22 Ways to Safeguard Children in Your Faith Community
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and faith communities are key places we want participating in the protection and nurturing of children. There are tons of ways your congregation can honor Child Abuse Prevention Month, but it can be overwhelming knowing where to start. Whether you're a church elder, the pastor, or a faithful attendee, below are 22 ideas for how your church can raise awareness and show support for child protection, broken out by level of involvement your church is looking for. An easy way to start is just to ask your church to participate in Blue Sunday, the last Sunday in April (April 29th this year), where faith communities commit to praying during the service for victims of child abuse and those who rescue them.
Build your blue sunday service
- Allot time in your service to pray as a congregation for abused children and those who rescue them. Download a printable version of the prayer HERE.
- Invite in CASA, your local Social Services agency, GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), the YWCA, police, or counselors who work with abused children, to your service to receive prayer. Allow them to set up an info table after the service, and let them speak about their program in the service and about any needs they have.
- Devote your entire message on Blue Sunday to the topic of abuse, and commit to preaching on it at least once a year--identifying it, rejecting it, and reassuring victims they are not to blame. Ensure you are prepared with aftercare resources for victims (see below).
- Use these pinwheel coloring sheets to discuss child safety in your children's message or in Sunday School in child-friendly, reassuring ways. Children being abused and neglected often don't know that's what they're experiencing, and need help knowing what safety looks like.
- Take a love offering to benefit a local child-serving agency.
build your resources
- Purchase this book for your church library to assist parents in talking with children about safe boundaries.
- Reach out to local churches who are pursuing best practices in child welfare for ideas on how you can improve. Lynchburg First Church of the Nazarene just completed a year-long church safety certification project with GRACE, and they talk about starting that process here. Blue Ridge Community Church has strict childcare and reporting guidelines in place, and Blue Ridge and Brentwood MOSAIC are both extremely active in supporting foster and adoptive families.
- Seek out resources that equip you to appropriately respond and provide pastoral support when someone shares with you their history of abuse. This mini-book, written by GRACE director Boz Tchividjian and available on Amazon, gives examples of specific scripts to use in the moment when someone shares their story.
- Research in advance local trauma-informed counseling and domestic violence resources you will
refer members to in the event of an abuse disclosure. Form working relationships now with those agencies. These can also include online resources. If you're lost about where to start, call us, and we'll give you some recommendations!
- Make information about local domestic violence resources available in your church. Keep this information well-stocked.
build your policies
- Review your child protection policies alongside these best practice recommendations.
- Have your local CPS department or GRACE review your child protection policies and do a safety walk-through of your church.
- Have your local CPS department come in to speak about warning signs of abuse and when to report.
- Review or establish church procedures for reporting concerns of abuse to the authorities. Ensure all staff and volunteers know the procedure, and that it is in compliance with the law. Understand your legal and ethical obligation to report concerns and allegations of abuse. Verify whether individuals at your church are mandated reporters, and if not, consider committing your church to being mandated reporters.
- Consider in advance how you will handle participation by known sexual offenders in corporate worship. These guidelines can help.
build your connection with the community
- Invite CASA or a child welfare professional to give a message at your church, or to host an informational program another night of the week.
- Plant a pinwheel garden at your church during the month of April to visually demonstrate your support of an abuse-free childhood. Order pinwheels here, or have your children's program make their own.
- Consider having a group from your church attend the dedication of one of CASA's pinwheel gardens in your locality. See our Events page for dates when each dedication will occur.
- Ask your church members in child welfare how your church can best support the work they do. Further ideas on that here.
- Host a screening of the Resilience documentary about childhood trauma and how families recover, or send a group from your church to attend the next public screening (check our Events page).
- Identify one or more struggling families in your congregation and the broader community who needs assistance and/or mentoring. These can be families who need financial and logistical resources, but this may also be very young or single parents who simply need mentoring and support. Wrap around these families, and teach your congregation to do this proactively and instinctively.
- Consider enrolling your church in GRACE's year-long church safety certification project.