How to create child protection policies for your church: Part 4

Interactions and a code of conduct

July 22, 2019

Child predators are looking for opportunities to gain trust in order to embed themselves into relationships and communities. Within these relationships, they are looking for opportunities to abuse children and youth. This type of offender uses relationships, positions of authority, and the trust of parents and organizations to gain access to their victims. These offenders are looking for opportunities where they can be isolated with their victims. This creates an environment where they can do harm and keep their victims compliant without using actual, physical force. 

In order to combat the predatory behaviors of these offenders, churches must evaluate children’s and youth ministries and create policies and best practices that lower the risk by decreasing the opportunity for isolated interactions with children and students. So, in addition to screening practices for volunteers and employees, child protection policies should address the interactions of employees and volunteers with children and youth. 

Thinking through interactions between adults and children

One of the first things to consider is your expectation and standard for interactions between adult workers and children. The main goals in formulating policy in this area are to first, limit (and even eliminate when possible) one-on-one interactions and second, to set expectations of behavior in a code of conduct that establishes community norms for appropriate and inappropriate behavior. 

Avoiding isolation

The grooming that takes place leading up to abuse, as well as the abuse itself requires isolated incidences of interaction with the victim. By limiting these interactions, we increase safety and protect children. Most experts agree that the rule should be a two-adult rule, meaning that all interactions, classes, and events should have two adults (unrelated) present at all times. This should be standard expectation in your children’s and youth ministry. 

An exercise that I like to use with youth-serving organizations is to make a list of all of the potential situations where it is not feasible to have two adults present at all times and all one-on-one encounters. Take the time to discuss how you could alter the situation in order for it to meet the standard, and if not, what will be the approach to make the situation safer and less isolated. There are some situations that may be necessary for one-on-one interactions, and in these situations, the organization must take steps to make sure the interaction is necessary to be one-on-one and look for ways to make it observable and interruptible. 

One example of this is where there is private tutoring in a school or discipleship/counseling of a youth. These are events that require some privacy, yet they must maintain accountability and observability. It is important to have spaces that allow for the conversations to occur, but also allow for others to see such as glass panes on windows, doors ajar, and accountability measures like supervisors and others knowing the meetings are taking place and being present in hallways and buildings to observe and interrupt at any point. Another approach that some organizations take is to have a ratio rule when there cannot be two adults present—there must be 3-5 students present and together at all times. Again, the major concern is isolation, so look for ways to limit the places where individuals are isolated in one-on-one situations.

Social media

As you think through interactions that occur in children’s and youth ministry, make sure that you think through texting and social media interactions. With the expansion of technology and social media platforms, there are endless ways for youth to interact under the radar of detection by parents. This also means that predators can be savvy and use different means of direct messaging to get to their victims with parents and church leaders being naively unaware. Decide how your church will address social interaction via the internet between youth and adult leaders. 

Some organizations have a blanket policy of no private communication through texting or social media. This is a good stance; however, it’s very hard to monitor and enforce. My recommendation is to approach this with a strict rule, but to also pair it with education for parents on the best ways to monitor and be aware of what their children are doing online. In addition, some ministries have decided that all communications must either include the parent or be a group message. Whatever stance you take, it is imperative that you educate your parents about your policies so that they are aware and will be another source of accountability. 


Finally, in thinking about adult to child/youth ratios, make sure that you consider transportation and overnight trips. There should not be any one-on-one situations in cars or sleeping rooms. Adults who serve in capacities that require driving or overnight trips should receive the highest amount of scrutiny and oversight.    

Developing a code of conduct

After reviewing and addressing one-on-one interactions and ratios, children’s and youth ministries should develop a code of conduct that sets forth appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. The code of conduct should be tailored to your church and ministry area based on your activities and events. The code of conduct will incorporate your standards regarding one-on-one interactions, as well as numbers of persons present rules. In addition, the code of conduct should cover appropriate types of behavior that are encouraged, as well as inappropriate behavior that is prohibited. In children’s and youth ministry it is important to keep appropriate touching or affection observable and in the open. 

While a code of conduct should be specific to your organization, the organization Darkness to Light has a sample that they adapted from the YMCA that is helpful as you consider what types of things to include. Again, just like other protection policies, the policies must be what you live by and must be communicated to parents and community members. Remember that heightened awareness within your community creates more community members that can help hold the church and others accountable which, in turn, protects children and youth from harm.

In conclusion, creating good policy, including a code of conduct, takes much collaboration and input. I encourage you to take the time needed to create and revise policies that are good for your church and ministry. Collaborate with child experts, law enforcement, ministry leaders, and other youth-serving organizations in order to make your policy as robust and protective as possible. Your policy must be communicated and reviewed with members of your community, and in doing so, should seek to instill responsibility for looking out for others and keeping children and youth safe from harm. And finally, leadership, be quick to listen and truly hear those who come to you with concerns.

This is part four of a five-part series. (Read: Parts one and two and three). Visit caringwell.com to learn more about the Caring Well Challenge and help make your church safe for survivors and safe from abuse. 

The content of this post is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice. Please seek legal counsel from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

Samantha Kilpatrick

Samantha Kilpatrick is an attorney with over 20 years of experience in the practice of law. She is currently a partner with Kilpatrick Law Group, PLLC in Raleigh, NC. She is a former prosecutor with experience in the areas of domestic violence and sexual assault crimes. Currently, in private practice, … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24