This month we continue our series on the Principles of a Child Safe Uniting Church with principle 2:

Children and young people are informed about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously.

I can imagine some leaders groaning when they read this one. Another layer added to our already complex tasks. ‘Now I have to check with the children’s ministry too?’ Others a little annoyed about the ‘rights language’ – thinking that this sounds all very secular and politically correct. (I am sure I have other people wanting to remind us that Christian leaders were instrumental in developing the language of human rights in the mid twentieth century as a way of affirming universal rights of all people.) But, before you groan much further I am not sure that this is about more tasks but maybe helpful questions to consider before finally making decisions.

On the National Principles section of the Human Rights website, they speak about three key areas for this principle:

  • Children and young people are educated about their rights
  • Staff and volunteers are educated about the rights of children and young people
  • Children and young people have the right to participate in decisions affecting them, the right to be heard and to be taken seriously.

As we begin new programs with children we can take time to remind them of our expectations of their participation, of their right to feel safe and the people they can share any concerns with.

Similarly we can ask ourselves what do our leaders and volunteers need to know as we begin this program? Have we shared with them our expectations of them as leaders, including how they interact with children and young people? Is there space made available to listen to the younger members of our community? Are we genuinely listening and taking them seriously?

There are a number of resources that can help with this principle. A good place to start is the Tools for Listening Poster, which hopefully every congregation has a copy of. A little bit of planning and thinking will go a long way in helping us strengthen our culture of listening to young people and children in our community.

The Tools for Listening resources are available at this link.