I was supposed to write a post about Safe Sanctuaries last week. It was going to be informative and at the same time reveal some of the complexities inherent in creating, implementing, and policing the Safe Sanctuaries policies at the local church level. I got bogged down and stuck halfway between a rant and venting about issues that exist in my local context. I took three passes at the article and put it aside for a week to reset. As I continued to mull it over, I kept running into a single realization: the one consistent thing about Safe Sanctuaries from church to is that it’s different from church to church.
In my own church, our attention to Safe Sanctuaries has recently been renewed due to a sudden awareness that, well, nobody knew what or where our policy was. Or who had originally written it. But we were pretty sure that there had been one at one time. An outsider might view this as an incident isolated to our congregation. But the same thing happened at my last church. In that case, I did actually find the original policy—I was cleaning out the storage shed out by the softball field and under a wicker basket full of Polaroids of kids playing “chubby bunny” I found a dusty, plastic comb-bound copy of our policy, featuring a line drawing of the church before they’d added on the gym. I mean “Family Life Center.” I emerged from the shed like Hilkiah from the temple and turned it in to the office, where I was met with unhappy faces that apparently had been looking forward to scrapping the old one and starting over.
So here’s the thing about Safe Sanctuaries, in my experience. Most churches I’ve encountered are perpetually in some stage of fumbling through creating or reviving their policy. Churches that are doing it well usually seem to be doing so because “We all started taking it pretty seriously after [The Incident].” And everyone seems to do it differently, due to individually written policies from church to church and less than uniform expectations from conference to conference. So instead of writing about the how and what of Safe Sanctuaries, this week we’re throwing it to you, dear reader.
We’d love to see your answers to these questions:
What’s a nickel version of your churches policy? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
What are your conferences requirements for Safe Sanctuaries? What resources are available to you through your conference?
What body in your church is ultimately responsible for maintaining your policy?
How receptive are your leaders/youth/church-at-large to the requirements of the policy?