The purpose of every Apostolic Faith Vacation Bible School (VBS) is to present Bible themes in a secure, nurturing environment to children through games, crafts, music, snacks, and Bible stories. Some of the children who attend do not come to Sunday school regularly, and may have little or no understanding that they need a Savior. When they attend a VBS in our church, we want them to hear about Jesus and what He can do in their lives.
The VBS director, under the supervision of the pastor, is responsible for the implementation of the chosen program. Assisting staff generally consists of group leaders, an audio/video coordinator, music director, Bible story tellers, game leaders, craft supervisors, and kitchen staff.
All Apostolic Faith VBS staff members must be born-again Christians, and living godly lives in accordance with Biblical teaching. They should have a clear understanding of the policies and guidelines of the organization, and adhere to them. We require all VBS staff members to have been in regular attendance at our church for at least one year.
Since Vacation Bible Schools are typically held during the summer months when most schools are not in session, young people often help as assistants. Youth workers are expected to follow the same policies and procedures as adult staff members.
Training Requirements for Adult Staff
Prior to assisting at VBS, adult staff members 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
- Fill out and submit a Worker Application form upon completion of all training requirements. 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 the 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 assists at an Apostolic Faith Vacation Bible School. Application and certification records will be kept on file for insurance purposes.
In addition, we recommend that all adult VBS staff members 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.
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 VBS staff.
Requirements for Youth VBS Workers
Youth workers (individuals under the age of eighteen) who assist in Apostolic Faith Vacation Bible Schools must have been in regular attendance at our church for a minimum of one year and be at least the age required by state law for babysitters. They must be approved by the pastor and the VBS director on a case-by-case basis.
Youth workers must also:
- Be thoroughly familiar with the contents of this document.
- Fill out and submit a Youth Worker Application form, which includes two personal references, and includes a commitment to abide by the guidelines and policies established by the Apostolic Faith organization. This form also includes parent/guardian consent and a release of liability.
These requirements must be completed before an applicant begins assisting at VBS. The application must be kept on file in the church office for insurance purposes. In addition, youth workers are expected to:
- Be a positive role model.
- Fulfill the duties assigned to them by the adult staff.
- Participate in any training required for VBS youth assistants.
- Act appropriately at all times.
Youth workers must be at least three years older than the children they work with, unless they are working in the same room with and under the supervision of a qualified adult staff member.
The VBS curriculum chosen each year must be pre-approved by the pastor. Staff should be watchful for wording that does not align with Biblical doctrine and the teachings upheld by this organization, and modify it as needed.
Attendance and Record Keeping
A Vacation Bible School Registration form must be filled out for every attendee at an Apostolic Faith VBS. This information will be kept on file at the site while VBS is in session. At the conclusion of the event, these records must be retained in the local church office.
Also, a record must be kept of adult staff members and youth assistants who were present at each VBS session. These records should be retained in the local church office along with the VBS registration forms.
Check In/Check Out Procedures
Children should be checked in and out of the VBS area. VBS staff members should release children only to a parent/guardian, or a third party pre-approved by the parent/guardian. A staff member should monitor doorways during each session. No child should be allowed to leave the area without an escort.
Allergies and Medical Conditions
If a child has food allergies or medical conditions that could put him at risk, this should be noted on the Vacation Bible School Registration form. The VBS director is responsible to inform the child’s group leader, the kitchen staff, and the activity directors.
Child and Youth Safety Policies
Parents have an open invitation to visit and observe all Apostolic Faith programs and activities in which their child is involved. However, those who visit our VBS programs must follow our behavioral guidelines.
- 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:
- Two- and three-year-olds: two workers per twelve children
- Four- and five-year-olds: two workers per eighteen children
- 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 workers must be at least three years older than the children they work with, unless they are working in the same room with and under the supervision of a qualified adult staff member.
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 this 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.
Approved Discipline Procedures
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 the VBS director 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 VBS 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 cases, the parent/guardian should be summoned to take care of their child’s needs if possible. If a parent/guardian is not available, the following procedures must be observed.
While we ask that children be toilet trained before participating in church programs, the following guidelines must be followed in any situation where diapering is a necessity.
- Only female staff members or volunteers are permitted to diaper children of either gender.
- Children are to be changed at changing stations only.
- A child must never be left unattended on a changing table.
- Diapering should be done in plain sight of other staff or volunteers.
- Any special instructions given by parents leaving children in the nursery or church program are to be recorded in writing.
- Children are to be re-clothed immediately upon completion of a diaper change.
- Only female staff members are permitted to take children to the restroom.
- Staff members are never to 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 to be left unsupervised in restrooms.
- Children are to 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.
School-age children may be accompanied to the restroom for supervision and assistance when needed. In such cases, the following procedure will be followed:
- Staff members are never to 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 VBS, the VBS director 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 VBS registration.
Abuse Prevention and Reporting
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 and enforces 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 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 VBS staff members 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 VBS, or a medical emergency occurs, the VBS staff member should notify the VBS director.
The VBS director 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, VBS staff members 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, VBS staff members should evacuate all children using the designated evacuation routes. The VBS director should
- Monitor the doorways, reminding staff members of the closest evacuation route and designated safety zones.
- Remind staff members to take a head count of the children who are exiting with them, and to count again when they reach the safe zone.
- Staff and children exiting from upper floors should not use 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 staff that if smoke is encountered, children should be instructed to bend over and take short breaths through their noses.
- Staff members 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 group of children is gone from the VBS area, the director should check to make sure the area is empty and close the doors.
- If conditions permit, the VBS director or an appointed staff member should check nearby restroom facilities to make sure no young person is there.
- After exiting the building, the VBS director should check with staff members to make sure all children are accounted for. If a child is missing, notify 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, the VBS staff should be prepared to:
- 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 VBS staff members know what to do in event of a quake. If an earthquake occurs during a VBS session, staff members 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, VBS personnel should take the following steps:
- Call 911 or other appropriate emergency numbers.
- 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.
- 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, Illness, or Allergic Reactions
First aid supplies should be available in the VBS area for minor accidents. Staff members should 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 any minor injuries when they come for their child after the VBS session.
If a child becomes ill while attending VBS, 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.
The VBS director should carefully review all Vacation Bible School Registration forms, paying special attention to any noted allergies. It is the staff’s responsibility to make sure that children who have identified allergies are not offered a snack that could cause a reaction. However, the director should have an appropriate emergency action plan is in place, because some symptoms can be life-threatening.
If a child is missing from the premises while VBS is in progress, the VBS director should be notified. The director should:
- Contact other staff members as needed to assist with a search of the 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.