Procedure Guidelines for Sunday School Personnel
Apostolic Faith Church
Because we love children and want to do all we can to ensure their safety and well-being, the Apostolic Faith organization has put in place the following guidelines for Sunday school personnel. All Sunday school workers, including department heads, teachers, and support staff, must be familiar with these procedures and agree to follow them.
Sunday school department leaders work under the direction of the Sunday school superintendent and/or pastor. Department leaders are responsible for the weekly operation of the Sunday school department, including the supervision of children, teachers, and support staff; program planning and implementation; and communication and parent relations.
Department leaders should discuss staffing needs and proposed changes regarding staff with the Sunday school superintendent.
All Apostolic Faith Sunday school teachers must be born-again Christians, have a clear understanding of Bible doctrines, and be living godly lives in accordance with Biblical teachings. They should be carefully selected based on their spiritual qualifications, experience, education, talents, and interpersonal skills.
We require Sunday school teachers to have been in regular attendance at our church for at least one year, and be at least sixteen years of age.
Prior to teaching, prospective teachers will be expected to:
• Read the Apostolic Faith Church Volunteer Handbook.
• Take the online child safety training recommended by the church insurance company. (Information on how to access this training is available at www.apostolicfaith.org/library/safety.) Print documentation which indicates successful completion of the training, and provide a copy to the pastor.
• Be thoroughly familiar with the contents of this document.
• Watch the video regarding how to give CPR posted online by the American Heart Association. This can be accessed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9T25SMyz3A
• Submit a Worker Application form (or a Youth Worker Application for those under the age of eighteen) upon completion of the above requirements. The Worker Application includes three personal references. Applicants are asked to disclose any matter which may affect their suitability to work with children and youth. Authorization to do a background check is included as part of this form. (The information obtained through this process will be kept confidential.)
These requirements must be completed and recorded in the church office before an applicant begins teaching in the Apostolic Faith Sunday school. Application and certification records will be kept on file for insurance purposes.
In addition, we recommend that all Sunday school personnel read the document “What You Can Do About Child Abuse,” published by the Oregon Department of Human Services, publication #DHS 9061. It is available at https://apps.state.or.us/Forms/Served/de9061.pdf.
Those who work in Apostolic Faith Sunday schools must also be prepared to fulfill on an ongoing basis any additional training or recertification requirements established by the organization.
Anyone who has ever been convicted of child abuse will not be allowed to work with children. Other criminal offenses may also disqualify an individual from serving as part of the Sunday school staff.
Expectations of Sunday School Personnel
Those who have a role in Apostolic Faith Sunday schools are expected to:
• Participate regularly in both corporate and personal worship and Bible study.
• Support the work of the church through prayer and faithful service, and adhere to the policies of the Apostolic Faith organization.
• Plan regularly with other staff members in the department, attending round table sessions and other training events whenever possible.
• Cooperate with the department leader and other teachers concerning room arrangement and storage/use of materials.
• Prepare the class area and have materials ready to teach before the first child arrives. Be in the department at least ten minutes before the session begins.
• When absence is unavoidable, notify the department leader as far in advance as possible.
• Leave the class area tidy at the end of the session.
Apostolic Faith Sunday schools use the curriculum published at the Portland headquarters. The schedule of lessons is determined annually, and materials are provided in advance of each quarter. Modifications to the provided schedule must be authorized by the Sunday school superintendent.
It is acceptable for teachers to incorporate visuals, object lessons, and supplementary props produced by other organizations into their class presentation, as long as the supplementary materials do not conflict with the Biblical doctrines and teachings upheld by this organization.
All curriculum materials are based on the King James Version of the Bible.
In the Apostolic Faith organization, the Sunday school year is from September through August. On the first Sunday after Labor Day, preschoolers and elementary-age children promote to the next age level. High school students are grouped by year or combined with other grade level(s), based upon the number of students enrolled in any given year. College and adult classes do not have a specific promotion date; students are allowed to move between appropriate classes based on where they feel most comfortable.
Sunday school department leaders work with the Sunday school superintendent to determine class size and composition, designate class assignments for teachers, and provide information regarding promoting students to the other department leaders.
A Sunday School Registration form must be filled in for every regular student in the Sunday school. This form includes transportation permission and a parent/guardian release of liability. Registration forms must be updated annually in order to ensure that changes regarding custodial parent/guardian and emergency contact numbers are kept current.
Complete and accurate attendance records must be kept of all children who attend each Sunday school session or Sunday school sponsored activity. Teachers should comply with the method of taking attendance established in each department. Sunday school department leaders or appointed staff members must also maintain a record of which teachers were present on any given Sunday.
Visitors who show up to ride on the van to Sunday school should be:
• Noted on the van log.
• Recorded on the Sunday school role as having visited on that Sunday.
• Given enrollment information if the child wants to become a regular attendee.
Sunday school teachers who take their classes on outings are expected to obtain a copy of the Procedure Guidelines for Youth Retreats/Outings/Overnight Excursions (available on the safety page of the church website), and follow those policies, including having each child fill out a Youth Activity Permission Form, and keeping a record of both attendees and supervising adults.
Dealing with Allergies
Some children have allergic conditions that could put them at risk in the Sunday school environment. The Sunday School Registration form provides a place for the parent/guardian to make the Sunday school staff aware of this.
A list of children with allergies should be posted in the Sunday school office, and teachers notified if a child in their class has allergic conditions. An asterisk by the child’s name on the class list can be used to identify children with allergies for the benefit of substitute teachers. It is the teacher’s responsibility to make sure that no child is offered a snack or treat that could cause an allergic reaction. A supply of allergy-appropriate snack options may be kept in the office for use by substitute teachers.
If a child has severe allergies, discuss with the parent/guardian an appropriate emergency action plan, as some allergic reactions can be life-threatening.
Check In/Check Out Procedures
Sunday school departments should be open to receive children fifteen minutes prior to the announced time for Sunday school to begin.
Children under school age must be checked in and out of their Sunday school department. Teachers should release children only to a parent/guardian, or a third party approved by the parent/guardian. A staff member should monitor doorways during each scheduled Sunday school session or activity involving preschool-age children. No child should be allowed to leave the area without an escort.
Children are not to be taken out of the designated department area or immediate vicinity, except in the case of a pre-scheduled event or activity in another location or an emergency evacuation of the building.
Supplies and Equipment
Supplies and/or equipment should not be removed from the Sunday school areas without permission from the department leader or other authorized supervisor.
Teachers should make sure that any toys or equipment used in the classes are disinfected on a regular basis.
Child and Youth Safety Policies
Parents have an open invitation to visit and observe all Apostolic Faith Sunday school programs and other activities in which their child is involved. However, parents who desire to be present on a regular basis must follow our behavioral guidelines.
When a church-sponsored event takes place away from the church premises, all safety policies and guidelines regarding children and youth must be followed.
• Any church-sponsored activity involving minors must be staffed with an adequate number of qualified adults. At least two adult volunteers or employees must be present at all church activities involving children and youth. This includes, but is not limited to making sure an appropriate worker-to-child ratio is maintained. Following are minimum recommendations:
o Two- and three-year-olds: two workers per twelve children
o Four- and five-year-olds: two workers per eighteen children
o Six-year-olds and older: two workers per twenty children
• Higher risk activities require more supervision. While a 2-20 worker-to-student ratio would be acceptable at a backyard barbecue, a weekend camping trip might require a 1-4 ratio.
• All church staff and volunteers must follow the “two adult rule.” This means that no individual child is to be alone with one adult behind closed doors or in a secluded location. All interaction between staff and minors must be observable and interruptible. One adult is allowed to supervise a group of children (similar to the public school setting).
• All church-sponsored activities for children and youth must be conducted in rooms with window-view doors. If the door does not have a viewable window, the door should be left open. Window blinds should be left open except when an educational activity necessitates a dark room (for example, when showing a video.)
• Any two children in an unseen or less-easily-viewed area must be redirected to another more open area.
• Children under school age are not to be left unattended.
• Youth assistants must always work in conjunction with an adult, and must be at least three years older than the children they work with.
All communication between church workers and minors must be appropriate, discreet, and positive. Children should never be addressed in a manner that could be construed as harsh, unreasonable, shaming, or derogatory in any way. No swearing or abusive language is tolerated.
Staff members and volunteers are prohibited from engaging in any private, sexually-oriented conversations with children, and are not permitted to discuss any sexually-explicit information about their own personal relationships, dating, or marriages with any child or youth.
The section of the Apostolic Faith Volunteer Handbook titled “Internet Safety” provides guidelines concerning electronic communication.
Guidance and Discipline Policy
All staff and volunteers who work with children in Apostolic Faith Church programs are expected to follow established procedures for dealing with behavioral concerns, and to treat every child with dignity and respect.
• Staff and volunteers must be thoroughly familiar with appropriate disciplinary techniques as outlined in the Procedure Guidelines for all ministries involving children and youth.
• Disciplinary action is to be carried out only by adult staff members.
• No one may spank, hit, or use any type of physical discipline with children.
• Clear directions and guidance should be given at the child’s level of understanding.
• Verbal directives should always be positive and uplifting.
Discipline should be limited to corrective steps designed to retain the child’s self-worth while correcting inappropriate behavior.
When a child misbehaves, time-outs and other non-physical methods of behavior management are to be used for redirection. In employing a time-out, staff members should observe the following guidelines:
• Verbally redirect the child before physically intervening. With younger children, additional intervention may be necessary (for example, removing a toy from the hands of a child who is hitting another child with it.)
• If the misbehavior continues, or if the conduct endangers the child or others, move the child away from the group to another area of the room while taking care to avoid being alone with the child.
• Provide the child with a simple, understandable reason for the time-out, along with a clear explanation of your expectations. Be verbally reassuring, as being removed from the situation may upset the child. Do not physically hold the child in time-out.
• Provide the child with a chair, pillow, blanket, or carpet square to sit on until the time-out is complete.
• Follow the rule of thumb that a time-out is ineffective if it lasts longer than one minute for every year of a child’s life (for example, three minutes for a three-year-old).
• Monitor the child during the time-out without giving him/her your undivided attention. Offer intermittent praise to reassure the child.
• Praise the child once he/she has completed the time-out and tell them the reward is being able to rejoin the group. Remind him/her that repeating the initial behavior will result in an additional time-out.
Staff members should discuss with their ministry supervisors any child who exhibits uncontrollable or unusual behavior. If chronic behavior concerns develop, the following actions may be implemented:
• Document and communicate incidents to the parent/guardian.
• Introduce specific behavior plans or incentives for the child.
• Restrict attendance at church-sponsored activities, either temporarily or permanently based on the specific issues.
The following actions on the part of children in our care are not allowed, and could result in dismissal from church-sponsored activities and programs, though the pastor and ministry supervisor will work with the parent/guardian to determine the outcome that is best for the child and the program.
• Endangering the health and safety of children and/or staff.
• Stealing or damaging church property.
• Leaving the department or activity boundaries set by the staff without permission.
• Continual interruption of the program.
• Ongoing refusal to follow the behavior guidelines or instructions of the staff.
• Continued use of profanity, vulgarity, or obscenity after being warned by the staff.
• Physical violence.
• Possession of tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs.
• Possession of explosives of any kind (including firecrackers), firearms, or other weapons.
• Acting in a lewd manner or exhibiting sexual behavior.
Physical Contact Policy
The Apostolic Faith organization has a physical contact policy which promotes positive, nurturing relationships with the young people in our care while offering protection as well. The following guidelines must be followed by anyone serving in church-sponsored activities for children and youth.
• Common expressions of affirmation (an arm around shoulder, light hugs, a pat on the back), support (carrying, or guiding a small child by the hand), and comfort in distress are generally suitable in the church setting. However, these must be offered with discretion, maintaining awareness that what is appropriate for a toddler or early school-aged child would be inappropriate for a pre-adolescent or older youth.
• Any touch that could be viewed as inappropriate must be strictly avoided. Contact should be restricted to non-intimate, neutral, or “safe” zones, such as the upper arm or across the shoulders. Physical interaction with children and youth should never give an appearance of wrongdoing.
• Physical contact must occur only in observable locations and in full view of others.
• Physical contact should be for the benefit of the child, and never be based upon the emotional needs of a staff member or volunteer.
• A child’s expressed preference regarding physical contact must always be respected.
• Staff members and volunteers are responsible for protecting children under their supervision from inappropriate or unwanted touch by others, including peer-on-peer.
Restroom Assistance Policy
We recommend that children who participate in our early childhood programs be self-sufficient in toileting. However, there may be times when assistance is required. In such a case, the parent/guardian should be summoned to take care of their child’s needs if possible. If a parent/guardian is not present, the following procedure must be followed.
• Only female staff members or volunteers are permitted to diaper children of either gender.
• Children should be diapered at changing stations only.
• A child must never be left unattended on changing tables.
• Diapering should be done in plain sight of other staff or volunteers.
• Any special instructions given by parents who leave children in the nursery, Sunday school, or other church program must be recorded in writing.
• Children should be re-clothed immediately upon completion of the diaper change.
• Only female staff members are permitted to take children to the restroom.
• Staff members will never take one child to the restroom alone. One adult may take two children at a time to the restroom, but only one child should be sent into a stall at a time.
• When children are taken into a restroom, the exterior restroom door should be left partially open.
• Young children are never left unsupervised in restrooms.
• Children will receive the minimum amount of assistance needed, based upon their individual capabilities.
• If necessary, children may be assisted in straightening clothing before returning to the activity area.
• Staff members will never take one child to the restroom alone. One adult may take two children at a time to the restroom, but only one child should be sent in at a time.
• If there is a need to check on an individual child, two staff members should go together. If a second worker is not available, the staff member should go to the exterior bathroom door, knock, and ask if the child needs assistance. If the child requires assistance, the worker should leave the exterior bathroom door open when entering the bathroom area, and try to verbally assist the child in completing their activities, while the child remains behind the door of the bathroom stall.
Children with special needs:
When children with special needs are enrolled in Sunday school, the department leader should discuss with the parent/guardian how toileting needs are to be handled. Any special instructions or authorizations should be noted in writing and kept with the Sunday school enrollment information.
Abuse Prevention and Reporting Policies
The Apostolic Faith organization is committed to providing a safe, secure environment for children and their families, so we make every effort to safeguard the children who have been entrusted to our care. We have zero tolerance for abuse in church programs and activities. It is the responsibility of every staff member and volunteer in the Apostolic Faith work to act in the best interest of all children in every program.
While suspicions or knowledge of abuse are extremely difficult situations, we do not have discretion in this matter: we are legally obligated to immediately fulfill our responsibilities in accordance with state requirements. According to Oregon law (the state in which this organization is registered as a corporation), mandatory reporters include ministers and school teachers, along with law enforcement personnel and medical professionals. (Oregon Statutes: ORS 419B.005, ORS 12.117) For that reason, staff members or volunteers who observe any policy violations or suspected abuse, or receive an allegation of abuse, must immediately report the matter to their ministry supervisor or the pastor.
Definition of Abuse
In general, the term “child abuse” refers to any injury to a minor not caused by accident, which results in observable and substantial impairment of a child’s ability to function, including any injury which appears to be at variance with the explanation given of the injury. This includes sexual abuse or exploitation, negligence, maltreatment, or threatened harm to a child.
Staff members and volunteers should have a basic understanding of the characteristics of sexual predators and their behaviors in “grooming” a child for sexual abuse. Grooming is the process used by an abuser to select a child, win the child’s trust (and the trust of the child’s parent or “gatekeeper”), manipulate the child into sexual activity, and keep the child from disclosing the abuse.
The Apostolic Faith maintains a legally-approved risk management policy regarding children and youth. The following procedures are strictly enforced:
• All church employees and volunteers who work with children and youth are screened, selected, trained, and certified according to the guidelines recommended by legal and insurance advisors.
• Any individual who has been convicted of child abuse is prohibited from working with children in the Apostolic Faith Church. Allegations of abuse or other criminal offenses may also disqualify an individual.
• Church employees and volunteers who work with children and youth are required to adhere to the procedures and guidelines established by the Apostolic Faith Church.
The Apostolic Faith reserves the right to immediately dismiss any volunteer or employee who is accused of violating the procedures and guidelines established by the organization.
Failure to report a prohibited act to the designated person is a violation of this policy and grounds for termination of employment of an employee of the church. Volunteers who fail to report a prohibited act may be restricted from participation in any church activities involving children or youth.
What to Report
Reasonable grounds to report suspected abuse exist if:
• A child says that he/she has been abused. This is known as “disclosure.”
• A responsible individual states that a child is being abused.
• There is basis for concern based upon physical, emotional, or other indicators of possible abuse.
Steps in Reporting
If a child or young person discloses that he/she is being abused, or his/her actions suggest that abuse is occurring, staff and volunteers are instructed to take the following steps:
• If the alleged incident occurred on site, make sure that the child is not in immediate danger. If the suspected abuser is present, separate the child and other children from that individual.
• Listen carefully.
• Reassure the child that he/she took the right step in telling.
• Tell the child that people who can help will be notified.
• Write down exactly what was said, noting the time, place, and context in which the disclosure was made.
• Immediately report the alleged abuse to the department or activity supervisor, who will report the allegation in writing to the pastor.
• Make it apparent to the child that you are shocked.
• Ask specific questions, as these could influence the clarity of the child’s memory.
• Promise that the abuse will stop.
• Conduct any personal investigation.
• Share information with those outside the proper reporting channels.
Organizational Response to Allegations of Abuse
When the pastor receives credible information suggesting that abuse has occurred, he will immediately contact Children’s Services Division or the appropriate law enforcement agency in the state. He will also inform the Superintendent General of the allegation. The church will coordinate its internal investigation with the governmental entity involved.
A designated church representative will interact with legal counsel and insurance representatives, and will respond as directed to questions from the media concerning allegations of abuse or neglect. Other staff members should refrain from comment. During the investigation the alleged abuser will not participate in any church activities involving minors.
If the internal or external investigation results in credible evidence supporting the allegations, the pastor will impose appropriate disciplinary restrictions, which may range from dismissal from duty to barring from church attendance.
It is vital for all Sunday school personnel to be completely familiar with the Emergency Procedures section of the Volunteer Handbook, and be prepared to implement the proper response in the event of an emergency situation. They will be responsible for the safety of children entrusted to their care.
Accident or Medical Emergency
If a serious accident occurs to a child in the Sunday school department, or a medical emergency occurs, the teacher should notify the Sunday school department leader or superintendent. That individual will decide whether a CER or professional emergency help should be summoned.
The person who takes charge of the emergency should:
• Conduct a preliminary assessment of the injury or nature of the emergency situation.
• Call 911 if professional medical attention is needed. Be prepared to give information concerning location, number of people involved, and the nature of the injury.
• Provide basic first aid or other intervention measures as necessary until emergency responders arrive on scene.
• Instruct someone to contact the parent/guardian.
• Delegate someone to be in the parking lot to direct emergency vehicles and personnel coming to the scene.
In an accident situation, Sunday school personnel should not accept liability or make any commitment to pay expenses. When the injured child has been appropriately cared for, the person who handled the situation should fill out an Accident/Incident Report form. He/she should also inform the pastor where and how the accident took place, and maintenance personnel if the accident was caused by a building or property defect.
A variety of situations could necessitate a building evacuation, but the most common type of emergency requiring evacuation is fire. A building evacuation is mandatory whenever a fire alarm sounds, and building occupants should leave the premises as quickly as possible. If the fire alarm sounds, Sunday school staff members should evacuate all children using the designated evacuation routes, which will be posted by the doors to the department.
• Monitor the doorways, reminding teachers of the closest evacuation route and designated safety zones.
• Remind teachers to take a head count of the children who are exiting with them, and to count again when they reach the safe zone.
• Teachers exiting from upper floors should make sure no one uses the elevators; stairwells should be used for descent. If smoke or heat is encountered in a stairwell, they should go to another stairwell and continue evacuation to ground level.
• Remind teachers that if smoke is encountered, children should be instructed to bend over and take short breaths through their noses.
• Teachers should feel doors before opening. If the door is hot, they should use another exit. If the door is cool, they should open it slowly, keeping behind the door in case it must be closed quickly to protect from inrushing smoke or fire.
• When the last class is gone from the Sunday school area, the department leader should check to make sure the area is empty and close the doors when he/she leaves.
• If conditions permit, check nearby restroom facilities to make sure no young person is there.
• Exit the building and join others in the pre-designated safety zones of the parking lot.
• Check with teachers to make sure all their students are accounted for. If a child is missing, notify the CER or other authorized safety personnel.
• Make sure that individuals who have vacated the building do not gather near building exits, driveways, or roadways, as this could hinder the emergency response crews.
• Wait for further instructions. Do not allow anyone to return to the building until the “all clear” signal is given by authorized safety officials.
At times, churches can be targets for demonstrations or disruptive actions. If demonstrators come onto church property for the purpose of intimidating, harassing, or threatening occupants or disrupting proceedings, CERs and ushers may need to assist in dealing with the situation. Sunday school teachers should be prepared to:
• If a church service is in progress, notify the pastor or minister in charge.
• Call 911 or the police if the situation is threatening in any way. Law enforcement agencies are trained in strategies to defuse volatile situations, including protests, demonstrations, and riots.
• Do not interact personally with the demonstrators unless approached by them.
• Encourage children, youth, and others in the vicinity to remain calm and avoid confrontation.
• Secure the immediate area by locking exterior doors. If time permits, lock desks, file drawers, and storage areas as well.
• If the demonstrators are aggressive or threatening in any way, move the children away from doors and windows.
• If the demonstrators attempt to enter the building, do not try to physically halt their entry.
• If the situation is tense in any way, do not allow children to leave the area until law enforcement personnel are on the scene and able to ensure the safety of those exiting.
If the church is in a designated earthquake zone, particular care should be taken to ensure that Sunday school staff members know what to do in event of a quake.
If an earthquake occurs during Sunday school, teachers should be prepared to instruct the children in taking the following steps:
• Take shelter under cover, such as a pew, desk, or table. In the sanctuary, individuals who cannot get under a pew should kneel between them.
• If it is not possible to shelter under furniture, kneel next to an interior permanent wall away from windows, overhead light fixtures, and tall pieces of furniture.
• Bend your head close to your knees. Protect your head and neck with your arms and hands.
• Stay in place. Do not run outside or use stairways or elevators.
• Stay under cover for at least two to three minutes after the shaking stops, as there may be aftershocks.
• Be aware that the fire alarm or sprinkler system may activate.
Once the quake has subsided, staff members should calm the children and treat injured people in the vicinity as their level of expertise permits, remembering that anyone with a serious injury should not be moved unless there is immediate danger. Keep the children in the area until a parent/guardian arrives for them.
If a violent intruder enters the building and a lockdown is instituted, Sunday school personnel should take the following steps:
• Immediately secure the area by locking all entry doors, and move the children away from windows.
• If possible, move the children into securable areas such as an office or interior classrooms. Put as many barriers between the children and the intruder as possible.
• Have the children occupy separate locations as much as possible to make it more difficult for a violent intruder to cause multiple injuries.
• Call 911 or other appropriate emergency numbers.
• If time permits, close blinds or curtains and turn off lights and audio equipment.
• Encourage the children to remain quiet.
• Prepare to defend the children by arming yourself and other adults with heavy objects.
• Do not sound the fire alarm or initiate a building evacuation, as this could place others in the vicinity of the intruder as they attempt to exit.
• Do not leave the secured area until notified that it is safe to do so by the police or authorized security personnel.
Minor Injuries or Illness
First aid supplies should be available in the Sunday school departments for minor accidents. Use only ice, cold water compresses, and bandages as children may have allergies to Neosporin or other ointments. The parent/guardian of the injured child should be told of the incident when they come for their child after the service.
If a child becomes ill while in Sunday school, a staff member should remove the sick child from proximity to other children, while keeping him/her within sight and hearing distance of an adult. One staff member should notify the parent/guardian.
If a child is missing from the church premises while Sunday school is in progress, the Sunday school department leader should be notified. He/she will notify the head usher or CER. That individual will:
• Contact ushers and other staff members as needed to assist with a search of the church premises.
• Notify the parent/guardian of the child of the situation and the action being taken.
• Determine if and when 911 help should be summoned. If the situation is a suspected kidnapping, contact law enforcement officials immediately.
• When the child is found, notify searchers and the parent/guardian that the situation has been resolved.
The above article, “Procedure Guidelines for Sunday School Personnel” was written by Apostolic Faith Church. The article was excerpted from studylib.net.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.