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Safe Sanctuaries - Issue #113

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In many communities the local United Methodist congregation has been the first church to develop and implement policies and procedures to reduce the risk of child abuse in the church. Background checks, a minimum of two adults in each classroom, participating in the congregation for six months before being invited to work with children or youth, and windows in classroom doors are among the standard operating procedures now found in many congregations.

Cascade United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, is intentional in finding ways to keep members and visitors aware of the congregation's commitment to be a safe place for children. They use the church's large projection screens to highlight Safe Sanctuary guidelines and other information that helps parents feel confident in leaving their children in the care of those who work with children.

First United Methodist Church in Columbus, Indiana, uses text messaging as a way to enhance the safety of young children. When parents, members, or visitors check their children into the nursery, a care provider records the parent's mobile phone number. In the event of an issue with the child, the care providers can send a text message to the parents. This has provided the same advantages of a pager system without the cost. The church also publishes a guide to ministry that helps visitors, new members, and others explore the ministries available through First UMC. In the opening pages there is information about the church's child protection policies and guidelines for recruiting, screening, hiring, and supervising child-care workers and volunteers. This makes a strong statement to those considering joining the church about the importance the church places on the safety of children.

Some Questions for Discussion

  • When was the last time your congregation reviewed its child protection policies and procedures? Is it time for them to be updated? What training opportunities do you have planned this year to help leaders, parents, and other church members understand these policies?

  • How are you using the communication resources currently available to remind members and visitors of the congregation's commitment to keep children safe? Would prospective visitors be aware of this commitment if they looked at your website?

Melanie Gordon is Director of Ministry with Children at the Discipleship Ministries. She may be reached at [email protected].

In 2007 church leaders throughout The United Methodist Church in the U.S. were invited to identify churches that demonstrated the vision of discipleship described in the twelfth chapter of Romans. Over 200 churches were surveyed or visited. Issue #113. © 2012 Discipleship Ministries. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to copy this page for use in United Methodist congregations.