As United Methodists, we believe that part of our Christian witness is to ensure that the most vulnerable among us are protected and able to experience God’s grace in a safe, supportive, loving environment. While this responsibility is made clear throughout scripture, and particularly in Jesus’ own ministry, as a denomination it was codified in 1996 when the General Conference of The United Methodist Church called on all levels of the church to develop and implement policies for the protection of children, youth and vulnerable adults.
Today, these policies are known as Safe Sanctuary policies, and part of the work of the Office of Connectional Ministries is to provide resources for local churches and districts as they develop and implement these policies.
More than just a means of reducing legal risk, Safe Sanctuary policies send a clear message to those in our churches and communities that United Methodist churches are ones where children, youth and vulnerable adults can experience the presence of God in a safe and nurturing environment. Safe Sanctuaries is not just for churches with large children’s and youth ministries, either: even small churches without children or youth who regularly attend benefit from having a policy in place as they welcome visitors as well as children and grandchildren of members.
A significant part of Connectional Ministries’ work in this area involves the training and certification of Conference and District trainers. Located in all eight districts, these trainers work one-on-one with congregations to develop and implement Safe Sanctuaries policies that are unique to their context. Trainers complete ongoing training and approval requirements, and in many cases have an extensive background in children’s and youth ministry. This service is offered at no cost to local churches, who can connect with a trainer by contacting their District office.
The Office of Connectional Ministries also provides resources for local churches as they develop and implement Safe Sanctuary policies. These resources include sample policies, resources for background checks, guidance on developing a Safe Sanctuary policy and Conference-wide training events. Churches can find more details on these resources by clicking here.
The Office of Connectional Ministries is here to support all churches in developing and implementing Safe Sanctuary policies, whether the church a recently updated policy, a long-standing policy, or needs to write a policy for the first time. A great opportunity for churches to get started is with the Conference-wide online Safe Sanctuaries training that will take place this Sunday, March 21, at 2 p.m. For more details and to register, click here.
For more details about Safe Sanctuaries, contact Rev. John Fleischauer, Associate Director of Connectional Ministries and Conference Safe Sanctuaries Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (205) 226-7963.