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Child safety and Christmas pageants

The countdown to Christmas has begun, and the storytelling, pageants, nativity plays, and stage shows are around the corner. These are great opportunities for the children in our communities to be seen up the front, participating in the retelling of the Jesus story.

I am sure some of us can remember when we wore dishtowels on our heads, holding a really big stick found in the garden.

Some of us hold these as memories, others might even have these on an old VCR tape in the back of the bookshelf. Today a lot of our churches have video cameras mounted on the walls and well-meaning congregational members who have camera phones in their pockets, willing and able to snap multiple photos from the pews. So, what must we do to ensure that we remain a safe church during this time? Here are three things that can help:

  1. Consent forms
    Make sure that you have, in writing, consent from a parent or guardian for everyone under the age of 18, whether they are dressed in full costume or are holding puppets behind a stage. Please remember to adhere to their requests and to be specific in what you’re asking, such as:
    Do you adhere to your child’s photo being taken?
    Do you adhere to your child’s video being recorded?
    Are we able to share these photos/recordings with other parents/guardians of the children involved in the play/pageant/show?
    Are we able to use these photos/videos on our social media?
    Are we able to display these photos around the building or print them in the church newsletter?
  2. Restricting access
    The photos and recordings should be available based on the parent/guardians’ consent, and it is important to have a secure storage method, too. This will most likely mean that live-broadcasting or uploading a recording to Facebook/YouTube/etc should not be done.
  3. Who is recording/taking photos
    It is important to request the congregation/community to not take their own photos and recordings. The majority of these will be well-intentioned parents, aunts and uncles, however, keeping children safe means being able to keep their digital footprints safe, too. Having a designated photographer/videographer will help. If people are wishing to have photos of their children in costume, perhaps offer a time before or after the play to take a picture.

These three things help us to prioritise the safety of every child within our communities and helps us to keep the Christmas story one of joy and celebration. Don’t forget that the VicTas Synod’s Safe Church website has a number of form downloads available to help maintain your consent records.

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