Children, Church and the Law Training

In August The Warehouse hosted workshops on South Africa’s Children’s Act and its application to churches. As ‘organisations’ heavily involved in the care of children, it is vital that we, as the church, are aware of the laws around this, so that we do not unknowingly perpetuate some of the unhealthy dynamics that children, far too often, experience elsewhere.

In this country, many children are exposed to things like abuse, neglect and exploitation. The reality of poverty has far-reaching and long-term implications for a large population of our children. The issue of fatherlessness wreaks havoc on families and the psyches of children, often contributing to low self-esteem, substance abuse, teen pregnancy and suicide (to name a few). High exposure to violence has long-lasting, damaging effects, upon children’s psychological states.

The church is well-placed to come alongside children facing some of these difficulties, and offer support, care and a safe place. However, doing so without causing further problems, requires us to be clear about our role, our boundaries, and the guiding laws and regulations provided in part by the Children’s Act, otherwise we run the risk of contributing to the harm. Things like Sunday school, youth camps, holiday clubs, homework clubs and youth centres, can be wonderful, but they are all areas where children are potentially vulnerable or at risk, and yet this is not something that we often give a second thought to. We rarely screen volunteers before giving them the privileged position of looking after or teaching children.

With the surfacing of far too many stories where the church is implicated in cases of the mistreatment of children, it is essential that we are intentional about thinking through these issues and creating suitable plans and procedures in line with the law’s requirements, so that at least when they are with us, children are in a safe place.

The workshops were an informative and enriching time for all who participated. Surfacing out of it were some important questions that churches should be able to answer in the affirmative, but too often cannot. We have compiled a few of them that you might find it helpful to ask of your own church:

Are you aware of who counts as a child according to the law?
Are you aware of the laws that determine who is eligible to work with children within the church?
Has everyone in your church that works with children, been through all the legally required screening procedures?
Does your church have its own policies and procedures around the topic of children, and are these policies known by the relevant people?

If your answer to any of these questions was ‘no’ and you would like to find out more about, and equip yourself and your church around, these (and other) topics, The Warehouse has a resource available called Children, Church, and the Law, which describes the principles and provisions of the Children’s Act and its relevance to churches in their work with children. If you would like to get hold of this, or require further information about it, please email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Let us together do our part in helping to create a society where children are safe and protected!

Photo Credit: Tony Lawrence


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