Last fall you made it possible for me (Barb Cole) to attend the Safe Church Conference held in Grand Rapids. One of the presenters was Chris McKenna, founder of Protect Young Eyes. The content of his speech was so applicable to our area that I asked him if he would consider coming to Montana. To my surprise, the answer was a resounding yes.
A year later we hosted Chris’s colleague, Travis Logan on October 9 and 10. On the 9th, Travis spoke to two local schools (one Christian, one public) and in the evening presented to parents, youth workers, and community members. His theme was internet safety. There was a lot of information to absorb. A handout for note taking helped keep us on track and Travis reminded us to spend time using the resources available on the Protect Young Eyes website.
On the morning of the 10th, over thirty people from several local churches as well as three local CRC churches gathered to hear more from Travis and to meet Bonnie Nicholas, Director of CRC Safe Church Ministry. Travis told more of his own gripping personal story, explained the importance of secure devices and routers, and shared the dark side of some popular apps. A Q&A time helped clarify a round of questions.
Next up Bonnie Nicholas presented on themes of abuse, confidentiality, and misuse of power by using interactive discussion of various scenarios. This was a good way to think about situations that could happen and explore potential preventative steps. She also shared the goals of CRC Safe Church Ministry, the availability of the Circle of Grace program and other resources from Safe Church. It was exciting to gather with Christian Reformed members and those of other churches who desire to be proactive in making congregations safer for everyone. One of our goals was to start meaningful conversations regarding the internet as well as relationship safety within the context of church life. The next step will be to implement the lessons we learned.
In conclusion, the trainings were enlightening and provoking. It was daunting to hear stories of abuse and struggle, but the promise of the Ultimate Safe Relationship with God encourages each of us to press on. Throughout the week, I was impressed with the promise from II Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” This verse is fitting because it addresses our minds. The mind/internet/addiction cycle is powerful, but our Father still rules. Our aim with Safe Church is not to re-adjudicate the past but to move forward confidently, being informed; and by aiming for wisdom we can become communities of grace for everyone.