What's good to know for a Safe Church Team Member: If you’ve wondered where to start, or where to go to learn more, this article is for you.
Safe Church Ministry envisions trained safe church team members in every congregation, and a Safe Church Coordinator with a supportive core team in every classis. Safe church teams have been a goal since Safe Church Ministry began in 1994 (then known as abuse response teams) and our progress seems a bit underwhelming. Safe Church employs the equivalent of 2 full time staff members for the entire bi-national denomination. Therefore it is imperative that we equip safe church team members in congregations and classes throughout the denomination to prevent and respond to abuse.
Historically, we have come to use the words “safe church team member” rather loosely. We follow Jesus, who said in Mark 9:40, “whoever is not against us is for us.” So, when we find someone with passion for this ministry, active in his or her own congregation or classis, we’re quick to label them a “team member.” Join our team! Help us assist the CRC in abuse awareness, prevention, and response. We understand that safe church ministry looks different in different places, the needs of different congregations are not the same, the culture in different places across N. America is not the same. The ministry must work differently in different places. We work to offer coordination, support, and encouragement for safe church ministry at the classis level through the position of Safe Church Classis Coordinator. As the position of Coordinator continues to develop, we hope also to continue develop additional common training and expectations, not to make safe church ministry look the same everywhere, but so that common underlying themes such as power dynamics, the impacts and prevalence of abuse, key prevention strategies, and restorative frameworks for processing harm are well-understood by all our team members.
When someone wants to become involved in safe church ministry, training can become an issue. Our small staff isn’t always available for training and volunteer team members are busy (they have other jobs, families, etc). Well over half the classes have no functioning safe church team for support, encouragement and training.
One way we offer training is through our online resources. Perhaps you don’t know about them. Maybe you don’t know where to begin (there are a lot of resources!). Whether you are a new or seasoned safe church team member, the following resources can help equip you for your work. Webinars are an easy way to learn about something in about an hour. PowerPoint presentations include notes, and can be used “as is” or changed and adapted to your ministry needs. These resources can be used by yourself or with others (team meetings or in training ministry leaders). What’s most important for safe church team members to know? Let me suggest the following:
First it’s good to get an overall picture of Safe Church Ministry and how it works, a big picture perspective:
PowerPoint presentation with notes - Maintaining a Safe Church: Getting Started with Safe Church Policies - Policies are often a starting place for safe church ministry. Check out our policy toolkit for creating and developing policies.
Responding to Abuse: A Toolkit for Churches - This toolkit provides an overview, and links to other articles that can help churches respond well when a situation of abuse arises.
Then it’s good to understand something about child sexual abuse. Children are very vulnerable and must be protected:
60 min. Webinar - The Church’s Role in Ending Child Sexual Abuse
Bulletin Insert - God Hears their Cries, Do We?
We must respond appropriately to church leader misconduct, which is especially devastating. Prevention efforts and our response are critically important.
Webinar Discussion - Author and educator Diane Langberg talks about her book, Redeeming Power: Authority and Abuse in the Church. It's filled with wonderful information for understanding how power can be misused by church leaders, and why it's so important for the church to respond.
60 min. Webinar - Healthy Boundaries in Ministry Relationships
Bulletin Insert - Is it Abuse?
Advisory Panel Process Flow Chart (Special training is required to serve on an Advisory Panel; contact Safe Church for details)
Domestic Abuse is a prevalent and dangerous problem. The harm is very real, and we can cause additional harm by not understanding the dynamics involved:
60 min. Webinar - Domestic Violence and the Role of the Church
Bulletin Insert - Domestic Abuse
In addition, you may subscribe to our Safe Church E-Newsletter, which will come every other month. Stay updated with new resources, ideas, and upcoming events. And don’t forget to take some time to imagine with the Lord what safe church ministry could look like in your congregation and classis. Prayerfully consider what your role might be. What is the next step? Perhaps it’s contacting another safe church team member in your classis, or some people with similar interests in your congregation. Maybe it’s time to meet with your pastor or council to share some of what you’ve learned. And please don’t hesitate to contact Safe Church for more information. We're here for you.