Accountability Documents are very important and can be very helpful in making your ministry run smoother, safer and not to mention giving you peace of mind. Using these types of documents well can provide you with crucial information in an emergency, help you avoid incidents, and can help your ministry become more effective. It is important to note that no document provides 100% protection legally or otherwise and that the effectiveness of these documents depends on the people and the specific circumstances. However, they do provide accountability between you, the minor and the guardian(s). Things go wrong, but these documents will help you do the best you can with the worst situations.
Permission Slips: These are slips that give you written permission from the legal guardians of a minor to participate in 1 specific event, or a series of events. Permission slips are important for 2 reasons. First, they provide documentation to others proving that the minor is allowed by their guardian to be with you. This may be necessary on trips out of the country, if something happens and you need to prove that you have temporary custody of the minor, etc. Secondly, it also proves that the guardian knew what was going on for that event. This can be helpful in protecting yourself and your organization if something goes wrong and the guardian denies knowing or giving the minor permission to be with you. It is important to be specific in permission slips so that the parent and other parties will know what exactly the minor is given permission to do.
Medical Waivers: These are documents that provide you and doctors with background medical information, permission to give medical assistance and waive the rights of the guardian to sue you or your organization if the minor is injured. Medical waivers are important to have for several reasons. First, they can help you avoid the injury of a minor because you know what substances/allergens, activities, or conditions to consider. Secondly, if something does go wrong, they give you the best chance to give optimum medical care to the minor, by cutting through legal red tape and by giving you quick information. Thirdly, they give you emergency contact information so that you can consult the guardian if at all possible in the event of an accident. And finally, they give you insurance information so that it is possible to give professional medical care in the event that the guardian cannot be reached. Hospitals may or may not accept these forms depending on their policy, but it is better to have it and not need it than the opposite. Also, the medical information needs to be update or it risks becoming useless. I reissue my Yearly medical waiver below every year so that it is current.
Contracts: These are Contracts between you, the guardian and the minor that state specific expectations and consequences for failure to meet these expectations. These can be incredibly useful because they provide you with the ability to hold the guardian and/or minor accountable to a certain standard of expectations. I typically use Contracts to establish a set of behavioral expectations. If the minor fails to meet those expectations then you are allowed to administer the consequences on either the minor or the guardian. The consequences can be stated in a variety of ways, but some examples would be certain and stated punishment at the event like cleaning toilets, dismissal from the event/program, a money fine either punitive or for damages, and even turning the minor over to law enforcement if applicable. I have found it important to be specific both in the expectations and the consequences so that every party is completely aware of the situation. The bottom line is that you are going to have discipline problems no matter what you do, but a good contract can provide you a known standard to hold your participants accountable and your ministry effective.
The Football (named after emergency documents for the president of the USA): This can be a useful trick that I learned in college. I have a red binder that I call the football and it's named after the brief case that holds all the nuclear codes for the president that never leaves his side. It has all the information I need to run any event, especially trips.
Yours Football could contain:
- COPIES of all my medical waivers (keep the originals safe and at home
- Maps, you will get lost eventually. I keep some general maps and then print out specific maps for the trips if I need them.
- Contact information for important people; board members, staff, Sr Pastor, an EMT I know, a mechanic, a lawyer, even other youth pastors if I have a question. It may also be important to have contact information for the places you are going.
- I also have a pouch I can put small amounts of cash, or other important items.
- You may also find it necessary to have a detailed schedule for your event/trip in case you get very sick and pawn off the event onto another person. You may not always be around to make every decision, it is important for you to empower and inform your Trusted adult helpers to function without you.
- Copy of your organizations insurance policy
- A Complete Phone Directory for your organization
- A mini Bible and devotional tucked away for a rainy day, or a long mechanical problem
- A list of possible activities to do in case you get stuck or have extra time to kill
Here are some examples of each of the 3 documents that I discussed above. You can use them if you wish to, but you need to read through them several times and adapt them to your situation. It is also important to note that these are to help you make your own documents and that neither I, nor the makers of this website accept any responsibility for them legally or otherwise. If you wish to have professional advice, then you should consult a lawyer.