RAMS Forms for Youth Ministry

It is not sexy, but doing our best to comply with the laws of our land is a good witness as well as one that will help avoid any legal issues, which helps us stay in ministry in the longer term. Things like RAMS forms help us think through the risks of what we are planning. Please hear me, I think fun is a key component of youth ministry. If we are boring then we will be considered irrelevant by the majority of those who we are trying to reach, but what we do need to do is think through our plans so that the fun activities we planned that had some risks, do not become remembered for when the risk overtook the fun.

Good thinking around risks can help us plan properly so that the fun is the memory, not the harm or tragedy. We will never eliminate risk in life and definitely not in youth ministry, but there is a difference between risk and carelessness.

 

So what is a RAMS form?

RAMS stands for Risk Assessment and Management Strategies. It is a document that outlines the event you are running, the risks associated with the event/activity and what thinking and actions you have around these risks. It is a document that should be in partnership with your church's Health and Safety manual and policies. I am not an expert or a legal advisor on this, but have done some work on it for my local church. You do not necessarily need to complete a RAMS form for every event. If your activity is repeated then you can use one RAMS form to cover that, just make sure that if you observe a new risk that needs to be in the form, that you amend the document. They should be reviewed at minimum annually to ensure they are still accurate.

 

Who needs to do RAMS forms?

RAMS forms along with your church's Health and Safety manual should also be part of your leadership induction for new leaders and volunteers. Health and Safety should also be part of your regular meetings as well, as it is everyone's responsibility to keep each other safe.

The person responsible for the event should have an understanding of the document for each event. All leaders should have an understanding of the steps to take if there was an emergency or issue.

 

How do I use your form?

The form can be downloaded as an editable word document here - RAM-TEMPLATE.docx

The top section is a summary of the event and a checklist of things to consider. Some will be NA (not applicable), like a life-saving if you are not doing an activity with swimming. I would suggest not just putting a yes, no or NA into this section, but details. So for First Aid Kit: you could put "In youth leader's vehicle" or "In church kitchen cupboard".

Below that is some aspects to consider as you think through your event, your youth and your environment, and then a summary of the steps.

Then there is a list of fairly common hazards and risks. In the columns for Eliminated, Isolated or Minimised you put an X into the appropriate column. If it is not applicable to your event then I suggest you delete it. If you identified a risk but managed to eliminate it then note that and what you did to eliminate the risk. To be honest, almost all the risks you have on your form will be minimised. There is some example text in the columns for Actions, Policies and Monitoring, but you need to personalize this for your circumstances.

 

Where can I get help?

If you need help with RAMS or your church's Health and Safety policies then I am happy to be a resource to help, but also suggest you connect with the InterChurch Bureau or your denominational head office. I am sure WorkSafe NZ will also be happy to help although probably better set up for work places than churches and youth groups.

 

Like I said, it is not the most glamourous topic, and there are other legal responsibilities to consider, and other aspects of Health and Safety like hazard registers and incident reports, but it is a start towards building a youth ministry that I believe is set up to make an impact over the long term. Trust and credibility is lost if we don't properly manage the risks within our youth ministries.

God bless you as you serve.

 

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash