Safe Spaces Policy

Hillsboro First Congregational UCC is committed to being a community where everyone can enjoy worship, work, fellowship and learning in a safe and secure environment. We are opposed to discrimination, harassment or intimidation in all its forms. All persons associated with the church should be aware that the church is opposed to sexual exploitation and sexual harassment and that such conduct is prohibited by church policy. It is church policy to prevent and correct any behavior contrary to this policy, and, if necessary, to discipline any person violating this policy.

Guidelines that inform and empower everyone:
It is important that everyone who is an employee, volunteer or participant in the church be aware of these policies, and understand how the use or misuse of power may affect others. Therefore, Hillsboro First Congregational UCC encourages all employees and volunteers to nurture safety within congregational relationships by self-care, education, maintaining appropriate boundaries; and understand the importance of referring those in need to helpful and supportive resources.


Authorized Minister: Anyone who holds ordained ministry credentials or has been commissioned by the UCC and is currently serving a call at Hillsboro First Congregational UCC.

Employees: Those who occupy paid positions whether full or part time and teach, lead, plan or supervise activities of the church.

Volunteers: Those who serve in non-paid positions teaching, leading, planning or supervising activities of the church.

Ministerial Relationships: The relationship between one who leads activities of the church and the participants in those activities.

Child/Youth: Any individual under the age of 18.

Vulnerable adult: Any adult who, because of physical or developmental disability, mental illness, or other circumstance, may be susceptible to abuse, exploitation or manipulation.

Sunday School: Regular program of classes held on Sunday morning for faith formation and religious education purposes.

Church functions: Scheduled activities of the congregation whether for worship, study, fellowship or other purposes.

Non related adults: Adults not related by blood or marriage.

Sexual exploitation: Sexual activity (not limited to sexual intercourse) on the part of an Authorized Minister, employee, or volunteer of the church engaged in a ministry relationship with another who takes advantage of the vulnerability of any person being served by causing or allowing said person to engage in sexual activity with the minister, employee, volunteer, or another person.

Sexual Harassment: Repeated or coercive sexual advance toward another person regardless of his or her expressed wishes. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other conduct of a physical or sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment.

Prohibited sexual harassment includes unsolicited and unwelcome contact that has sexual overtones, including (but not limited to):

  • Written contact such as letters, emails, notes, invitations or pictures with sexual content or obscene overtones
  • Verbal contact such as sexually suggestive or obscene comments, threats, slurs, jokes about gender related traits, sexual propositions
  • Physical contact such as intentional touching, pinching, brushing against another's body, impeding or blocking another's movement, assault, coercing sexual intercourse and
  • Visual contact, such as leering or staring, at another's body, gesturing, displaying sexually suggestive objects or pictures, cartoons, posters, or magazines.

Sexual harassment also includes continuing to express sexual interest after being directly informed that the interest is unwelcome, or using sexual behavior to control, influence or affect the career, salary, work, learning, or worship environment of another. It is impermissible to suggest, threaten or imply that failure to accept a request for a date or sexual favor will affect a person's job prospects, church leadership, or comfortable participation in the life of the church. While persons who occupy ministry relationships are not responsible for the conduct of one participant toward another, they are obligated to communicate with their supervisors about any such actions which come to their attention in any way, so that appropriate action can be taken.

Screening and Training of Employees and Volunteers

Primary Screening Procedures

Primary screening procedures are established for Authorized Ministers, employees, and volunteers who, in the normal course of their duties may be alone for any period of time with children/youth or vulnerable adults, or work in a supervisory capacity of HFCUCC's behalf. This includes, but is not limited to Authorized Ministers, employees, members of the HFCUCC leadership council, and volunteers such as confirmation mentors, Sunday School teachers and substitutes, youth leaders and anyone leading activities with vulnerable adults.

Individuals wishing to be leaders in ministry with children/youth will submit either an employment application, or a volunteer screening application form and a criminal records form. If an individual remains regularly involved in a ministry of the church, the criminal records form must be resubmitted every three years.

Before beginning their duties, these individuals will be interviewed by one or more staff members or lay leaders with responsibility for their proposed area of service. The interview will include a review of the relevant forms.

Determination for an individual's suitability for a position will be based on their gifts and qualifications for the position and the response to the criminal record check.

Secondary Screening Procedures

Secondary screening procedures are in place for those who will work with children, youth or vulnerable adults but will not have supervisory responsibilities. This includes but is not limited to Sunday School Shepherds, youth ministry assistants, drivers and chaperones.

Before beginning their duties, these individuals will submit a criminal record check form and, if driving, a copy of their driver's license with permission to check their driving record and a copy of their insurance card. Determination of suitability for any position will be based on a match with the church's job description, and the responses to criminal and/or driving records. No drivers without insurance will be accepted.

Two-Adult Policy

The two-adult policy states that there must always be two non-related adults present during activities of any type when children, youth or vulnerable adults. This policy is designed to protect both minors and adults and is required across all ministry areas which include children, youth or vulnerable adults, with few exceptions. For example:

Occasionally, teachers or leaders find themselves without another worker due to unforeseen difficulties. When this happens:

  • Immediately notify your supervisors and
  • Take your group to a visible location with an unobstructed window or open door

Youth serving as leaders:

Older students may serve in the place of adults when unannounced inspections by a supervisory adult take place at least once an hour and the activity is in a visible location with an unobstructed window or open door.

Restroom Use and Diapering
Children in grades K-6 may use the restrooms on their own if there is an adult patrolling the hallway and periodically checking the restrooms. Children younger than 5 may be assisted if necessary. In this case, the door should remain open. When diapering is necessary, it should be done in the nursery (where two adults should be present) or by a family member.

The number one rule in ministry with children is that Each of us is a Child of God and should be treated with the kind of respect, love, and support that is expected by the commandment to love one another.

Clear rules and expectations and consistent messages about behavior are the key to effective discipline. Occasionally, children have trouble following the rules or display disruptive behavior. In these cases, the following steps will be taken:

  1. Attempt to redirect young children to another activity.
  2. Talk with the child and state clearly what the problem behavior is and what the child should do instead if the child is old enough to understand.
  3. If the child continues to exhibit problem behavior, the teacher or leader should discuss the behavior with the supervisor who will determine the next step.

Physical Contact
Respect, safety, and appropriate boundaries are the guiding principles for physical contact between leaders and children/youth. The guidelines are intended to avoid contact that is or may appear threatening or inappropriate.

Love and affection are part of church life and ministry. There are many appropriate ways to demonstrate affection while maintaining positive and safe boundaries with children. For example:

  • brief hugs or side hugs
  • pats on the shoulder or back
  • handshakes
  • high fives
  • touching the hand, shoulder or arm
  • arm around shoulder
  • holding hands while walking with a small child
  • sitting beside a child
  • kneeling or bending down to a child
  • holding hands during prayer

Inappropriate forms of touching can include:

  • lengthy embraces
  • kisses
  • holding children over three on the lap
  • touching bottoms, chests or genital areas other than for appropriate diapering or toileting aid
  • showing affection when in isolated areas such as closets, restrooms, offices etc.
  • wrestling
  • tickling
  • piggyback rides
  • massage of child or youth
  • child or youth massaging an adult
  • any form of unwanted affection
  • giving gifts or money to an individual child or youth
  • private meals with an individual child or youth

Training of ministers, employees, and volunteers will include information on these policies, and a copy of the policies should be available to all members and provided to volunteers and employees during their interviews.