What Makes a Church a Safe Church?

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Late in April, a group of 23 Safe Church Chairpersons, Advocates, and Advisory Board Members gathered to spend a weekend discussing Safe Church Ministry. We asked the questions, "What makes a church truly safe? What characteristics are true for a safe church?" We worked together to create one list from everyone’s responses; then we voted on the top four. Here they are:

1.  Every church has a written safety policy in place which includes:

  • Screening by all staff and volunteers - background check and references.
  • All staff and volunteers aware of, committed to, and regularly trained in using the policy.
  • Accountability procedures and consequences for those who do not follow the policy.
  • A system for regular review of the policy.

2.  Every church has protocols in place for responding to misconduct by a church leader which are strictly followed.

3.  Issues of abuse can be freely discussed; this includes:

  • Acknowledgement that abuse happens, and involves church members either in or outside of church.
  • Disclosure of abuse to church leaders is met with compassion and support for those who have been victimized.
  • An understanding of the nature of abuse; attitudes of manipulation, minimization and entitlement in offending and the long term, grievous impacts for those who have been victimized.

4.  Leadership at all levels is committed to the importance of Safe Church Ministry.

How many of these Safe Church characteristics are present in your church today? Which ones are you currently working on?  

Please share your challenges and your successes with us. We’ve got work ahead of us and we can get there together!

Posted in: Safe Church; Blog Photo courtesy of rossaroni http://www.flickr.com/photos/rossaroni/4719536148/in/photostream/ Image: See Credit

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Churches are unsafe places when their pastors and leaders…

Commit child sexual abuse

Engage in sexual misconduct

Physically, verbally, and emotionally abuse

Abuse the position of power

Breach confidentiality

Use false allegations

Fail to use proper church process

Participate in unethical behavior

Engage in illegal activity

Use fraud

Defame others

Do clergy malpractice

Invade in the privacy of others

Use undue influence 

 

Just because churches have all the right policies in place and have all the training they need, is no guarantee that churches are safe.

Churches practice safety.  They never become “safe.”  Churches who stop the abuse listed above and hold accountable those who do wrong are practicing being a safe church. 

Excellent, concerned.  

In addition, paying attention to slippery sidewalks, slippery floors, traffic in the parking lot, playground equipment, toys in the nursery, and people's allergies is another aspect of safety.  

And it is not only leaders and adults who are potential abusers.   Sometimes it is children who abuse others.  

Like children or teens who bully others  or children / teens who ridicule and shame our handicapped members.

In response to 'concerned'...

Unfortunately, many people have been terribly hurt by members of churches; and yes, that includes CRC churches. Because churches are made up of people, sinful people, there is no such thing as a perfect church, until Christ comes again to fully establish his kingdom. In the meantime, we must work to prevent harm and create safe church environments for everyone. A good place to begin is to have policies in place, which are designed to prevent any form of misconduct from occurring, and which are always followed in all circumstances. Many of the specific concerns expressed above could be avoided by carefully following a well-developed safe church policy. It's a good place to start; it’s not the end of the matter; as we work together to practice being a safe church.    

  

Absolutely.

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