Given the current circumstances regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, our Ministry and Youth Ministry practices have changed dramatically. Without the ability to meet in-person, online technology has become more important to ministry than ever. Therefore we have drafted a temporary Child Protection Policy for ‘online ministry’. This ensures that our leaders can maintain contact with young people, whilst keeping both parties safe. Below are some guidelines:
Leaders may contact young people via text message to check on their well-being, communicate new information, and encourage discipleship. However, caution must be taken.
- Be reasonable in the frequency of contact
- Be willing to show the child protection officer any correspondence with a young person if asked
- Be cleared by Access NI (if you are unsure contact the DoYM)
Leaders should Not:
- Text an under 18’s between the hours of 9pm and 7am
- have prolonged and unnecessary conversations with an under 18<
- Not send any inappropriate or explicit material
- Share an under 18’s contact information without consent
Online Video Conferencing
Online video conferencing (FaceTime, Skype, Zoom etc) is an excellent tool for maintaining community online when meeting in person is not possible. However, there are important steps that leaders must take in order to keep themselves and young people safe.
- Let the Director of Youth Ministries know if you plan to use video conferencing with an under 18.
- Record who was involved in a video conference and when it took place.
- Seek the permission of a parent/guardian (via email). This email should be forwarded to email@example.com
- Have more than one leader in the conversation (except when given specific consent by a parent or guardian to use the ‘Walk With Me’ mentoring programme 1-on-1).
- Be cleared by Access NI
- Video chat with an under 18 between the hours of 9pm and 10am.
- Engage in inappropriate language or behaviour with an under 18.
- Record or take images of the call without parental consent.
As a new way of connecting and having fun with our young people, we hope to create an online gaming club where leaders and young people can play online video games together. They may also have group audio chats, which we believe will encourage community.
- Have the under 18’s parent/guardian email written consent to firstname.lastname@example.org before they are added as a contact by a leader or accepted into a group with a leader.
- Have more than one leader in a chat/game
- Follow the age restrictions for a game (Under 16’s should not be allowed into a group that is playing a game for over 16’s)
- Block or remove any person behaving inappropriately or using offensive language.
- Be inclusive in the games that are chosen and the groups that are created
- Be cleared by Access NI
- Take part in online gaming between the hours of 9pm and 10am. Instead online gaming should happen at designated hours (YL Gaming Club).
- Use any inappropriate or offensive language
During this period of lockdown, you may use (most) social media platforms to stay in contact with young people and encourage discipleship. However in order to protect themselves and young people.
- Ensure their online profiles contain no inappropriate material and set a good example of how to live as a Christian online.
- Be cleared by Access NI before accepting or sending friend requests
- Should also be aware of the age restrictions on specific apps
- Share, like or comment on inappropriate material that may appear on under 18’s newsfeeds
- Message under 18’s privately without the consent of parents/guardians.
- Communicate with under 18’s between the hours of 9pm and 7am.
- Send or encourage inappropriate behaviour/content/language
- Contact under 18’s through Snapchat or other private communication platforms where no record of conversation is kept.
Young people who find it difficult to meet and talk in person can often feel much more comfortable communicating behind the ‘safety’ of a screen. With this in mind, leaders must be aware of the steps that must be taken in the event of a disclosure being made. The process for disclosures has not changed.
What to do and what not to do if a child discloses to you:
- stay calm
- give time for the child to say what they want
- reassure them that they have done the right thing in telling
- Write down what was said to you or what you observed as soon as possible
- Write down the exact words that the child used
- ensure that the designated person is informed without delay
- in the event of a serious concern do not hesitate to contact the Taking Care office and appropriate advice will be given
- do not panic
- do not make a child repeat the story unnecessarily
- do not promise to keep secrets
- do not investigate
- under no circumstances should you attempt to deal with the problem alone
If you have any concerns, disclosures or questions about any of the above please contact:
Child Protection Officer
Phone: 07896 351421
Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries
Andrew Kelly (AK)
Phone: 07969 095697 E-mail: email@example.com
Phone: 02890448267 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
As an over-arching principle, leaders should always relate to under 18’s in a transparent way, making parents/guardians aware of all forms of communication. Leaders should always remember that they relate to young people as ‘leaders’ and not ‘friends’, with the main priority being the safety, wellbeing and discipleship of young people. This means that leaders are expected to show grace and love, while also observing the appropriate boundaries as outlined above.
This policy will be reviewed and altered when the normal church programmes resume. This temporary policy is to accommodate for the extra-ordinary situation we find ourselves in.