Safe Church Ministry held its third biennial and bi-national conference November 4-5, 2016. Over 50 people gathered in Grand Rapids (a lower number than in previous years, with only 8 Canadians who in the past have outnumbered U.S. participants). The Safe Church conference offers the opportunity to hear from accomplished workshop presenters, participate in plenary sessions together, learn a lot, network with others, and be encouraged and inspired. What a blessing it was to read through the evaluations, which were overwhelmingly positive. And what a joy it’s been to follow up with attendees who want more and are wondering how to bring this back to their own congregation and classis.
We are happy to have new resources for education and training as a result of our conference. Two special plenary sessions were open to the public, and were also recorded live. If you didn’t have the opportunity to attend these special events, you can watch the live-stream version on YouTube:
Nov. 4 – A Conversation: A Church Response to Interpersonal Violence featuring authors Ruth Tucker, and Ruth Everhart who have both written memoirs about their experience.
Nov. 5 – Building a Movement to End Child Sexual Abuse with Linda Crockett, founder of Samaritan SafeChurch, which represents a growing, vibrant, ecumenical stream of Christians who are stepping up to protect children from sexual harm. (The first part of this program had to be re-recorded; only the last part is live-streamed from our conference).
Our prayer is that these resources will help us understand these issues more deeply, so that our congregations can recognize and acknowledge them, and also respond in helpful and healing ways.
Below are a few quotes shared by conference participants:
From conference attendees:
- “The presenters were so knowledgeable and helpful and compassionate. I had never been to a conference like this before, never even knew anything about safe church. So, it was an eye-opener for me!”
- “I liked meeting people who were all passionate about keeping our youth and churches safe. It was so interesting to learn more and made me want more training.”
- “I really learned a lot from the conference and it made me very fired up to learn as much as I can!”
From a gathering of Classis Team Chairpersons/Liaisons:
- I’m finally feeling like I have some people onboard that I can depend on, no more revolving door.
- As the classis safe church team chairperson, I now sit on the Classis Executive Committee as a non-voting member to add safe church expertise to situations that arise in the classis.
- In our classis we are beginning a new procedure; each church must have a safe church policy and a safe church representative as a requirement to be seated at the classis meeting.
- Our classis has recently established a safe church coordinator position, which includes a small honorarium to encourage and promote safe church within each congregation.
- We are working on a discussion guide to go along with the movie “Spotlight” which can be used in congregations to increase understanding about child sexual abuse by church leaders.
From one of our presenters:
- “I was delighted to be a part of the event. Thank you all for doing such important work!”
And the work continues. Future articles, additional resources new opportunities will be posted as a result of this conference…stay tuned!