Safe Church as Lifeguarding
Last week in my community, a small boy was found floating facedown in the water at a local pool and was resuscitated by a lifeguard. The boy’s life was saved. The lifeguard had been trained well. When the needed skills were required, the lifeguard carried them out quickly and effectively. Imagine the parents’ joy and gratitude. Imagine the lifeguard’s feelings knowing that his or her actions had saved a young child’s life.
This news story brought tears of joy to my eyes because, as a mother, I could not help but think about how I would have felt if the boy had been my son. And it reminded me about our safe church work.
Lifeguards’ shifts are busy and full of responsibilities, all of which contribute to safe environments that prevent injury and death. Lifeguards teach swimming lessons so that children know how to be safe in the water and learn to swim. They check the pool chemicals and do basic pool maintenance so that the water stays clear. They keep a sharp eye out for risky behavior. "Stay off the ropes; “Walk please, don't run”; and “Floating toys don't belong in the deep end” are common phrases. Lifeguards ensure that emergency equipment is kept in a convenient, known location, and they always have their whistles ready to use in case of an emergency.
“In fact, lifeguards are not just trained and waiting around for something bad to happen. They are vigilant and actively involved in maintaining a safe pool environment. The same should be true of safe church team members,” says Bonnie Nicholas, Director of Safe Church Ministry for the Christian Reformed Church. “We are vigilant and doing those little-noticed, ongoing activities that help maintain a safe church environment.”
Church leaders and safe church volunteers invest countless hours in training, prevention work, policy development and awareness. They become experts in issues related to abuse and safety. They highlight the need for resources and facility safety improvements with church council and members.
This work makes a big difference. Just by doing this work, safe church advocates prevent the unthinkable from happening. By providing a place of safety, safe church teams may change the course of a child’s life or enable a victim of abuse to come forward and receive the care he or she needs to experience healing and hope.