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Safer Churches from the Ground Up

What comes to mind when you hear "safe church ministry"?

What comes to mind when you hear “safe church ministry”?

“I think of our Safe Church committee,” one church-goer told Christian Courier, “and the work they do to keep up with government and insurance regulations, especially related to the vulnerable sector of the community – children and seniors.”

And while all of that is important, the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) has a bigger vision for its Safe Church Ministry.

“Imagine a church where everyone feels safe, where faith grows as God’s love is experienced in a context of open and honest relationships,” says Bonnie Nicholas, the CRC Safe Church Ministry Director, “and where those who have suffered the deep impacts of abuse find companions who understand and are able to walk with them on their journey towards healing.”

According to a recent survey, roughly one third of CRC churches have a Safe Church team.

The Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC) also has a comprehensive policy for dealing with Sexual Abuse and Harassment. It was developed in 1998 and updated in 2010.

“Safe Church walks alongside churches, with support, encouragement and resources as we journey together, building communities that reflect our Lord.

“It also goes beyond the walls of our churches into our communities, where we have the opportunity to become salt and light as we partner with others to end abuse, to protect and care for all of God’s children, including those who have been harmed and those who struggle with behaviour that harms others,” Nicholas says.

One Safe Church resource describes how a lioness on the Savannah circles and prowls, looking for a younger and smaller animal to prey upon. Human sexual predators are the same. The training resource goes on to explain how elephants create a circle around their young to protect them. As churches, we need to provide protection for our children, as they are the most vulnerable among us.

With examples of abuse prevalent in the news, it can feel as though nothing is being done to combat the issues. Safe Church Ministry is tackling this challenging reality head on, by equipping and educating church communities in preventing and reporting abuse.

HOW ARE WE DOING?
Out of 760 CRC churches who responded to a 2019 survey:

• 86 percent have a written safe church or abuse prevention policy

• 36 percent have protocols in place for responding to church
leader misconduct

• 28 percent have a safe church team or committee

• 16 percent require training for pastors, elders and deacons regarding
the use and potential abuse of power associated with
their position; and

• 7 percent use a prevention program with children and youth
(Safe Church recommends Circle of Grace).

Data taken from the report “Addressing Abuse of Power in the
CRC,” p.13.

WHAT CAN I DO?
Find more information, how to respond to specific scenarios and a Safe Church Toolkit as seen on the front page at crcna.org/safechurch. To read a sister article on the prevention of abuse in chruches, click here.

  • Kristen is a freelance writer for Christian Courier. She recently married her husband, Chris. She has a passion for words and house plants.

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