An online version of the junior leaders safe ministry training course will be made available in the next few months, aiming to ensure all leaders and volunteers in churches are equipped to serve safely.

Online Modules and Mentoring

Recognising that the two standard safe ministry training options – the Essentials and Refresher courses – aren’t written for those under 18, the team at Safe Ministry Training developed an age-appropriate mode of education. This is aimed at young people between the ages of 14 and 17 and involves a combination of online modules and one-to-one mentoring to ensure the teen leaders are supported at every stage.

“We know that younger brains are not fully developed enough to understand consequences of actions,” says the Rev Neil Atwood, Safe Ministry’s parish consultant.

“A training mentor in the young leader’s own church will be emailed updates on the leader’s progress and they will be given resources to help them sit down and discuss face to face with young leaders.”

Vulnerable yet powerful

With the Bible not specifying an age group for leadership, it was important for the junior training course to provide clear guidelines for the young people God has entrusted with leadership responsibilities.

“They are vulnerable people, and yet they are given the opportunity to have a position of power and responsibility,” says Safe Ministry Training Consultant Mrs Kylie Williams, who worked on developing the training material.

“We’re asking them to think carefully and make sure they have a good community of people around them so that leadership is not in isolation. If you’re going to care for God’s flock, you’re a shepherd and you’re going to serve. We want them to understand that leadership is serving people with the power you have.”

Looking into the Future

Junior leader training is not the only course in the works. The team aims to develop optional modules for the existing courses to better support the variety of ministries that work with a range of people.

Says Mr Atwood: “We’ve got plans to produce optional training modules that cover working with vulnerable adults in different contexts, such as ESL classes, refugees, seniors and intellectually disabled people”.

The team also hopes to see the course translated into other languages, focusing first on Mandarin – a task that may prove quite challenging. “From what we understand, there are words and phrases and concepts [in English] that have no direct translation in Mandarin,” Mr Atwood explains. “There are also big cultural hurdles to overcome that mitigate talking about certain issues.”

Throughout all of these developments, Mr Atwood’s aim is to ensure that ministry is conducted in a way that ensures people are safe and cared for.

“We know we have a statutory duty to protect children, but we have a strong moral imperative to protect vulnerable adults in our churches, too,” he says. “These are a natural extension of our core training material.”