Safe Church Education & Consultation
"Sanctuary" is more than a building. It a peace-filled haven of safety and healing for all people. Responsible and competent management of a church's resources is becoming an important part of the mission and ministry of local congregations. The importance of careful management is informed by:
When Jesus overturned the tables in the temple, he made a powerful gesture to declare the sanctity of the places where people gather in religious community. As people of the Good News, congregations are called to provide places of safety and sanctuary for the people of God. Spiritual growth and development require absolute security. The difficult and challenging questions and quests of faith demand sacred spaces of trust. The abundant expressions and experiences of religious life are nurtured and encouraged when all who seek God can do so free of the threat of injury or harm. When sanctuary is compromised, the journeys and healings of faith are restrained.
The safety and sanctuary of the House of God have deep meanings in the wider community. The secular world pauses to gather in places of worship for the significant passages in life: birth (Baptisms), adulthood (Confirmations), marriage (Weddings), and death (Funerals). Life's most vulnerable and tender moments are attended to in a house of worship. The guarded, skeptical world becomes trusting and vulnerable within the walls of a church.
When religious organizations turn deaf ears and blind eyes to the perils to sanctuary, the courts step in. The separation of church and state does not allow religious communities to function without accountability to public standards for safety, competence, and liability. Court proceedings have interpreted key policies, management of day care centers, pre-schools, religious education programs, and personnel policies in churches with findings that hold churches liable in very significant ways. Ignorance of these legal guidelines threatens the essential meanings of "sanctuary."
Increased liability leads to higher insurance costs as litigation against churches escalates. Wise churches are adopting and implementing Safe Church Policies and Procedures. This action is significantly lowering the legal and insurance risks, thereby keeping the costs of insurance coverage down. Policies that demonstrate attention to the safety of all persons who are touched by a church's ministry are very real means of assuring "sanctuary."
The professional staff of the New England Pastoral Institute, Inc. has developed a unique and effective way for churches to assess their attentions to safety, security, and sanctuary. A carefully crafted inventory will yield valuable information about where unnecessary risks compromise the trust and respect granted to religious organizations. Churches that participate in the Safe Church Consultation with the Institute learn the theological foundations of sanctuary and develop their own mission statements regarding church safety. They learn how to:
- Identify and measure their compliance with community standards for safety and security for children and the adults who provide programs for children and youth
- Inventory and assess building safety and compliance with court-defined requirements for liabilities
- Design and implement interviewing and hiring policies that provide sound foundations for staffing
- Comply with insurance guidelines that allow them to assure responsible stewardship of personnel, building, financial, and community resources
- Provide secure and sacred space for all who come within their ministries to search for deeper meanings and healings in life
Safe Church Consultation offers a number of levels of resourcing:
- Information and training to help initiate discussions about Safe Church Guidelines
- Hands-on guidance in the development of Safe Church Policies and Procedures
- Ongoing consultation during implementation of Safe Church Policies and Procedures