Training is part of what a safe church team can offer to a church or classis. Common questions include: What training is available? How, where, and when does training happen? Who facilitates it? Is there a standard set of good quality, baseline training materials?
These are great questions and we are working to provide good answers, knowing that safe church ministry looks different in different places, so the answers will not be one-size-fits-all.
Most safe church leaders and teams, within each church, offer training for staff and volunteers who work with children and youth. This is the most familiar kind of safe church or abuse prevention training. In addition to general information about dynamics and impacts of abuse, those who work with children and youth need to be aware of and understand the church policy that they are required to follow. There are many resources available from Safe Church and other organizations to provide this kind of training. However, resources must be adapted to fit each church context.
Safe Church offers these resources for safe church teams: (Note: Safe Church is in the process of developing a Team Building Toolkit with updated resources)
- PowerPoint Presentations to be adapted and used (note especially ‘sample church training’ or ‘safe church overview’ or ‘safe church policy’)
- Child Abuse 101 – a PowerPoint presentation posted on The Network
- Webinar: The Church’s Role in Ending Child Abuse – This webinar examines how sexual abuse happens, what some of the impacts are, and then explores how churches can play a key role in ending this epidemic in our culture.
- Circle of Grace: The Circle of Grace program includes a 1-hour training video for those who work with children and youth, which includes good information about child abuse.
After Synod 2018, questions were added to the Annual Yearbook Survey. One of the questions added was, “Does your church require training for pastors, elders, and deacons regarding the use and potential abuse of power associated with their position?” Ideally, the safe church team or committee is able to provide this training annually for church councils. In some classes, the safe church coordinator travels to the churches in the classis to offer this kind of training.
Again, Safe Church offers these resources for safe church teams:
- Sample Training for Councils and Ministry Leaders, adapted from one of our safe church coordinators in Eastern Canada, includes various information and scenarios for discussion.
- Webinar: Healthy Boundaries in Ministry Relationships – This webinar explores power dynamics, common pitfalls to avoid as ministry leaders, and includes a handout and self-assessment tool.
- Responding to Abuse: A Toolkit for Churches – This resource contains basic information for responding in situations of abuse. It could be read and discussed as a part of council training.
- Resources on various topics related to abuse – Most abuse doesn’t happen in church, yet our churches are filled with people who have experienced it. These awareness resources help us better understand and make our ministry more effective.
It’s important to note that there are organizations who have made preventing child abuse their primary focus and mission. Others focus on different kinds of abuse. These organizations have many staff members and resources dedicated solely to abuse prevention and response. It’s wise for us to make good use of the resources that these outside organizations have to offer!
- Mennonite Central Committee – Our partner in offering the Circle of Grace program, also a source for information and presenters.
- Darkness to Light – Christian focused prevention program available in most states and several countries, which includes facilitated training with video segments.
- Plan to Protect – mostly in Canada but expanding to U.S. A comprehensive program that goes beyond abuse prevention to include other safety issues.
- Safe Places – A wealth of information and resources to keep children safe and support survivors.
- GRACE – Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment offers resources, training and consultation.
- ChurchCares.Com - Offering a free, downloadable book and video resource called, Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused
- Prevent Connect - Offering Safe Secure Kids: An online tool for parents and educators
As the issue of abuse has seemed to explode in recent years, so have the resources available for churches. Please don’t hesitate to contact Safe Church to share resources that you have discovered, or to ask us about resources that you need. I know there are many safe church coordinators doing wonderful work training, please feel free to share what you use and what has been found helpful.
Note that Synod 2019 directives include training for pastors, for CRCNA employees, and for ministry leaders. Various committees are at work now to bring together good quality, easily accessible resources for churches. Therefore, there will be more (hopefully improved) resources to come. Pray for this ongoing work, pray that our churches may be safe places where all are honored and protected, and pray that we may be well equipped in abuse prevention and response.