467 of us gathered together Saturday, February 2 at Lake Placid Camp and Conference Center to listen to Bill and Leslie Hart explain to us how we can make our churches a safer place for our children and youth through the Nazarene Safe program. While Leslie explained the program to us, Bill, being an attorney, would jump in where needed to let us know the legal aspects we could face if we choose to do nothing to make our churches safer.
Some facts that Leslie pointed out to us were: 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18; most victims of sexual abuse never tell about it; over 80 per cent of sexual abuse of minors is perpetrated by a known and trusted person, 33 per cent of whom are a parent or stepparent; approximately 20 per cent of reported sexual abuse cases involve a female perpetrator; pedophiles are difficult to recognize and are perceived as genuinely nice people that most would never suspect of sexual misconduct; a recent survey of sex offenders revealed the average sexual abuser to be well educated and 93 per cent claimed to be religious.
Leslie presented to us a systematic approach to creating Nazarene Safe Churches.
- Awareness Training
- Staff and Volunteer Screening
- Policies, Procedures, and Practices for Working With Minors
- Accountability: Monitoring and Evaluation
- Reporting and Responding
Leslie stated to us: God calls us to make our churches places where everyone is protected from abuse and can experience the love of God through healthy relationships. The Church of the Nazarene is committed to zero tolerance of sexual misconduct with minors, with the goal of eliminating every such hindrance to the Holy Spirits transforming work. Nazarene Safe was created to make that goal a reality.
All of the materials and hand-outs that Leslie shared with us are available on the District Web-site. Every church should have these resources and start planning now how your church can implement this program so all of our churches provide a safe environment for our children and youth. We have to do all we can to keep our kids safe!
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