If you are a congregational leader or if you are involved with children and youth ministries or programs, put the afternoon of Saturday 26 March in your diary now!
The LCANZ’s Churchwide Office will host a child safety webinar at 1.30pm that day (AEDT) to provide an overview of the new LCA Child Safety Standards for Congregations. The 90-minute webinar will provide vital information for pastors and congregation chairpersons, secretaries, Safe Church coordinators and all other congregation members who have significant involvement with children and youth.
It will include a particular focus on guidelines for completing the new Child Safety Self-Assessment Tool and the Child Safety Plan, as well as tips for implementation of the Child Safety Plan by local church councils. The webinar will also include question-and-answer opportunities.
LCA Child Protection Project Officer, Mary-Ann Carver, who will co-host the webinar with Professional Standards officers from each district, said the intent of the standards was to provide congregations with ‘clear guidance regarding child safety expectations and to help congregational leaders maintain effective oversight of congregational safety and wellbeing’.
‘The standards are also a reflection of God’s abounding love for children and his expectation that we will dearly and lovingly do our very best to keep them safe as they grow in their faith’, Mary-Ann said. ‘Children who feel safe and secure are much more likely to grow in their faith through mission and ministry. In this way, the standards also help to grow our congregations by growing our children.
‘As our LCA Statement of Commitment to Child Safety says, “The way we care for children is a reflection of our genuineness of faith. It is also a reflection of God’s love and his divine protection”.’
The standards were developed to implement the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations across all LCA congregations in Australia. Endorsed by members of COAG (the Council of Australian Governments), the national principles reflect 10 child safe standards recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
‘The LCA’s Child Safety Standards reflect the national principles in their content and aspiration but are tailored to the faith-based, congregational context’, Mary-Ann said after the approval of the standards by the General Church Board late last year.
LCANZ Bishop Paul Smith shared his reflections on the connection between child safety policies and his experience in Lutheran schools. ‘We don’t have any Lutheran schools in New Zealand, but across Australia we are seeing increasing enrolments in our Lutheran schools, even in this time of COVID-19’, he said. ‘This tells us that Australian parents trust “the Lutherans” to provide a safe place for the best of teaching and learning for their children. This is our culture as a Lutheran Church in Australia and New Zealand. I commend to you the Child Safety Standards for Congregations as a means to strengthen our witness and service to our neighbours.’
Implementation of the standards will assist the LCA to meet its mandatory child safety responsibilities. This is particularly important given that robust regulatory systems are already in place in New South Wales and Victoria, with similar systems likely to be introduced across remaining states and territories.
The standards have been trialled in congregations, and their feedback has helped make the documents as user-friendly as possible. It is expected that from this year all congregations will do child safety self-assessments and prepare child safety plans annually. They will be supported through this process by the LCA.
Mary-Ann said the implementation of the standards would not be onerous. ‘It will involve a simple self-assessment, scheduled for June and July this year, followed by some careful planning of child safety initiatives and priorities at the local council level’, she said. ‘Support from District and Churchwide staff will be available if needed, and the webpage will contain all the tools, templates and resources required.’
For more information about the standards, go to www.lca.org.au/css