After you’ve done your due diligence through the hiring and screening process, and you’ve ensured that people are trained, the congregation can still be held liable for injuries or damages on the basis of negligent supervision. This refers to a failure to exercise reasonable care in the supervision of staff, volunteers, and church activities.
Congregations have been sued on the basis of negligent supervision in several contexts, including child molestation, and specifically around a rise in child-on-child claims (think unsupervised teens managing the nursery or offering childcare), injuries to children participating in congregation-sponsored events, and injuries to infants in a congregation’s nursery. We can’t guarantee safety, but generally congregations are responsible for injuries that result from negligence.
This is why we recommend at least two non-related or partnered adults working with our children and youth. They witness one another’s work, providing for a degree of supervision. This rule reduces the risk of child molestation and also reduces the risk of false accusations of molestation.
Windows on classroom doors and other areas frequented by minors also provide for a degree of supervision. Designated staff and volunteers can look through the window periodically, checking in on what is taking place. These people can relieve adults who need to tend to emergencies, take a child to the restroom, find a parent, or assist with a messy clean-up, or replenish resources.
Regular supervision also provides an added level of support for volunteers and staff, which is critical to their own ongoing formation and development as people ministering to and with children. Supervisors can be a sounding board, can help talk through challenging situations, and identify possible solutions. The supervisory relationship allows for an appropriate space for processing, questions, and discerning, while maintaining healthy boundaries.