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We are eagerly looking forward to our bi-national Safe Church Conference, Equipped in our #MeToo World, Sept 21-22 in Grand Rapids, MI. We spend a lot of time and effort on this conference and it’s one of our largest budget items. So… why do we do it? What impact does it have? Is it worth it? Two stories, only two out of many, help us answer these questions.

The first story comes from Manhattan Montana, where Barb Cole reported to Classis Yellowstone after attending the Safe Church conference in 2016.

Last fall you made it possible for me 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, maintaining internet safety with children, 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, who 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.  The next morning, 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, shared the dark side of some popular apps and answered our questions.

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. 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.

Note: The population of Manhattan, MT was 1,520 in the 2010 census; CRC congregations are few and far between. This became a real community event beyond the CRC. The community was so appreciative. You can read a more complete story here.

The second story comes to us from Jane DeGroot in Spring Lake, Michigan, who also attended the Safe Church conference in 2016. Her story is in the Banner as part of a series of stories describing paths to ministry.

I first sensed a calling to Safe Church Ministry when I learned that someone close to me had been sexually abused as a child. I came to the conclusion that if someone I knew well could suffer abuse without my knowing it, then others might also be suffering without my knowledge. That motivated me to listen more carefully. As an elder of our church, I attended a classis meeting in October 2016 at which pastor Ken Krause (Fellowship CRC, Big Rapids) announced an upcoming Safe Church conference sponsored by the denomination. My interest was piqued. Soon after, I registered and even encouraged several friends from Classis Muskegon to attend with me. At the conference, we heard stories from people who had suffered abuse, learned about abuse in general, and witnessed the healing effect of the truth being told. I returned to our church convicted to revitalize the Safe Church team in our church as well as in Classis Muskegon. If you haven’t been involved yet, I recommend starting by attending the Safe Church Ministry conference Sept. 21-22, 2018, Equipped in our #MeToo World, at the Prince Conference Center in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The lasting benefits and advantages of networking and learning from excellent presenters together with people doing the same kind of ministry all across the U.S. and Canada is hard to measure. Do you have a Safe Church conference story to tell? Please feel free to share it in a comment. And if you’ve never experienced the Safe Church conference, now is the time to consider attending. We’d love to see every classis represented there.

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