This is an overview of the Creating a Healthy Environment materials, written by the Rev. Michelle Meech.
Because it is helpful to review diocesan policy on occasion to remind us of our responsibilities to one another in living out the ministry here in Michigan, I would like to take this time to call to your attention the diocesan policy “Creating a Healthy Environment.”
On page 2 of the Sexual Conduct Policy, I’d like to highlight the bottom of the page, which states that it is the responsibility of each congregation, prior to March 1 of each year, to “review sexual conduct policy and evaluate its implementation within the congregation, recording in its permanent records a summary of the evaluation, and require church personnel, who regularly supervise youth activities, who have not previously done so, to receive a copy of the adopted policy and sign a form acknowledging its receipt.”
This policy is in place to assure two things: 1) all people who need to are regularly reviewing the guidelines, and 2) congregational policies are up to date, reflecting canonical changes. I hope that, with regular internal review, each congregation continues to increase the mindfulness of its members on the importance of this policy in order to safeguard all of our people.
Also, pages 7-8 of this document give training expectations for church personnel. Please note that anyone who is new to their responsibilities in ministry with adults or in working with children or youth has a 6 month window to make the time to attend a Safeguarding training. I cannot stress how important it is for your ministers in new roles to receive the proper support for what they have been called to do. A list of currently scheduled Safeguarding trainings is included with this letter.
For those who have already been actively involved in these ministries, you’ll note there are, essentially, three categories of training:
1. Church Personnel Who Regularly Work With or Around Children or Youth. These people must take the 3-hour diocesan sponsored program every 5 years.
2. Church Personnel Who Occasionally Work With or Around Children or Youth. These people may take the online version of the training to renew their familiarity with the information.
3. Church Personnel who are responsible for screening, selection, and supervision of others in programs for children and youth. These people must attend a special version of Safeguarding God’s People training that addresses compliance issues regarding employees and volunteers.
The specifics between categories 1 and 2 are defined on pages 13-15 of the document. But generally speaking, if someone only works with children or youth 2-3 times a year, they fall into the “occasionally” category. But please review the pages to be certain because each situation is unique. And as it states on page 8, “any alternative forms of training to be accepted in place of the Diocesan educational programs are to be reviewed by the Bishop’s office.”
I realize that it can sometimes seem as if we are too demanding of our ministers to take these trainings on a regular basis, especially when it can be hard to find people who will give so generously of their time and talent to begin with. But these trainings are designed to provide support for our ministers by calling their attention to good practices that will protect the entire Body of Christ. It is when we cease to be attentive that we forget our responsibilities to one another and to God.
If you need to know whether your ministers are due for a refresher training, please contact Jennifer Michalak at firstname.lastname@example.org.