Guidelines for Appropriate Affection in Ministry with Children or Youth
The Diocese of Colorado and St. Brigit Episcopal Church is committed to creating and promoting a positive, nurturing environment for our children’s and youth ministries that protect our children and youth from abuse and our Church Workers from misunderstandings. When creating safe boundaries for children and youth, it is important to establish what types of affection are appropriate and inappropriate; otherwise that decision is left to each individual. Stating which behaviors are appropriate and inappropriate allows Church Workers to comfortably show positive affection in ministry, and yet identify individuals who are not maintaining safe boundaries with children or youth. These guidelines are based, in large part, on avoiding behaviors known to be used by child molesters to groom children or youth and their parents for future abuse. The following guidelines are to be carefully followed by all Church Workers working around or with children or youth.
1. Love and affection are part of church life and ministry. There are many ways to demonstrate affection while maintaining positive and safe boundaries with children and youth. Some positive and appropriate forms of affection are listed below:
• Brief hugs.
• Pats on the shoulder or back.
• “High-fives” and hand slapping.
• Verbal praise.
• Touching hands, faces, shoulders and arms of children or youth.
• Arms around shoulders.
• Holding hands while walking with small children.
• Sitting beside small children.
• Kneeling or bending down for hugs with small children.
• Holding hands during prayer.
• Pats on the head when culturally appropriate. (For example, this gesture should typically be avoided in some Asian communities).
2. The following forms of affection are considered inappropriate with children and youth in ministry setting because many of them are the behaviors that child molesters use to groom children or youth and their parents for later molestation or can be, in and of themselves, sexual abuse.
• Inappropriate or lengthy embraces.
• Kisses on the mouth.
• Holding children over three years old on the lap.
• Touching bottoms, chests or genital areas other than for appropriate diapering or toileting of infants and toddlers.
• Showing affection in isolated areas such as bedrooms, closets, staff-only areas or other private rooms.
• Occupying a bed with a child or youth
• Touching knees or legs of children or youth.
• Wrestling with children or youth.
• Tickling children or youth.
• Piggyback rides.
• Any type of massage given by a child or youth to an adult.
• Any type of massage given by an adult to a child or youth.
• Any form of unwanted affection.
• Comments or compliments (spoken, written, or electronic) that relate to physique or body development. Examples would be, “You sure are developing,” or “You look really hot in those jeans.”
• Snapping bras or giving wedgies or similar touch of underwear whether or not it is covered by other clothing.
• Giving gifts or money to individual children or youth.
• Private meals with individual children or youth.
Either of the St. Brigit buildings may be used by parishioners or approved for profit or non-profit agencies or individuals subject to the following:
Ongoing users must provide the church with a Certificate of liability insurance.
All users must sign a written release of liability.
Charges for use of the space will be determined based upon the use requested.
Premises must be left in the same condition as they are found.
Only water and no other food or beverages may be brought into the sanctuary unless specific written permission is granted for the event (see application below).
Everyone attending the event must park their cars in the church parking lot or on the street and not drive or park on the driveway. (Temporary exceptions may be made for loading prior to and after the event.)
The buildings are locked with codes. Each person using the facilities will be assigned a code unless a church member is assigned to provide access. The buildings must be left locked.
If there are any concerns about the condition of the premises or any other concerns, please contact the office manager, Michelle Visser, at 720-394-1525.