Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Safeguarding God's Children"

For the past few years I would get the same email from the synod.  Apparently some years ago some resolution passed at the Synod Assembly that all us rostered folk had to attend a "Safeguarding God's Children" training on how to protect youth against  sexual abuse in the church.  It was always on a Sunday afternoon and it was always an hour or so away.  I never want to do anything on a Sunday afternoon, so I pretty much ignored the emails.

The last one said they would not recommend my name to a congregation until I took the training.  So today, after THREE services, I got in the car and drove an hour to fulfill my obligation, rolling my eyes and bitching about it to my visiting sister right up to the end.

It was excellent.  I should have done this years ago.  I should have brought the education committee from all the churches with me.  What was really telling was the information that pedophile networks (you know there are such things, where they advice each other how to find and groom victims) are advising one another to go to church.  Not to find Jesus.  To find little boys and girls.  Because for years now the other youth organization, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, ect, have been on top of this and have pretty much made themselves inaccessible to predators.  As usual, the church is woefully behind on this issue, sticking our head in the sand, claiming we don't have to worry about such terrible things taking place in OUR congregation.

I think of some of things we used to do.  I once took a group of kids in my van, with only me, to a confirmation retreat in a hotel.  They were farm kids who didn't get out much and a hotel with a pool was a big deal.  We had a bible study by the pool.   And all the youth gatherings with six girls and two beds and me in a hotel room.  I remember how I used to take the chest measurements myself of all the confirmands for the robes because it was easier than waiting for the parents to get them to me.  No more of that.

"Oh what a shame we can't do that anymore because we have to worry about THAT" is the standard response.  No --what  a shame we did not worry about THAT in the past.  What a shame we exposed young people to abuse in the past.  I don't have a problem with never ever letting children or youth being alone with an adult (even me) again.  Actually I'm kind of relieved to be able to say "Sorry but if I don't get some adults to go with me, we just are not going to be able to go on this trip"  

It isn't that the problem is worse now.  It's that we are AWARE of the problem and are doing what we can to prevent it.  That is not a shame.  That's a good thing.

And good for my synod, the North Eastern Iowa Synod, the COOLEST synod in the ELCA for nagging us rostered types to give up a Sunday afternoon for this.  If your synod is nagging you to go to one, stop procrastinating and get yourself to one.  And if they are not, nag THEM to make that training available.

Of course now comes the part that is even more difficult than giving up my Sunday afternoon nap--convincing the congregation that we need to put these safeguards in place.


  1. My husband just got back from an extensive trip with some adults and youth from our congregation. I was both surprised and pleased to hear that the youth director stated that arrangements followed ELCA guidelines re sleeping, etc. I didn't know that these existed.

    And yes, these are necessary. We were recently devastated to learn that some years ago some abuse had gone on here. And we weren't told till now because the victim thought it must have been OK with us, since it happened over a period of time "under our noses." (Not church related.) YES, we were naive. But we saw nothing. Picked up on nothing. But the victim suffered the effects for the past 14 years. TEARS.

  2. The United Methodist Church has a similar program called "Safe Sanctuaries". We've been promoting and requiring it for over five years. It's a tough change for some churches, especially small rural ones, where everyone knows everyone and has for years. However, it's a necessary thing to protect our children and youth.

  3. My brother is an FBI agent and a father. At Thanksgiving dinner soon after my son was born, we were down in the basement drinking our customary half-a-beer each, and when we were alone he spent a few minutes describing some of the interstate child abductions and abuse that his colleagues had come across. It was the most frightening five minutes of my life; four years later, I'm still frightened.