Safe Church Teams: Purpose of a Classis Safe Church Team

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Why does our Classis Need a Safe Church Team?

Are you more interested in finding out about the purpose of a Safe Church team within a congregation? Please refer to the article, Purpose of a Safe Church Team within a Congregation, for a summary including the guiding goals that have been identified by safe church leaders and adopted by Synods 2014, 2016 and 2018.

The purpose of a classis safe church team is threefold. First to provide support, encouragement, and accountability to congregational safe church leaders in their work of equipping congregations in abuse awareness, prevention, and response. The second reason is to offer educational opportunities for congregational safe church leaders, and the broader church. And finally the classis safe church team helps ensure that churches respond appropriately when abuse is disclosed, and are able to offer the Advisory Panel Process when a church leader has been accused of abuse. In these ways, a classis safe church team helps 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.   

What does a Classis Safe Church Team Do?

The classis safe church team functions as the primary support network for safe church ministry within the classis. The classis team brings together safe church leaders in each congregation for mutual encouragement and learning. Congregational safe church leaders can benefit greatly by knowing they are not alone and are part of a larger movement of safe church ministry. They gain confidence in their gifts and skills from training and networking with an active classis safe church team. In addition, the classis team works to build trust and good working relationships within the classis so that pastors and ministry leaders know who they can talk with regarding general abuse prevention and response initiatives, or when any specific safe church needs arise.

How does the Classis Safe Church Team Work?

The classis safe church team may be structured in different ways. Below are the two most common:

  1. A small core team connects regularly with churches in the classis and with safe church leaders working within congregations. The classis safe church coordinator facilitates this small core team, and the core team plans for the regular larger gatherings of congregational safe church leaders and educational opportunities. Ideally, every church would be represented at these larger gatherings.
  2. A representative from each church makes up the classis safe church team. Each church provides a safe church leader who acts as a representative on the classis safe church team. The classis safe church coordinator plans for regular gatherings of the congregational safe church leaders and educational opportunities. Ideally, every church would be represented on the classis safe church team.  

Who Leads the Classis Safe Church Team?

The classis safe church coordinator is a key facilitator for the team in both of the above structures. A sample description of the classis safe church coordinator can be found here. It’s best that the classis safe church coordinator does not function alone, but instead has a core group of at least 2-3 folks that work closely together to coordinate and facilitate safe church ministry in the classis. A lone safe church coordinator without the advantages of a team, is not the most effective or healthy model.

The classis coordinator will have regular connection with Safe Church staff for ongoing support, training, and encouragement. However, any congregational safe church leader may reach out directly as needed to Safe Church staff, who are a phone call or email away.

The classis team can be available to offer additional expertise and support when situations of abuse arise. These kinds of situations can get very complicated very quickly; working together with a safe church team can lead to better outcomes. In addition, the classis safe church team is able to offer the Advisory Panel Process so that it can be offered in situations of abuse involving a church leader.

A classis safe church team is able to support safe church ministry within the classis by offering the following to churches:

  • Regular connection and gathering of safe church leaders working at the congregational level. Gatherings are recommended at least twice a year, either face-to-face or via Zoom video conferencing, which is available via Safe Church ministry.
  • Educational opportunities, training, and special events regarding issues surrounding abuse. Increased awareness about abuse provides a solid foundation for the work. A classis safe church team can coordinate, host, and or promote events, which may include multi-classis, national, or bi-national events.
  • Support and consultation in situations of abuse. It’s best to have more than one person to discern the best path forward in these kinds of complicated and difficult situations, while also maintaining appropriate confidentiality.
  • Advisory Panel Process training and the capacity to convene a panel when requested. It is the responsibility of the classis safe church team to ensure that there are people in the classis who have had training in the Advisory Panel Process so that it can be offered in situations of abuse involving a church leader.
  • Specialized expertise. The classis team can mobilize the specific gifts and skills that are needed. (For example, the classis team may have a therapist that is especially gifted to walk alongside someone who is struggling with an experience of abuse, or the classis team may have someone especially gifted in policy that can help a church who is in the process of reviewing their policy. Note: this expertise may not be available in every congregation)
  • Accountability in measuring progress and effectiveness of safe church ministry. This involves maintaining the data requested by Synod 2018 that is gathered through the annual Yearbook survey and reported to synod each year.

Imagine. . . what might the benefits be with an active and engaged safe church team in your classis?

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:12, 26-27

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