During this time of year churches are expected to fill out all sorts of online reports that are due by their Charge Conference date. I am expected to review these reports for the 98 churches in the Capital District to make sure they are complete and to offer assistance as needed and appropriate. One item of concern, as I review reports this fall, is that we have a fairly significant number of churches who do not have a Safe Sanctuaries policy in place and/or have not held any sort of training for folks in their church recently. Folks, we’ve got to make this a priority. Safe Sanctuaries can’t be optional. We owe it to the children, youth and vulnerable adults in our care to do all that we can to ensure that ALL people are kept safe while on our grounds or while participating in our off-site ministry and programs.
Even in small membership churches and those with few (or no) children, we need to be prepared for visiting children and we need to protect our vulnerable adults too. Safe Sanctuaries is NOT a policy, it is a way of doing ministry as United Methodists. Doing ministry this way is not only about protecting children, youth and vulnerable adults, it is also about protecting our volunteers and reducing the liability for our churches.
Is your church doing all that you can to create a Safe Sanctuary environment? I encourage you to ask yourself these questions as a starting point:
- Do you have a 2 adult rule in place? Meaning, do you ensure that there are ALWAYS 2 adults in the room, car, or other space when working with children, youth and vulnerable adults?
- Do you check the background of ALL adults who work with children, youth and vulnerable adults?
- Do you have guidelines in place for photos and posts on your church website and have you trained all adults on appropriate communication with youth and children, including texting, email and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.)?
- Do you have expectations for other groups utilizing your church property to make sure that the folks in those groups have safety policies that are enforced?
- Is everyone clear what the reporting procedures are if someone were to raise a concern?
These questions are just a few for our consideration. This is serious business folks, and we can’t put this on the back burner any longer. There are plenty of resources available to help with this. Please make it a priority to pull together a Safe Sanctuaries team, to come up with an appropriate policy for your congregation and to offer training at least once a year.
Here’s a page on our conference website with all sorts of resources including sample policies, a link to a company that provides background checks and other tips. https://nccumc.org/christianformation/safe-sanctuaries-children-youth-vulnerable-adults/
Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist church also offers lots of resources including training videos, webinars and more. http://www.umcdiscipleship.org/leadership-resources/safe-sanctuaries
In addition, there are several folks in our district who have been equipped to lead Safe Sanctuaries training workshops, including me. Please let me know if you have questions or if I can be of help in any way.
If you would like to print or share this edition of Claire…ification, you are are encouraged to use this pdf: claire-safe-sanctuaries-cant-be-optional
To read past editions – you are encouraged to follow this link: