Abuse Awareness, Prevention, and Response: How Will It Happen In Your Classis?
January 30, 2018
Updated April 19, 2018
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Silence is no longer an option. In this watershed #MeToo moment, the Church must be ready to respond to sexual abuse. Active safe church ministry equips God’s people to respond in situations of abuse with understanding, compassion and justice that foster healing. This response provides opportunity for the transforming power of God to be revealed in our midst. In addition, active safe church ministry helps build communities where the value of each person is honored and where people are free to worship and grow free from abuse — preventing it before it happens. Safe church ministry: abuse awareness, prevention and response. How will it happen in your classis?
It takes all of us, working together to respond in this pivotal moment. If your church is not active in safe church ministry, and/or your classis has no functioning safe church team to support this important work. Please consider the following Safe Church Ministry Classis Coordinator position (sample position description attached below) as a way to begin. The Coordinator will help cultivate spaces of learning, equipping and healing so that churches can better experience the good news of God’s kingdom that transforms lives and communities worldwide (CRCNA Vision).
Here are three ways that we envision this position to work:
First - Each Coordinator will use their own leadership gifts and skills to equip and train others who are active in congregational safe church ministry. Facilitating meetings (virtual and actual) will help to encourage and support individuals who are actively working in each congregation towards greater awareness, leading to more effective abuse prevention, and response. We recognize that each congregation has unique needs as well as gifts and resources. Safe church ministry must fit these unique contexts, which is why empowering people to serve in each congregation is so important.
Second - Classis support for a Coordinator position will show that abuse awareness, prevention and response is taken seriously, which is an especially important message in this time, when the voices of those who have suffered abuse are louder and stronger than ever. A designated position, whether paid or unpaid, provides an ongoing integral connection with the classis structure, offering greater sustainability as well as a bit of accountability. It will help keep the issue from “falling off the back burner” which so commonly happens when no one is specifically paying attention to it.
Third - The Coordinator will need resources, encouragement and support. Therefore, creating connections with others, building knowledge of available resources and offering consultation and coaching as needed will become a primary responsibility of the director and Safe Church Ministry associate.
Synod has repeatedly reminded all classes in the denomination of the vital importance of a safe church team, noting that, “a safe church team is an important part of the pastoral care that the church offers to its members.” (Acts of Synod 2014; p.559) It is our hope that this position will assist our congregations and classes in this matter. We hope that you will prayerfully consider the advantages to creating this position within your classis structure. In some classes this position is already in place, whether paid or unpaid, and the results speak for themselves in terms of increased learning opportunities, better connections, and more effective prevention and response efforts. Please don’t hesitate to contact Safe Church to discuss this further.
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Safe Church Ministry is offering "seed money" in the form a grant to help classes establish a Safe Church Classis Coordinator as a paid position (an annual stipend) as part of their ongoing classis structure. (Safe Church grant funds will pay for the first year, up to $1,500 when the classis agrees to maintain the position at the same level following the first year). For more information, please contact Safe Church Ministry.
So, who's going to pay for this? Not your ministry shares (those funds are shrinking). It's on us, all of us, to make this work in every classis. Safe Church has set up a new designated Classis Coordinator fund; 100% of these funds will go directly to a classis. Read more about it in this article about how Safe Church is finding ways to do more ministry for less: To Solve a Safe Church Situation. It takes all of us working together to make our congregations safer for everyone.
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