On the back of the Sunday Order of Worship is this statement: “First UMC takes the safety of the children and youth very seriously. We follow Safe Sanctuaries® practices, which is our commitment to the physical safety and spiritual growth of all of our children, youth, and adults.” Here we will explain a little more about this practice.
The History of Safe Sanctuaries®
In 1990, Frank O’Neal, a teacher in Tennessee, set up a fund in honor of his mother and his wife to challenge and assist local congregations in ministering to families and children, targeted toward prevention, intervention, and elimination of child abuse. He believed that if information on abuse was made available to pastors that they would act. The first brochure listed resources that were available through The UM National Youth Ministry Organization, The General Board of Global Ministries, The General Board of Discipleship, United Methodist Communications, and The United Methodist Association of Health and Welfare Ministries. There was so much demand for the brochures that they had to put all of the secretaries on processing duties to keep up with it. The 1996 General Conference of The United Methodist Church adopted (and subsequently readopted) a resolution aimed at reducing the risk of child sexual abuse in the church. Today, each Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church has a written and easily accessible policy. These policies stress the importance of the Biblical mandate from Matthew 19:14, “Allow the children to come to me, don’t forbid them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people like these children.” (Common English Bible)
Safe Sanctuaries® Practices at First UMC
• Every year First UMC mandates that each employee on the First UMC campus take part in a Safe Sanctuaries® class. This includes all Preschool staff and church office staff, Youth leaders, Vacation Bible School youth and adult volunteers, and Sunday School teachers. Some of the topics covered are: education and information on child abuse and requirements for mandated reporters, volunteer supervision guidelines, policies within each ministry to ensure safety for children, youth and volunteers.
• Anyone who has access to or works with children, youth, or vulnerable adults has a background check prior to interaction with them.
• First UMC hosts the local Boy Scouts Troop 67, who have their own process of protection as outlined in The BSA Youth Protection Mission Statement. For more information go to: www.scouting.org/training/youth-protection.
Rev. Patricia Farris says, “First UMC has long valued our ministries with children and youth, our Preschool, and our outreach to children in the community. We seek to under-gird the well-being and spiritual formation of each precious child of God in our care. Our comprehensive Safe Sanctuary policy and practice brings everyone into this web of care. We give thanks to God for this thriving community of faith, growth, joy, and love.”