Safe Church Teams: Purpose of a Congregation Safe Church Team
June 13, 2019
Updated October 20, 2020
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Are you more interested in the purpose of a classis safe church team? Please refer to this article, Purpose of a Classis Safe Church Team, to learn more.
Why Does our Church Need a Safe Church Team?
The purpose of a congregational safe church team or committee is to equip the congregation in abuse awareness, prevention, and response. Why? Because we live in a world where one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused by the time they reach age 18. In addition, bullying, harassment, and disrespect are a part of life for many people. If the church wants to faithfully minister in our communities, we simply must address abuse. An active and engaged safe church team within a congregation can help the church become a community where the value of each person is respected; 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. This kind of community nurtures our faith and draws others in.
What does a Safe Church Team Do?
Safe church teams within congregations work toward the following guiding goals:
Policy - Laying solid groundwork in preventing abuse means having good policies in place. The safe church team helps the council set and live into safe church policy for the congregation. The safe church team can regularly review and recommend needed changes to church abuse prevention policies.
Education - Once policy is set, it is critical to provide ongoing education to remember how the church has agreed to live in community. It’s never too early to begin teaching respect and promoting healthy relationships. The safe church team can help implement church school programs that teach children and youth about healthy, respectful relationships. In addition, the safe church team can coordinate educational opportunities for the congregation and offer training to the church council, staff, and ministry leaders about healthy boundaries and the dynamics of power in ministry relationships.
Response - Even with our best prevention efforts in place, abuse still happens. The church can provide support and pastoral care to those who have been impacted by abuse. Those who have been harmed, as well as those who have perpetrated abuse, need specialized care on their journey toward healing. Churches rarely have all the resources needed to respond in many situations, therefore it’s critical to be aware of local community resources that can offer needed services that the church is unable to provide. The safe church team includes people who can be called upon to listen and to respond well to those who come forward with disclosures of abuse. They can make connections to the classis safe church team, describe the Advisory Panel Process, or refer to other appropriate resources.
Awareness - Abuse continues to be difficult to speak about, even as more and more people, especially women, are sharing their stories. There is much for us to learn about the dynamics and impacts of abuse as we work to make our congregations more welcoming to those who have experienced it, and as we work to make our prevention and response efforts even more effective. The safe church team can help coordinate a worship service on Abuse Awareness Sunday, designated the 4th Sunday of September, or take advantage of other opportunities to increase awareness, such as a nationally designated awareness month. Examples include domestic violence awareness month, sexual assault awareness month or child abuse prevention month. Safe Church provides resources to help build awareness through worship and educational opportunities.
Commitment - Those with leadership responsibilities, including ministry leaders, child and youth workers, council members, and staff need to know the critical importance of maintaining a community where everyone is valued and protected, and how safe church ministry fits into the overall mission of the church. It takes all of us working together to make our churches and communities safer for everyone. A safe church team can keep abuse issues from falling off the back burner, and can connect with others doing similar work in the classis, the region, and the denomination.
The Composition of a Congregational Safe Church Team:
The Safe Church Team should consist of at least three members, with one member also representing the church to the classis safe church team (which means communicating and participating regularly with the classis Safe Church Coordinator and classis team). It’s also important that the safe church team work in collaboration with the church council; often a designated council member will become part of the safe church team during their time in office. Safe church ministry can be rewarding, and also sometimes difficult and draining. The importance of participation with a team, rather than bearing these responsibilities alone, cannot be overemphasized. Working in a team can also model building and maintaining healthy boundaries and relationships in the congregation. And Safe Church staff are also available for consultation and coaching.
Who Might be a Good Safe Church Leader?
Many different kinds of people are active in safe church ministry. Consider the following:
When a team with various gifts and skills supports and encourages one another in safe church ministry, the work becomes more effective and more satisfying for everyone involved.
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
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