Synod 2000 encouraged each classis to have an abuse response team, now known as a safe church team, that each classis “fully embrace this team as a legitimate and important ministry of classis.” (Acts of Synod 2000, p. 619) Since that time, synod continues each year to recommend that each classis maintain a safe church team. Yet, less than half of our classes have a team. Why? Perhaps one reason is Safe Church Ministry itself. Now that we have approved this ministry, it’s up to them right? Well, no, not exactly. Safe Church Ministry only works when we ALL work together.
Safe Church Ministry equips congregations in abuse awareness, prevention and response; helping to build communities where the value of each person is honored; where people are free to worship and grow free from abuse; and where abuse has occurred, the response is compassion and justice that foster healing. This is the vision of Safe Church Ministry. We hope it’s a vision that we all share, and that we all recognize that it can’t be done by 1.5 people working from an office in Grand Rapids. Much of the work of safe church ministry happens at the congregational level, such as creating a safe church policy, implementing the Circle of Grace program, or walking alongside someone who has experienced abuse. The support and encouragement of the classis, along with the coordinating efforts of a classis team can make all the difference in the effectiveness of the ministry. That’s why it’s a good idea to invite Safe Church Ministry to our classis meetings! How? Even if there is no active safe church team, and maybe especially then, there are SO MANY WAYS to include Safe Church at our classis meetings. Here are just a few:
- Show the Safe Church Video – in less than three minutes, it gives an overview of Safe Church Ministry.
- Have a nearby safe church team member offer a “Safe Church Moment” to make a report, discuss a safe church topic, or provide an information table of resources.
- Use Safe Church brochures, fact sheets or flyers/bulletin inserts as information to be received, or as an introduction to a discussion on the topic.
- Make an announcement about an upcoming safe church event (for example: Abuse Awareness Sunday on Sept. 24, showings of the Over 18 documentary, or the safe church workshop at Inspire).
- Lead a prayer or liturgy that focuses on themes of abuse.
- Use this opportunity to discuss how the Circle of Grace program can become an integral part of Faith Formation.
- Seek a champion. As other classes have done, recommend that a part-time safe church coordinator be hired, or an annual stipend be offered to someone who is willing to champion safe church ministry within the classis. This is an extremely cost effective way to add a bit of accountability to this important work.
If none of these ideas seems to fit, contact Safe Church Ministry – we’re happy to discuss ideas for how make Safe Church “an important ministry of classis”.