What sets Samaritan SafeChurch apart from the generic “safe church” and “safe sanctuary” programs that have been around for years is that we are calling and equipping people of faith to be leaders in an emerging social movement to end the scourge of child sexual abuse that impacts at least one in four girls and one in six boys before they reach the age of 18. And in less than 5 years, we have gone from a local to regional to national platform by working at the grassroots and carving a path for people of faith to play a role in the cultural shift needed to protect our children from sexual harm.
In Samaritan SafeChurch, congregants are invited to participate in an interactive process of incorporating God’s love and protectiveness for children into policies and practices based on their Biblical and theological values. Many congregations have child protection policies and training “mandated” by their denominations; like the dry bones Ezekiel encountered in the wilderness, these have no life. SafeChurch raises up the dry bones and calls churches to turn from lifeless policies that require “compliance” to a fully awake process that is grounded in a vision of people of faith becoming leaders not only in their churches but in their communities to protect children from sexual harm.
Increasingly, congregations with denominationally driven training and policies are recognizing that while these were once a step forward, they do little or nothing to prevent child sexual abuse or to create a safe and healing environment for those who have experienced it. What they primarily do is protect churches from liability and keep them compliant with laws. Which is not a bad thing, but it falls far short of what is needed to protect children.
Congregations engaging in Samaritan SafeChurch are utilizing the process to not only improve policies but to revitalize people’s passion to be change makers in a world where far too many children are at risk. Parents, grandparents and other adults are learning how to recognize offender grooming behavior and intervene quickly; children are learning about healthy boundaries; adult survivors are sharing their wisdom, born of suffering, about how to keep children safe. And people are going missional: taking what they learn in church and using it to protect children at school, sports, scouts, and neighborhoods, since 90% of children are molested by someone they know and trust.
Do you want to be a change maker in an emerging social movement to end CSA? Want to shed those ‘dry bones’ policies and formulaic training sessions? Want to hear the rattle of other dry bones as people from many traditions and denominations rise up with us to change the social conditions that allow so many children to be sexually harmed? If so, join us! Enroll your congregation in a SafeChurch Cluster if you live in an area where we have trained facilitators, such as Lancaster, PA; Harrisonburg, VA; Atlanta; Pittsburgh; or Harlem. No Samaritan SafeChurch where you live? Bring us to your community to get trained to you can be a social movement maker with other people of faith who are rising up, putting flesh on those dry bones, and taking to heart God’s command to protect the most vulnerable among us.