1. WHAT ARE THREE IMPORTANT FEATURES OF NAZARENE SAFE?
a. Prevention is the best protection. Implementing policies that protect children entrusted to our care is a must in today’s world, and the ministry environment is no exception. Nazarene Safe is an effective way to address this growing critical need. Five key steps will help every ministry protect every child: Raise Awareness, Screen Volunteers, Implement Policies, Monitor and Evaluate, Report and Respond.
b. Awareness is essential. Raising awareness about sexual abuse of minors in the church is the foundation of any safety system. Many well-established churches have a false sense of security. We say things like, “We know and trust everyone here”; “We’ve known each other forever”; “Many of us are related family members.”
Facts reveal that 95 percent of children who are abused are abused by someone they know and trust. One-third of children are abused by a parent or stepparent. There is no profile for identifying those who abuse. When people are informed and better understand the problem, they are much more likely and willing to support the needed changes that come with the implementation of new policies. Raising awareness is critical. Resources are provided to help each church get started.
c. Screening volunteers is one of the most important policy elements for any church. It is also one of the most difficult for many churches to implement. Nazarene Safe provides suggestions on how to tackle this key step. A background check is a ministry standard today, but it is estimated that only one in ten abusers appears on the national sex offender registry. Additional steps are necessary for due diligence. Require all volunteers to attend your church at least six-months prior to accepting a ministry responsibility. In addition, a ministry application helps gain vital information. A sample is provided at nazarene.org/nazarene-safe-docs to customize to the local ministry context.
2. HOW DOES NAZARENE SAFE PROTECT BOTH CHILDREN AND ADULTS?
Implementing the steps outlined in Nazarene Safe provides a deterrent to those who may be looking for opportunities to engage in abusive activity. A predator may grow impatient when confronted by a six-month waiting period before gaining access to children or youth. Realizing there is a culture of awareness about the predator grooming process through required training of all volunteers may intimidate a predator because it raises the risk of his or her activities being discovered. Volunteers who receive training and follow the policies will protect themselves as well as children. One of the most critical policies for volunteers to follow is to never be alone with a minor. This single policy provides needed accountability for the volunteer in the case of an accusation.
3. IN WHAT WAYS CAN NAZARENE SAFE BUILD TRUST IN CHURCHES?
In today’s world, parents expect any environment that cares for minors to provide policies and practices that strive to keep their children safe. When the church meets this standard, parents are able to be freed of a certain level of concern and distraction about their child’s safety regarding who is caring for their child. This leaves more room for the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of these parents. In addition, when all church sta and all volunteers meet the same level of training and screening, with no exceptions, a bond to protect the ministry God has given the local church is achieved. All are vital members on the same team.
4. WHAT HAS BEEN THE RESPONSE SINCE THE DENOMINATION’S EMPHASIS UPON NAZARENE SAFE STARTED?
Our Board of General Superintendents has made strong statements about the responsibility of each church to provide policies that protect minors and requiring that those entrusted with positions of authority are to act in the best interest of those under their authority and care. There is now an item on the annual pastor’s report to note the actions taken to institute policies that protect minors from sexual abuse with the ministries of the church. Many churches have embraced the changes, creating and implementing policies to protect children, volunteers, and the ministries they have been given. At least 30 of 78 districts on our region have conducted Nazarene Safe training events where our team has trained pastors and workers at a district-sponsored event. A few of these districts provided a series of training events throughout their districts. Some have hosted repeated training events every couple of years. However, with less than 50 percent of districts currently participating, many are still in need of valuable training.
5. WHAT HAS USA/CANADA CHILDREN’S MINISTRIES DONE TO PROMOTE NAZARENE SAFE?
It is my goal to offer Nazarene Safe training at all denomination-wide events such as PALCON, TEACH, General SDMI Convention, District Leaders’ Conference, Ignite Conference, Spark, and at every opportunity on the district and local level. Trainings are often customized to fit the needs and time constraints of participants. Four primary sessions have been developed: Raising Awareness: The Need for Nazarene Safe; A Systematic Approach: Creating and Implementing Policies; Strategizing and Prioritizing with Your Team; The Next Steps: When Sex Offenders Attend Your Church. Free resources and trainings have been developed and offered through nazarene.org. The latest exciting development is the landing page nazarene.org/nazarene-safe, where all free resources can be accessed from one location.