One way is to start at an early age to explicitly teach respect for self and others, provide language and a safe space to talk about difficult situations and feelings, and involve the whole community in the process. “Circle of Grace” is a program with the goal to educate and empower children and young people to actively participate in creating a safe environment for themselves and others. It uses a positive, holistic approach that recognizes God’s presence with us at all times. It is a comprehensive program that includes education for teachers, parents and others, so that all of the positive messages of sacredness and respect can be reinforced in other contexts as well as at church. This program, I believe, is one of the best ways to prevent abuse.
Teaching about “stranger danger” is not enough. Most child abuse occurs at the hands of those who are known to the child. The broader context of “Circle of Grace” – and its focus on God being present with us in all situations – is one of the positive features of this program. Our Lord intends our relationships to reflect his divine love. Respectful, nurturing relationships increase our understanding of our own value and help us to love others. It is never too early to help children and young people understand how very special they are and how relationships are sacred. A truly safe and protective environment is one where children and young people recognize when they are safe or unsafe and know how to bring their concerns, fears, and uncertainties to trusted adults.
Find out more about “Circle of Grace” on the Safe Church website, or in the June Newsletter of Dove’s Nest. Dove's Nest is an organization dedicated to keeping children safe from abuse.
Another positive feature of “Circle of Grace” is that it is a curriculum supplement that can be easily integrated into any church school program. Safe Church Ministry has purchased copying rights for up to 50 CRC churches who are willing to pilot this program. Pilot churches will have access to copy the materials for up to 10 years – free of charge. Contact the Office of Safe Church Ministry for details.