a CPP, a good resource is Joy T. Melton’s Safe Sanctuaries: Reducing the Risk of Child Abuse in the Church.
#2. Review the Screening Process
An important part of your volunteer recruitment is a screening process of anyone who works with children and youth. In the Virginia Conference, churches have access to ScreenOne, an online screening process. An interview or a trial period of volunteering could be included in the process. Another element of screening could be asking for and calling references.
#3. Schedule Training
If a CPP training is not already scheduled, begin planning for one sometime in the coming year. And get it on the calendar. Also, communicate it to the congregation.
For most CPP’s an annual training is required for those who work with children and youth. Go the extra mile and encourage the congregation to attend.
The training can be a refresher on the CPP and give updates on any changes. As well as include a reminder of the plan for responding to child abuse. Due to the rapid changes of warning sides of child abuse, consider partnering with community resources. Someone from Child Protective Services, the police department, or the local school district could give valuable information.
#4. Remind Parents
Remind parents of your CPP and your social media policies in your weekly email newsletter. Most of all that there is no posting of photos without written permission. And give parents the opportunity to change their permission.
This is also a great time to remind them about the screening process and that if incidents of child abuse occur, there is a plan.
#5. Post on the Website
Parents will Google a church before visiting. When doing so, seeing the CPP posted on your church’s website will communicate the church’s wish to protect children and youth. Furthermore, communicate through various print and online tools that the policy can be assessed on the website.
#6. Celebrate It
In conclusion, lift the CPP up in worship to celebrate what your church is doing to protect children and teens. By doing so, you are letting your congregation and community know that this is a priority.
Child abuse happens every day, including Sundays. More than 85% of abusers are known by the child abused. And too often, the church is vulnerable. A Child Protection Policy reduces the risk of abuse. This is especially important when there is, what some are calling, an epidemic of denial when it comes to child abuse.
So, celebrate the work you are doing. And keep going!