Youth at the LOFT Policies and Procedures
While trying to create fun, relevant, and exciting activities for the students, we must also create a safe environment where students can grow and exercise their faith. Therefore, we have created policies to address expected behavior. At all times, we will maintain healthy boundaries with regard to personal property, personal space and personal integrity. These policies are not meant to curb the enjoyment or creativity of students or adults (volunteers or employees). We expect everyone to learn, remember, and abide by the policies, and we hope that we will not have to use the disciplinary actions outlined (though we are prepared to do so). We have found that when everyone knows what is expected of them, we have very few problems and are able to create the warm and nurturing environment described above.
Youth or Family Ministry Activities: All official West Market Street United Methodist Church (“WMSUMC”) Youth Ministry or Family Ministry events and meetings will be published in writing, either electronically, or on an info sheet specific to that event. (While we encourage and support student- and parent-organized gatherings of our students outside of church, we cannot and do not assure parents that these informal get-togethers, private parties, and group outings will follow the procedures and standards described here, even if adult youth leaders are present.)
Adult Supervision and Adult/Student Interaction: All supervision by and interactions between students and adults must comply with WMSUMC’s Safe Sanctuary Policy and WMSUMC’s Virtual Communications Policy. In addition, any interactions between students and adults must comply with the policies and procedures outlined in this document for interactions between students.
Inappropriate Behavior and Discipline/Correction: NO physical discipline of any kind is permitted at any time. Whenever possible, inappropriate student behavior (including the examples listed below) will be addressed by adult leaders away from the group. The first time inappropriate behavior occurs, disruptive students will be warned and/or separated from their friends. After being warned or separated on any given week, if the student continues with the negative behavior, the student will be asked to leave the meeting/event and an adult worker will phone the parents/guardians to pick up the student early. If, when the student returns the next time, he or she continues the disruptive pattern, the student will be given a cooling off period away from the youth ministry activities for two weeks. If the student causes further disruption after the cooling off period, he or she may be, at the discretion of the Director of Youth Ministry, Director of Family Ministry, and/or the Senior Pastor, suspended for up to 1 year from any future youth activities. Inappropriate behavior that requires discipline and/or correction includes, but is not limited to the following:
Disruptions during meetings, study time, prayer time, and worship. We are able to have a good time, joke, and have fun in our meetings. Some students, however, occasionally get carried away and disrupt our meetings, causing other students to be distracted from the teaching.
Leaving the supervisory presence of the youth ministry staff. Sometimes students try to leave the supervisory presence of adult workers so they can avoid group activities, talk on the cell phone, smoke, or leave the premises. We cannot allow this behavior because parents trust us to be responsible custodians of their children, and we can’t be responsible when students have left our presence.
Divisiveness and arguing. Arguing and contention is typical with teenagers and a certain amount is tolerated. We do not tolerate arguing and contention that begins to affect the overall unity and mission of the group. Even small pockets of division can have major effects on the group, destroying the collective witness of the Body of Christ.
Bullying, Hazing, and Pranks. Parents need to know they are leaving their child in a safe environment. Examples of bullying or hazing behavior include tying someone to a chair, saran wrapping them to a bed, unannounced pranks, requiring them to perform a deed that they would not normally perform, slurs, rumors, jokes, innuendos, demeaning comments, drawing cartoons, or gestures.
Profanity. Profanity or inappropriate innuendos are not permitted.
Physical Displays of Affection. We do not permit tickling, wrestling, piggyback rides, or inappropriate touching (touching anywhere that a bathing suit would normally cover). In addition, physical displays of affection such as kissing, full body hugs, sitting on laps, or lying or sleeping next to each other (pertains to opposite sex) or being isolated and alone with another student is not allowed.
Inappropriate Use of Electronic Devices. Electronic devices tend to cause disruptions in meetings, quarrels between students, or isolation of individuals. Therefore, the use of cell phones, iPods, camera, or other personal electronic or entertainment device is prohibited during activities and service. During special designated times, the ministry staff may allow the use of these devices. The ministry staff does not take any responsibility for the safe return of these items. Devices used during undesignated times will be confiscated until the end of the meeting, event or activity.
Teen drivers. Teen drivers are not allowed to carry other teen passengers to a youth ministry meeting, activity, or trip without prior written consent from a parent or guardian. Sibling passengers are at the discretion of the parents and do not require written permission. Teen drivers are not allowed to drive along with or behind a group on youth trips.
Illegal drugs and alcohol. If a student comes to any youth ministry activity and is a) noticeably under the influence of drugs or alcohol or b) has possession of illegal drugs and alcohol, we will immediately report the incident to the student’s parents, send the student home, and, at the discretion of the Director of Youth Ministry, the Director of Family Ministry and/or the Senior Pastor, enforce a suspension from youth activities for up to 1 year. Such incidents will be reported to WMSUMC Trustees. If recommended by the Trustees and/or required by law, the police and/or other authorities will also be contacted.
Tobacco. If a student uses or possesses tobacco products, the tobacco will be taken away and
destroyed. The student’s parents will also be notified. Upon a second tobacco violation, the Director of Youth Ministry, the Director of Family Ministry and/or the Senior Pastor may exercise discretion to enforce a suspension from youth activities for up to 1 year.
Weapons. Weapons are not allowed at any WMSUMC event. If student has small pocketknife and it is seen by accident, they will be given a warning. If a weapon or knife is being used to show off or threaten, then law enforcement will called and the student will be suspended for a period of time determined by the Director of Youth Ministry, the Director of Family Ministry, or the Senior Pastor in his/her discretion.
Fighting. Physical violence will not be tolerated.
Sexual harassment. Unwanted sexual behavior will not be tolerated. Sexual harassment may take many forms including, but not limited to, physical contact (like grabbing or pinching), sexual comments, and unwanted communication (direct or virtual). Some flirting between students is normal and adult staff and volunteers will use their discretion to determine when actions have gone beyond flirting and constitute sexual harassment.
Injury/Illness: While in our care, students with very minor concerns (headache, small cut, “not feeling good”) will be treated by adults with bandages, water, rest, Tylenol or Advil if the student requests it. Any significant injury or illness will be reported to a parent immediately for guidance on further action. A first-aid kit is always on hand, and a youth worker with training in first aid is usually present as well.
Money: When money is turned in for an event it will be recorded on a spreadsheet with the student’s name and then signed by two adults before being turned into the church office for deposit. Money given at fundraisers will be counted and recorded by two unrelated adults. Checks can always be made out to the church. We work hard to remember that finances, for families and for the church, are limited. We plan our programming with this fact in mind. Despite our efforts to keep events affordable, we also realize that the costs associated with our events can be a hardship for some families. So we do provide scholarships. Please ask the Director of Youth Ministry or the Director of Family Ministry about the availability of scholarships.
Parent Release Forms: A church-provided form that includes emergency contact information and parental consent is to be completed for each participant, and kept with the event leader, for any event or activity that involves church-provided transportation, an overnight stay, or an event that could be considered dangerous (skiing, rock climbing, paintball, etc).
Safety: We love to have fun. But the safety of our students (and adults) is always considered, and takes priority over any other motive for programming decisions. Some rough games may be an occasional part of our programming (e.g., races, basketball, Ultimate frisbee) that may result in a scraped knee, or even a bumped head, but no inherently dangerous or reckless activity will ever be included in our programming. In addition, rough games will always be announced in advance and no student will ever be required to participate. We work hard to take appropriate precautions to ensure the safety of all involved at all times.