August 2, 2023

Facing Workplace Issues

Q: Are there any church policy or legal considerations churches should consider before allowing individuals to volunteer in children’s ministries programs?

The Seventh-day Adventist Church engages in several children-focused ministries, such as Sabbath School programs, Vacation Bible Schools, Pathfinders and Adventurers, and summer camps. Because so many of our ministries are geared toward children it is important for us to have policies and practices in place to protect the children we are trying to reach.  

In a perfect world, all our churches would be safe spaces where we wouldn’t have to worry about individuals wanting to hurt or harm our most precious gifts from God; however, we know there are some individuals who will try to target churches as a place with easy access to children and vulnerable groups. With this in mind, we have a responsibility, both legally and more importantly morally, to protect the children who come to learn about Jesus and engage in our church ministries.   

The Seventh-day Adventist Church requires that anyone “involved in work with children must meet Church and legal standards and requirements, such as background checks or certification.” (1) Churches are encouraged to establish a child protection plan with policies and procedures to safeguard children. These policies should include: 

  • Requiring that all volunteers undergo a vetting and screening process, and if required by law or the local conference, conducting background checks.   
  • Implementing a six-month waiting period before anyone new to a congregation can begin volunteering with children’s ministry programs.  
  • Requiring that at least two adults are always present in a room when children’s ministries are taking place and that doors are kept open.  
  • Implementing check-in/check-out procedures, including having parents provide information indicating who is authorized to pick up their child(ren). 
  • Requiring regular safety training to go over the expectations and rules volunteers need to know when interacting with children. Those working with children should also be trained on child abuse and reporting requirements, which can differ depending on jurisdiction. 

Your conference and union are here as a resource and can help guide you regarding local legal requirements or conference-specific policies for individuals working with children. We have been entrusted with providing a safe space for our children and this requires us to be proactive in establishing safeguards for their protection as we engage in ministry.   

For additional information about child protection plans and volunteer screening please visit the Adventist Risk Management Child Protection resources page: https://adventistrisk.org/en-US/Safety-Resources/Topics/Child-Protection 

Editor's note: Our office frequently receives questions on legal matters of concern to our members. This new column is intended as general information on some of the frequently asked questions, and does not take the place of legal advice.


  1.  Seventh-day Adventist Church manual, 20th Edition, page 95

Jennifer Gray Woods is the lawyer for the Lake Union Conference, as well as the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director.