In a period of two weeks, fifty members of our congregation participated in our children’s and youth ministry abuse prevention training, Reducing the Risk. Volunteers and staff, parents and vestry members, newbies and old-timers, and people from all different segments of our congregation gathered for lunch and conversation about how we’re redoubling our efforts to protect children at All Saints Church. That is a huge step toward accomplishing a significant goal for our ministries to children, youth, and families; and I am so grateful for the ways that all these folks from our congregation have jumped into these important conversations.
But what is the goal, exactly? Protecting our children, sure. Keeping them safe, and partnering with their families in doing so, yes. Not shying away from hard situations and intimidating conversations and taboo subjects, of course. Caring for and supporting parents and volunteers and visitors and staff and everyone who comes through our doors, yes again.
But our goal is bigger than that. “When a child has a good ministry experience, he’s more likely to grow in his faith and stay involved with the church,” explains the narrator in Reducing the Risk. So why must All Saints Church be a safe, healthy place for children and families? Because this is how we fulfill the promise we make as a congregation at every baptism, that we will do everything in our power to support the person being baptized–infant, child, teenager, or adult–in his or her life in Christ. Fundamentally, we can’t do that if church isn’t safe.
What does that mean for us as a congregation? It means that we are committed to doing everything we can to reduce the risk of our children being hurt. And step one is talking about how to do that. All of us. Every single one. Because the prime environment in which someone can take advantage of or hurt a child is one where secrets are kept or conversations are hushed. Presenting this training for everyone in the congregation–every single one–is a huge piece of that risk reduction.
This is not about fear or calling people out or making lots of rules or making it difficult to be a volunteer. This is about calling, about setting a higher standard for how our church cares for children and youth than their own parents do, about modeling the kingdom in the most concrete ways we can. It’s about building trust and sharing it.
Listen to what some of the participants in this training from our congregation have to say about it:
The care and education of our children is a sacred trust. We need to do all we can to equip ourselves for such a privilege and responsibility. This training is an integral step toward protecting the most vulnerable segment of our congregation.
If each of us can protect 1 or 2 or 3 or more children from abuse that would be powerful. What we do and say will have an impact on countless others so that fewer children will be abused.
As a Sunday school teacher and an (almost) parent, I am so happy that All Saints is very seriously considering the safety of its children. This training is a great start to an ongoing conversation about how we can protect our youngest members.
This training is not a waste of time–seriously. If you care about All Saints’ children at all (which I suspect you do), you should consider going. This conversation needs to happen, and it needs to happen throughout the church, not just with Sunday school teachers.
I recently participated in the Reducing the Risk safety training at All Saints. It was well conceived and presented. As important to me as the actual training, was the attitude projected by the training and from the church leadership about the issues of children’s safety and well-being. It was one of openness, goodness and hope, rather than fear and condemnation – one of shining light into the dark or shadowy places. I am glad that an invitation to awareness, conversation and exploration into our individual and collective involvement has been made.
I think training cannot be emphasized enough, especially for parents. It’s tragic that so often it can be parents that put their children in At-Risk situations with church workers and volunteers. I hope this training can bring church workers and parents together to make sure All Saints is a safe place for its children.
As the most vital community and culture-shaper, the church should be on the front lines of child safety initiatives, and should know exactly what to do to create a healthy environment free from sexual abuse for our kids in today’s world. Join the conversation about how to make and keep that a reality in our congregation!
So here’s the challenge: join the conversation. Mark your calendar. Our next training session is Tuesday, June 4, from 6-8 p.m. in the Annex. We’ll share a light dinner as we talk, and childcare can be provided upon request. Please don’t miss this opportunity to partner with us in this important work. And please let Daniele Berman (firstname.lastname@example.org) know to expect you!