Historically the church has been a place of sanctuary for all people. Within the walls of the church people find safety, inclusion, hope and a resounding message of their importance as children of God. To ensure that our community be a place of safety and sanctuary, we (in harmony with a commitment from the larger United Methodist Church) have pledged to uphold a Safe Sanctuaries Policy to protect the most vulnerable among us: children, youth and vulnerable adults. As a community of faith, it is our duty to recognize that the abuse of children, youth and vulnerable adults is a reality that touches all facets of our world, including the church. For this reason, our church has created, adopted and implemented a policy to ensure that we are a place safe from abuse and harm. While our Safe Sanctuary Policy has been in place for many years, we believe it is important to continue to educate and remind each other of our commitment to the safety of the most vulnerable among us.
At its core, Safe Sanctuaries is a partnership between our volunteers, our parents and our congregation. Each group has an important role to play in upholding our policy and maintaining the safety of our most precious gifts. Every volunteer that works with children, youth or vulnerable adults undergoes a criminal background check, attends a yearly Safe Sanctuary training and always serves as part of a team when they teach children or youth. They commit to observe and uphold the Safe Sanctuaries Policy in their work with our children, youth and vulnerable adults. These volunteers are a key piece of maintaining a safe space but this work cannot be done alone. We need parents and the congregation to come alongside us in upholding this policy.
Our policy is designed to provide safety during our programmed church times such as Sunday School, children’s church, nursery care and Wednesday night classes. During more informal times such as Wednesday night dinner, all church events and before or after worship, we need the help of parents and the congregation to make sure our children, youth and vulnerable adults stay safe. With an unlocked space that is open to the community, it is vital that our young people always be supervised by a parent or appointed adult when in the hallways, on the playground, in the fellowship hall, in the youth wing game room, etc. When our young people roam the church grounds alone, we cannot assure their safety and wellness. Parents must partner alongside us in making sure that children (no matter their age) are supervised at all non-programmed times. It is also imperative that parents drop off and pick up their children from all programmed activities.
In addition to parents and volunteers, the partnership of our congregation becomes crucial in maintaining a culture of Safe Sanctuaries where we all work together to ensure the safety of our people. As a congregation member, if you see a child or youth wandering the halls or church grounds without an adult, please make the time to stop and walk them back to their parents. If you notice the coded children’s wing door propped open on a Sunday morning or Wednesday night, please close it to ensure only parents and trained volunteers can enter the children’s hallway. If you observe a child itching to get to the playground at Wednesday Night Dinner, offer to take them outside while their parent finishes eating.
If you have not read our Safe Sanctuary policy click here or make plans to join us on August 5th at 1 pm for our annual churchwide Safe Sanctuary Training to learn more about how we are keeping our children, youth and vulnerable adults safe. When you see a congregational call to assist in Sunday School on Wednesday Nights or at youth group as a second adult, please be willing to say yes so that we can continue to offer these formational programs for our young people. If you have questions or concerns about safety issues, please direct them to one of our pastors or Safe Sanctuary team members so we can work together to discern a way forward. It takes each one of us, volunteers, parents and the whole congregation to ensure that every time our church doors are open, we are providing a place of sanctuary for all of God’s people. Your willingness to come alongside us and partner together is what truly makes us a Safe Sanctuary.
Rev. Gracie Dugan and the Safe Sanctuaries Ministry Team (Theresa Grisham, Lindsay Bridges, Kristin Harney. Rev. Kelli Hamilton, Rev. Sam McGlothlin)