Safe Church Policy

Approved at Foothills Mennonite Church Membership Meeting, February 2010

Preamble: Why a Safe Church Policy?

The church community is rightfully a place where relationships among its members reflect the love of God for creation and those created. However, the Church community must also come to terms with the reality of human imperfection, sinfulness and the vulnerability of members to wrongful intentions. Our humanity dictates that throughout the cycle of our lives, we will be, at times, in positions of trust, authority and power but also vulnerability, dependency, and frailty. Through these stages, we are all bound by an Anabaptist Christian discipleship to bear each other’s burdens. This precludes unhealthy relationships, programs, policies and environments that lead to any members of the community being injured physically or psychologically. It requires vigilance on the part of the membership to ensure that the most vulnerable in the community are protected. It requires wisdom and discernment to avoid inappropriate persons being placed in positions of trust. It requires common sense to separate minor issues from serious breaches of trust.

Because FMC Safe Church Policy is intended to promote the spiritual, emotional and physical harmony and health of our faith community, the following general principles are acknowledged and held by the members:

All members of Foothills Mennonite Church are required to participate in maintaining the physical structure and church property as a place safe for children and vulnerable adults. We commit to make our facility hazard free for them. Facility maintenance and upgrading takes into account the needs of the disabled in our community. Members who have identified real or potential physical hazards shall make them known to the Board of Trustees.

Members are expected to model a lifestyle consistent with peaceful relationships with others. This is how children and young people learn what right relationships are about.

Parents are responsible for the supervision of their children. Where they delegate this supervision to other adults for church sponsored activities, they must have the confidence that their children are safe. Children placed in parent-surrogate care will not be abused, neglected or harassed. Corporal punishment is not permissible and as such is defined and addressed by provincial statutes.

Parents will assist youth leaders, teachers, by making them aware of their children’s medical conditions and special needs. Program sponsors and volunteers should have the confidence that the delegation of the parental role has been addressed for the period of time children and youth are in their care.

Adult members (or their caregivers) with medical conditions and/or special needs should notify the Board of Trustees of these and what measures would assist them in participating in the life of the church.

Persons being considered for positions of trust/authority in the church community will undergo a process of discernment and screening in keeping with the level of trust/authority involved. This may include giving permission for confidential inquiries. The period of assessment may require limiting participation until the process is complete and satisfactory. Any requirements specified by the constitution of Foothills Mennonite Church for a position will also apply. 

All pastors, counselors, and leaders in the congregation are to employ the utmost discretion and sensitivity in one to one encounters. Early referral for problems beyond the scope of a church leader’s professional skills is encouraged.

Actions inconsistent with a safe church community will be addressed promptly and in a fashion consistent with the seriousness of the incident.


The members and attendees of Foothills Mennonite Church will be individually responsible to be aware of and to respect the intent of Foothills Mennonite Church to be a safe church. The Board of Trustees will, within their respective areas of responsibility, implement this intention.

Definitions of terms used in this document:

  • Children/Youth: individuals under the age of 18.
  • Abuse: to use wrongly, to maltreat, to injure. It is the misuse of power by a person in a position of trust. Abuse may be physical, emotional, or sexual. It includes relations between adults, family members, and spouses.
  • Physical abuse is deliberate force that injures, or could injure an individual. It includes punching, slapping, beating, shaking another person or having careless disregard for the safety of others.
  • Emotional abuse is behavior that deliberately seeks to erode another’s self-esteem or emotional development. It includes constant criticism, yelling, teasing, belittling, insulting, rejecting or isolating an individual.
  • Sexual abuse: It is a violation of provincial and federal statutes to sexually exploit a child or interfere with them for sexual purposes. For adults, it is non-consensual sexual activity.
  • Spiritual abuse: Spiritual abuse is the exploitation of another’s unique search for relationship with God through deliberate tactics such as fear, inappropriate exercise of authority, disregard for the emotional or intellectual capacity of the individual or manipulation of the vulnerability of the individual’s situation.
  • Child neglect is the failure to ensure that a child’s basic needs and safety are met.
  • Harassment: subtle and repeated actions that make another feel unsafe, attacked, belittled intimidated or manipulated.

Discernment Process for Positions of Authority/Trust:

Where appropriate, the Board of Trustees of Foothills Mennonite Church will ascertain the suitability of an applicant/volunteer for the intended activity/supervisory/leadership role. It may be necessary to limit the applicant’s participation until such time as the process is completed and satisfactory. All or some of the following may apply:

For persons working or volunteering with children, they must be familiar with the contents of this Safe Church policy.

For new, regular attendees, it is preferred that they grow into the congregation and feel comfortable in the faith community before they assume responsibilities. An interview with the pastoral team and representatives of the Board will be conducted to determine potential areas best suited for their gifts.

Two character references provided (non-family members), preferred from previous pastors/church affiliations.

Where appropriate, permission for a background check or Criminal Background Searches will be sought. Confidence in an applicant/volunteer’s suitability may also be taken from longstanding acquaintance and active participation in the church.

Delegation of Parental Role:

Parents will give written permission for their children/youth to participate in the Foothills Mennonite Church Youth programs at the beginning of each programming year. For children/youth participating on a casual or invitational basis, permission may be obtained less formally but must include enough information that the child’s/youth’s parent(s) are appraised of the activity and satisfied with the level of supervision. The parent(s) of the inviting family are expected to assure the leaders that this discussion has taken place. Significant and relevant health concerns must be communicated to the leaders.

All corporal punishment is prohibited. Parents must be available to intervene and reassume parental responsibility if asked.

Delegation of Youth Leadership Role:

A minimum of two responsible adults will attend each youth club/group activity in a supervisory role. Youth/children’s leaders and assistants will use discretion in avoiding situations that are high risk for misinterpretation or accusation of impropriety.

Youth/children’s leaders and assistants will be aware of the intent and contents of this safe church policy.

Physical Environment:

Foothills Mennonite Church is committed to a safe environment within the church and at all church related activities. The transportation of children or other vulnerable persons for church related events should also be done with the diligence, having safety as the first priority.

The physical environment of Foothills Mennonite Church is maintained and being upgraded with a view to reducing physical hazards and improving safety. Members may assist in identifying areas to the Board where hazards can be minimized. Actions that have been taken are:

  • Provision of reserved parking on the West Side parking lot for those with restricted mobility.
  • Removal of the dense lower growth of the north side spruce trees
  • Prompt removal of snowfall to reduce the risk of falls.
  • Replacement of Emergency Exit signs.
  • Cleaning materials closet now locked.
  • Windows placed in Sunday school classroom and office doors.
  • A lock box for Emergency Services access to the building after hours.

Promotion of the Safe Church Community:

The Articles contained in the Constitution and Bylaws of Foothills Mennonite Church of Calgary summarize the intention of the community to be "the new society established and sustained by the Holy Spirit". A Safe Church policy reaffirms that statement and gives it more detail as our congregation matures and grows. To ensure a wide dissemination of the expectations of the Safe Church policy, it is necessary to:

  • Acknowledge that abuse has occurred in our churches and not been addressed.
  • Provide copies of the Safe Church policy to all members/regular attendees.
  • Provide copies to new members and attendees.
  • Engage in discussion on topics relevant to healthy relationships at all age levels from schoolyard and
  • peer group bullying to domestic violence.
  • Obtain educational and library resource material relevant to these issues.


The abuse or reasonable suspicion of any abuse involving children is a serious matter and is required by law to be reported to child protection agencies.

At Foothills, a report of abuse suspicion involving a person placed in a position of trust by the congregation shall be reported to the senior pastor and/or the congregational chair. In the case of ministerial misconduct, the Congregational chair shall notify the Conference Pastor. Provision will be made for the immediate safety of the alleged victim. Any statutory reporting obligations will be met.

Circumstances of the abuse of trust vary. Procedures for dealing with incidents must protect the innocent and the vulnerable, stop the abuse, expect accountability, promote justice, and allow for the restoration of the community bond. These procedures must also respect the law. In the case of suspected child abuse, all adults have the responsibility to report this to Alberta Social Services, and that body undertakes any investigation. The Board Chair and/or Lead Pastor must be informed if the safety of any individual might be jeopardized at Foothills. The reporting adult should document their observations:

  1. Specific signs or symptoms.
  2. Witnessed events that raised the suspicion.
  3. Date and time of the above.
  4. To protect the vulnerable parties involved - all reports are confidential.

If the accused is an employee or volunteer of FMC, then they will be suspended from further duties. Paid employees will be suspended with full pay pending the outcome of the investigation. The Pastor and Board of Trustees will cooperate fully with the authorities in any subsequent action.

In the cases of abuse of vulnerable adults, the church is ready to stand with all parties in the same spirit of protecting the vulnerable, seeking the truth, expecting accountability, and promoting healing. However, the autonomy and right to privacy of adults needs to be respected. In these instances, individuals might self refer, or be advised by members of the community to seek pastoral help. These interviews are in strict confidence. Depending on the issues, the pastor and individual(s) will develop a course of action.

In any case of ministerial misconduct, the matter must be reported to the Chair of the Board of Trustees. The Chair will ensure the safety of any individual involved. The Chair will involve the Conference Pastor. The Mennonite Church Alberta and Mennonite Church Canada conferences specify policies concerning pastoral misconduct.